Prague – Letňany

The buildings of Letňany airport with a Beneš - Mráz M-1C Sokol in the foreground.
The buildings of Letňany airport with a Beneš – Mráz M-1C Sokol in the foreground.

The Cradle of Czechoslovak Aviation

Today, Prague’s Letňany airfield is home to the Prague Aeroclub and is primarily associated with sport flying. One could easily be forgiven for not realizing the major role this airport, established in 1923, has played in the aviation history of the former Czechoslovakia.

Together, with nearby Kbely airport, it would not be understatement at all to consider the area of Letňany to be hallowed ground in aviation history. The area served as home for four major historic aircraft manufacturers; Aero, Avia, Letov and Praga. Avia and Letov, though neither remain in the business of full airframes, still call Letňany home.

The area is also home to the VZLÚ, the Aerospace Research and Test Establishment. Established in 1922, this body was responsible for testing aircraft created by Czechoslovak firms. It was also involved in several European aircraft programs beyond the national borders.

The post Second World War era marked the beginning of a downturn in the airport’s importance as the aircraft companies there either ceased operations or moved to larger locations. The runway was decreased in length and changed in axis as the city expanded and residential areas grew up in the vicinity.

The airport saw changes of ownership and increasing loss of importance through the Socialist era and even evaded complete, permanent closure at least once. Over the years, VZLÚ used the airfield less and activity began to gravitate toward the sport aviation that is seen there today.

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