Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum
Pictures from Macedonia
Airshow Batajnica 1997/1998
Airshow Ladjevci 1998
Airshow Keckemet 2000
A Tale of Two Me-109s
Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum

What happened to the MiG-21´s, Orao´s, Galebs, Super Galebs and Jastrebs outside the Belgrade aviation museum? Have they been moved to bases as decoys, or are they still in place? Has the museum survived the air offensive?

A lot of questions of this type arrived on my e-mail address during and after the war. There was a model competition in the museum on 30.10.1999. As you can see on the photos, nothing happened to the museum and aircraft outside are still there. There were a lot of changes inside. There were a lot of new things to see. Parts of F-117, F-16, UAVs, missiles are now in the museum on the public display. It was officially forbidden for us to take a photos of this remains, but as you can see, this was to irresistible for us.

The building is shaped like a giant glass-surfaced doughnut placed on a smaller, circular base with a wide plaza and steps leading up to the entrance - a bit like the ‘Close Encounters’ UFO. Exhibits are placed on two floors and are also suspended from the roof, with the exception of perhaps two replicas, both using the original engines and one has it’s original propeller and Lewis gun! All of the aircraft have had a working life and 80% actually flew to the site, the drip trays placed at strategic points under some of the older planes confirms this point.

The oldest exhibit appears to be the Saric No. 1 built by Ivan Saric in 1909-10 and rebuilt in 1959. This has it’s original Saric five cylinder radial engine with updraught carburettor, inlet valves in the piston crown and exhaust valves in the centre of the heads operated by pushrods. The standard of workmanship of the rebuild seems to have been very high but some deterioration of the rigging has occurred over the years.

A significant part of the exhibits are military with emphasis on WW2 . There is an example of a ME 109 G2, Yugoslavia bought or ‘acquired’ seventy of these before and during that war and the last of these was pensioned off in 1953. With a 1086kW (1454 BHP) Daimler Benz motor, this was perhaps the most famous of the German ‘warbirds’. Alongside, are examples of the Hurricane (a Mk IV RP) and Spitfire (a Mk VC) which were kept in service until 1951/2 and introduced into the collection in 1961. Alongside those is a Russian YAK 3, it is difficult to believe that 4,848 of these were built and yet this is one of only three left in the world.

Earlier military planes include a Nieuport I, ‘Bebe’ of WWI. This was rebuilt with it’s original Le Rhone 9-cylinder radial giving 59 kW (79 bhp), original propeller and it’s original Lewis gun mounted on a tripod high above the wing.

A prototype Bucker Jungmeister from 1935 is suspended from the roof, although without the usual English translation on the placard, I wasn’t able to gather any more detail.

An unusual exhibit is the experimental Ikarus 451. This has two inverted Walter six-cylinder piston engines of 118 kW (158 bhp) each, 6.7m (22 ft) wingspan, a maximum speed of 335 kph (182 knots) and a ceiling of 4750m (15,570 ft).

The unusual feature is that the pilot lies prone and has a chin pad to keep his head up and allow forward vision through the plastic nose cone. Entry is via a hatch in the top of the fuselage which seems to be quite a snug fit around the pilot. Without the benefit of an English translation, the placards seem to indicate that the pilot is able withstand greater ‘g’ forces in the prone position than in the more normal seated position.

Another aspect of Yugoslav aviation is that of the development of gliding. From the ‘Vrabac A’ open glider designed in 1939 and built by many flying clubs for basic training from 1946 onwards, to the Icarus, ‘Orao’ first built in 1949 and which later won the first UK gliding championships.

In complete contrast to that glider is another ‘Orao’ which takes pride of place at the centre of the mezzanine floor. This particular ‘Eagle’ is the prototype of a fighter-bomber in current service with the Yugoslav Air Force and which is powered by two Rolls Royce Viper engines. It has a top speed of Mach 0.97 at 9,000 m, a ceiling of 14,000m and a range of 1,300 km.

Alongside that is another current fighter, the SOKO Galeb G-4 powered by a single Viper and capable of 612 kph / 12,000 m and a range of 1016 km. An indication of the resilience of this aircraft is a tail section badly damaged by a SAM in 1991. In the heat of battle, the pilot claimed not to have noticed the hit and was shattered to have the damage pointed out to him after landing normally !

For both these aircraft, the Viper engines are actually built in Yugoslavia under licence from Rolls Royce and with RR supervision of the quality control systems.

In addition to other interesting aircraft, the display also charts some of the history of Yugoslav aviation manufacturing companies, for example, UTVA, based at nearby Pancevo, was established in the late 1930’s and by 1995 had produced a total of 901 aircraft, including 17 prototypes, 77 gliders, and 807 production units. Belgrade-based IKARUS has a similar historical display showing the various types of aircraft that had been developed and the annual production quantities of each. Teleoptik, another Belgrade company, has manufactured cockpit instruments for more than fifty years although latterly the bulk of its production has been for military aircraft such as the Galeb and Orao.

Another display shows the history of the airport from a grass field to the current international status and the planned intention to develop it still further. Until the political situation has been seen to be stable for a period of time and the economy has improved, that project in common with many others is, in my opinion, unlikely to proceed.

On the grass areas outside the museum building, there are several larger aircraft to be seen, including a Junkers Ju-52 Tri-motor, a DC-3, a Mil Mi-4 helicopter, and a Yugoslav Airways Caravelle. Interestingly, around the back of the museum, there must be thirty or so jet fighters, mainly Galebs, which were grounded as a result of the Dayton Agreement. They are all complete, flew into the site, and are reputed to be for sale , either as individual lots or in groups. Equally intriguing are the large entrance doors to what must be the cellar of the building where I presume must lie the eighty or so rare exhibits which the brochure says are in preservation awaiting restoration.

The museum building was opened in 1980 and is equally interesting in it’s conception, the periphery has a geodetic bolted steel lattice supporting  over 1,250 triangular reflective-glass panes. This lattice structure is supported only at it’s upper and lower edges from the main concrete hub and provides a totally open display space. A permanently-installed exterior gantry, running on rails at the top and bottom of the glass area, allows exterior cleaning of the glass. How the inside of the glass is cleaned remained a mystery !

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