Jan Kašpar

Engineer Jan Kašpar (1883 – 1927) was born to a wealthy family in Pardubice. After graduating school, in 1901 he enrolled in a Czech technical university, concentrating on construction engineering, but during his first year, he switched to machine engineering. He graduated in 1907. In 1908 he found employment in the German company Basse und Selve in westfalien Alten, which manufactured parts for dirigibles, among other things. Here he experienced his first taste of flight – in a balloon.

Kašpar was very interested in flight, but his suggestions to the factory's boss regarding construction of airplane motors met a cool reception. He began turning his attention to aircraft similar to the Wright brothers', being experimented with at the time in Europe by Santos-Dumont, Latham and Louis Blériot, a French aviator, who flew across the La Mancha channel in 1909. He began to formulate a plan to build his own airplane – he would become not only the first Czech pilot, but also the first successful builder.

Kašpar did not last long in the dirigible factory; in 1908 he began working the automobile factory of Laurin & Klement in Mladá Boleslava, where he met his cousin, Evžen Čihák. But even here he did not remain very long and in 1909, he and Čihák left the automobile factory. Towards the end of 1909 he began work on an airplane and airplane motor. The first news about Kašpar's aviation experiments appeared in 1910.

Kašpar eventually realized that the machine he was building was not fit for flight. A number of difficulties appeared, rising from his inexperience, but mostly from the excessive weight of the aircraft and relative weakness of the motor. Kašpar eventually gave up his building ambition and decided to buy an aircraft instead. He went to Paris, where he purchased a Type XI from Blériot's factory, airplane number 76, which he took back to Pardubice. There he mounted an Anzani motor, also purchased in Paris. He herded this assembly off the ground twice on April 12th, and on April 16th, 1910, he became the first Czech to actually fly.



June 16th, 1910, Kašpar completed his pilot's examination, on June 19th he completed his first public flight in Pardubice, the second on July 3rd (the first flight in Hradec Králové). He conducted regular demonstration flights around Bohemia, in Prague, in Moravia, in Bukovina. April 30th, 1911, Kašpar conducted the first cross-country flight in Bohemia. This experiment was actually sort of a training flight for his first long-distance flight, from Pardubice to Prague, which Kašpar determined to complete, and did so on May 13th, 1911. This was a major milestone of Czech aviation. December 6th of the same year he performed the first flight with a passenger from Mělník to Prague.

Spring of 1911 saw the founding of an Aviation Society in Pardubice, which resulted in this town being the "capital city" of Czech aviation, until the outbreak of WWI.

Kašpar donated the aircraft in which he flew from Pardubice to Prague to the Technical Museum of the Czech Kingdom in 1913. Today, suspended in the transportation hall, it is one of the most significant exhibits documenting Czech history of aviation. The aircraft was completely restored in 1966.



After completing the Pardubice – Prague flight, Kašpar conducted frequent public flights. His final production came in 1912. Kašpar then quit flying, due to a number of circumstances. Probably the strongest factor was the death of his father, who had provided financial support for his aviation activities; this meant he could no longer afford airplanes or parts. He was also compelled to take over management of the family estates. After the end of WWI, he worked for a while as a state bureaucrat; afterwards, he became involved in timber operations. He never lost his interest in flying, but no longer played an active role.


Jan Kašpar died March 2nd, 1927.