Igo Etrich

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Igo Etrich (1908)

Ignaz “Igo” Etrich (* 25 December 1879 in Ober Altstadt, Austria-Hungary; † 4 February 1967 in Salzburg) was an Austrian pilot and aircraft designer.


Etrich, whose father Ignaz Etrich owned spinning mills in Oberaltstadt,[1] attended the secondary school in Trautenau (Trutnov) and the commercial school in Leipzig. Then he joined his father’s company. However, he was mainly interested in the flying ability of birds. Together with his father he built an experimental laboratory. After the death of Otto Lilienthal his father bought several gliders, which showed him the way. In 1903 he developed the first flying wing based on the flight seed of Zanonia macrocarpa and received a patent for it in 1905. Franz Xaver Wels was his partner and later test pilot[1].

Etrich Catfish Glider 1906

In 1906, the Etrich-Wels glider was the first man-carrying flying wing.

Etrich 1, 1907

Etrich went to Vienna in 1907, where he built his first powered aircraft, the Etrich 1, on the site of the Rotunde in the Prater in Vienna in 1907, with the engine of 24 hp mounted at the tail. Only later did he improve the aircraft (nicknamed the Praterspatz) with a front propeller and an additional conventional tail unit. With Franz Wels, later with Karl Illner, he further developed the monoplane – Wels separated from him and devoted himself to biplanes[1].

Etrich II in the Technical Museum Vienna

After the foundation of the airfield in Wiener Neustadt in 1909, he built two hangars there and carried out further flight tests. He improved the Etrich 1 by adding a more powerful engine. The rudders were adjusted with the feet, for the wing twisting (ailerons were not generally used until later) and the elevator Etrich introduced control by means of a steering wheel from an automobile: the forerunner of today’s control horn. The maiden flight of the Etrich Taube, Etrich II, took place in 1910.

Etrich’s pigeon was patented in Austria, and due to its good flight performance Etrich was able to conclude a contract with Edmund Rumpler, according to which the latter was granted the right to reproduce the aircraft in Germany under the name Etrich-Rumpler-Taube in return for a licence fee. However, the German Patent Office was unable to grant a patent for the Etrich-Taube, so that the aircraft could be copied by anyone free of charge. In 1897 Professor Friedrich Ahlborn had already written Über die Stabilität der Flugapparate (On the Stability of Flying Machines), which recognised the shape of the Zanonia seed with its ideal flight characteristics and the importance of the shape for future aircraft construction. Rumpler then stopped making payments to Etrich and, contrary to the contract, brought out the same aircraft under the name Rumpler-Taube.

Etrich Air Sedan, 1913

Etrich then founded the Etrich-Fliegerwerke in Liebau/Silesia (today Lubawka/Poland) in 1912, where he designed the Luft-Limousine, the first passenger aircraft with a fully enclosed passenger cabin. Ernst Heinkel headed the design office.

Later he founded the Brandenburg Aircraft Works and took with him from Liebau his very talented designer Ernst Heinkel. After the First World War Etrich went back to Trautenau and designed another aircraft in 1929: the Sport-Taube, a 40 hp sports aircraft.

During the first test flights it turned out that this aircraft flew faster than the military aircraft of Czechoslovakia at that time. The Czech authorities accused Etrich of building his plane for smuggling activities and confiscated it.[2]

Igo Etrich then gave up his efforts in aviation and devoted himself entirely to his textile machinery business.

In 1945 Etrich was expropriated and expelled from Czechoslovakia.[2]

Later Etrich turned to spiritualism and at an advanced age also published a small brochure about his spiritualistic world view(Bekenntnis und geistiges Vermächtnis des Flugpioniers Dr. Ing. h.c. Igo Etrich).

His honorary grave is located at the Salzburg municipal cemetery.[3]

The Etrich II is exhibited in the Technical Museum in Vienna.

Sport Pigeon in the National Technical Museum Prague

The Sport Pigeon is now exhibited in the Prague Technical Museum.

Political commitment

Etrich was a member of the Sudeten German Party from 1935 to 1939 and, according to different accounts, officially joined the NSDAP on 1 November 1938 or 31 March 1939 (membership number 6,685,942). In his NSDAP application for membership, Etrich emphasized his willingness “after the victory of the German arms, to participate in the solution of the great technical problems which will arise for the German people as a result of the gain of space in the East”.[2]


Replica of the pigeon at the ILA 2004

In 1944, the Vienna University of Technology awarded Etrich an honorary doctorate. In 1955 he received the Cross of Merit (Steckkreuz) of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1959, Igo Etrich was awarded the Karl Renner Prize.[4][5][6][7]

In Vienna-Simmering (11th district), Etrichstraße was named after the aircraft designer in 1971, and in Graz in 1975.[2][8] Streets in Salzburg, Lind (Villach), Linz, Innsbruck and Berlin-Adlershof also bear his name.

An Austrian 25-euro coin shows Etrich as a side view sitting in the Etrich dove on the obverse side.


  • Igo Etrich: The pigeon. Memoirs of an aviation pioneer. Waldheim-Eberle, Vienna 1963, DNB 573931119.
  • Hanuš Salz, Harald Waitzbauer: Im Flug über Salzburg. Igo Etrich and the beginning of aviation in Salzburg. (= Salzburg Portraits – Series of publications of the Salzburg Provincial Press Office). Salzburg 1993, ISBN 3-85015-121-6.
  • Günter Schmitt, Werner Schwipps: Pioneers of early aviation. Gondrom, Bindlach 1995, ISBN 3-8112-1189-7.
  • R. Keimel: Etrich, Igo. In: Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815-1950. 2nd revised edition (online only).

Web links

Individual references

  1. a b c Aero Auction: Etrich Taube, retrieved February 2, 2010.
  2. a b c d Street Names of Vienna since 1860 as “Political Places of Remembrance” (PDF; 4.4 MB), p. 267, Forschungsprojektendbericht, Vienna, July 2013.
  3. R. Keimel: Etrich, Igo. In: Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815-1950. 2nd revised edition (online only).
  4. Vienna City Hall Correspondence, December 13, 1958, sheet 2496
  5. To the pioneers of everyday life. In: Arbeiter-Zeitung. Vienna 14 December 1958, p. 6( The website of the Arbeiterzeitung is currently being redesigned. The linked pages are therefore not accessible. – digital copy).
  6. Vienna City Hall Correspondence, January 17, 1959, sheet 83
  7. For men of the people. In: Arbeiter-Zeitung. Vienna 18 January 1959, p. 2( The website of the Arbeiterzeitung is currently being redesigned. The linked pages are therefore not accessible. – digital copy).
  8. Final Report of the Expert Commission for Street Names Graz, Graz 2017, p. 74