Success Follows Success
In the immediate postwar years, the Czechoslovak aircraft industry introduced the Aero 45 and 145 light twin engine aircraft line to the world. This family of aircraft was a great success that demonstrated the resiliency of the nation’s aviation firms in the wake of German occupation.
Though Aero had designed the model 45 and 145, the bulk of production had been carried out by the Let company of Kunovice. It was from the Let drawing boards and the Kunovice runway that the successor of the 45 and 145, the L-200 Morava, would be born.
Design work on the Morava began in 1955, with the prototype first taking to the air in 1957 and approval for full production of the baseline L-200 given the following year.
The Morava’s production run, including prototypes, lasted from 1957 to 1964 and totaled just under 370. L-200s were exported, in greater and lesser numbers to around 20 countries.
A Worthy Heir
As the Morava was designed to carry out many of the same duties as the Aero 45 and 145, it shared quite a few things in common with its forbear including very clean and well thought out design. Indeed, both types had many smooth flowing lines and were very pleasing to the eye; to say that they were as much art as they were aircraft would certainly not be an unjustified statement.
Like its Aero forerunner, the Morava saw the bulk of its use in the air taxi role. It was a role it carried out particularly well and was appreciated for its ability to carry four passengers plus pilot in what was considered great comfort for an aircraft of its category and time period. Even by today’s standards, the Morava is considered a very pleasant aircraft to fly in as either a pilot or passenger.
Beyond the role of air taxi, the Morava also was adapted to air ambulance duties, training as well as corporate and general aviation tasks.
Marketing the Morava
As mentioned in previous sections, the Morava saw export to around 20 countries. The aircraft had much going in its favour with regards to safety, ergonomics, efficiency and speed.
In the context of safety, features such as large doors on both sides of the cabin for easy entry and exit as well as large cabin windows to give excellent all around pilot visibility were given good coverage in marketing brochures for the Morava.
Other features which were well covered in brochures were the nose landing gear wheel which could castor through 360 degrees to give the aircraft excellent ground handling chacteristics and the twin rudder tail unit which reduced the aircraft’s height on the ground for better clearance in hangars. Additionally, the rudders were placed directly in the propellor streams of the engines to maximise rudder efficiency.
From a point of view of systems, the Morava was sold on an extensive array of instruments available to the pilot for an aircraft of its class, this allowed the pilot a great deal of control over many aspects of the aircraft in flight. The Morava also had very good cabin heating and ventilation as well as a system to route hot engine air to the wing leading edges as an anti-icing measure.
The domestically developed Walter M337 engine, a pair of which powered the Morava, was also featured in marketing materials. The M337 is a fuel injected, inverted six cylinder, supercharged engine which can generate 210 horsepower and drive the Morava to a maximum speed of around 300 kph.
At the time the M337 debuted in 1960, it was one of the most efficient and economical engines in its class. Aerodynamically, it had the smallest frontal area of any engine in its class and this allowed the Morava’s engine nacelles to be quite compact and narrow in design.
A Small but Popular Family
Only three variants constituted the L-200 family of aircraft.
New engines and propellers, along with some refining of the lines of the design, turned the baseline L-200 into the L-200A
The L-200D incorporated three blade propellers, a more complex navigational system and several minor modifications. Many examples of the L-200A were refitted to the L-200D standard at some point in their service lives.
The modifications that created the L-200D were at the request of the Soviet airline, Aeroflot. Approximately 180 L-200 aircraft were taken on by the airline for use as air taxis in the 1960s; however, before the 1970s were finished, the airline had retired or sold its L-200 fleet in favour of domestically produced aircraft.
Czechoslovak Airlines also used the L-200 in the air taxi role and pilot training. When the air taxi service was discontinued, several of the airline’s Moravas found their way into flying clubs.
Wherever it has flown, the L-200 has built a reputation for reliability, comfort and trouble free handling both in the air and on the ground.
As proof of the soundness and endurance of the aircraft in a contemporary context, two Czech pilots marked the Morava’s 50th anniversary in 2008 by flying an L-200A from Prague to the North Pole and back. According to interviews with one of the pilots, the aircraft handled the journey admirably without so much as even a minor problem.
The Morava Today
Several Moravas continue to fly in the service of flying clubs and flying schools in the Czech and Slovak Republics and can often be hired for sightseeing flights.
The aircraft has maintained its popularity with pilots over the years and is likely to stay flying for as long as the support network is there to keep them airworthy.
On a Personal Note
Distinctive, beyond the design of the aircraft, is the Morava’s sound. It has a unique, deep growling engine noise that is more fitting to an aircraft at least half again its size.
When I first saw a Morava fly overhead, shortly after I arrived in the Czech Republic, I couldn’t believe that sort of thunderous sound was coming from an aircraft of such modest size. I had turned my head skyward in expectation of seeing the source of the sound obvious and large; instead, I found myself scanning the sky for a few moments before catching sight of the relatively small shape growling its way overhead.
These two links will take you to interviews with one of the pilots that flew the Morava to the North Pole. The first was conducted before the flight and the second while the journey was in progress:
I would like to extend thanks to Mr. Libor Smolík of Smolik Air in the Czech Republic for providing me with information in the form of a marketing brochure which allowed me to write the “Marketing the Morava” segment of this entry.