Heinkel He-111 of the Spanish Air Force

Perhaps the most distant origins of Spanish aviation should be sought in that mythical balloon ascent that Vicente Lunardi undertook on August 12, 1792 in the Retiro Park of Madrid, or in that fantastic flight that chronicles say he made. A certain Diego Martnez Aguilera, aboard a flapping wing artifact on February 15, 1793.

Those strange anecdotes aside, you had to wait until 1884 to find a touch of authentic modernity in the Air Station Service, depending on the Corps of Engineers. Then came the precarious planes from the days of the pioneers. The Spaniard Antonio Fernandez was the sad head of the third pilot in the world who lost his life after a plane crash in Nice on September 22, 1909. In spite of everything, the engineer colonel Pedro Vives and the captain of the same corps Alfredo Kindeln continued the contacts established with the French in the same year of the tragedy. The first FAI licenses were given by the Infante Alfonso de Orleans and a year later by the engineer Benito Loigorri. Vives and Kindein were soon convinced of the military use of airplanes, which is why they founded an experimental aviation school in Cuatro Vientos (Madrid). Some members of the first promotions soon received their baptism of fire when in 1913 the first of the many squadrons to fight in the harsh areas of the Rif was sent to what was then the Spanish protectorate of Morocco.

Successfully completed in 1927, an exciting chapter of more creative activities opened, followed by the flights of the Plus Ultra, the Atlantic Patrol, the Jesus of Great Power and the Four Winds, which set some world records for closed-circuit speed, such as that of Cipriano Rodrguez and Carlos Haya.

In 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out. The republic had the majority of the air force as well as the national aviation industry, which is why the rebels had to seek help from Germany and Italy, whose Legion Condor and Aviazione Legionaria were an important part of the national system in the overall competition. In February 1937, the first four Heinkel He 111Bs arrived in Spain, a model that was designed as a military aircraft for the German Air Force and of which there were a hundred in this war. The Heinkel 111 was a two-engine all-metal construction with the exception of the glass arch dome. The retractable main landing gear was supplemented by a small fixed tail wheel. The motorization of the first series was taken over by Daimler Benz from 960 to 1,000 hp, the three-bladed propeller drive (the last series had Jumo engines with 1,200 hp).

During the war, the manufacturing license was obtained from Spain and after the end of hostilities, production began in Seville. To this end, the Tablada factory was built, where two hundred units of the He 111 H16L model were assembled (B2H for the Air Force and C-2111 for CASA).

When they returned to the Civil War, they distinguished themselves for their heroism in pilot fights such as the Republicans Del Ro or Garca Lacalle, and among the nationalists Garca Morato and Salas Larrazbal, with the Spanish skies witnessing the passage of the first fighter of the modern conception (in Combat used), the J-16, which the Soviet Union supplied in large numbers to the Republican Air Force.

The end of the fighting in 1939 made the Spanish Air Force one of the most powerful air forces in Europe. However, at the end of World War II, the real and harsh reality emerged between constant problems with the maintenance of the equipment resulting from the variety of origins and a growing obsolescence hardly associated with the acquisition of some Me-109s and with The own production of several versions of the famous German fighter, the famous Buchones. These were responsible for marking the transition from the piston engine to the first T-33, Saber and Saeta reactors, the latter being of Spanish design. The already mentioned Heinkel 111 remained in use until the 1970s in a military version, school reconnaissance and also VIP transport, whereby the latter preserved the glass arch, but not the armament gondolas. Junkers Jumo 211F engines with 1,350 hp were installed in 130 aircraft, and later 65 of them were repowered with Rolls-Royce Merlin 500/29 (a total of 70 aircraft with these last engines).

The Heinkels, also known as Pedros in Spain, were taken out of service in 1969. In this last decade the resurgence anticipated by aviation came again and was brought about by two basic laws, the 85/65 of 1965 and the 32/71. Six years later, thanks to which aircraft such as the F-104, Mirage and Phantom appeared in the Spanish skies, the EF-18 was on the verge of extinction in the 1980s to be replaced by more Eurofighters.

Text and panel: Miguel ngel Capillas Rojas

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