When we think of WWII fighters, it is rare for many of us to consider designs outside of those fielded by the major combatants. But we would be remiss to ignore the lesser known breeds which took to the skies in anger during that conflict; aircraft originating from nations like France, the Netherlands, Finland and Romania. While their overall effect may have been slight, in most cases, they are still worthy of consideration for their historical value. Sadly, very few examples of these aircraft exist today, and in many cases, none remain at all. They were rare enough in their day, so it should not be too surprising that so few survive 75 or more years later. Thankfully, in the last decade or so, we have seen a resurgence of interest in obscure WWII aircraft. This has included the resurrection of a handful of interesting types like the French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 and Caudron C.714…
More recently, we have seen projects to bring back previously extinct breeds, such as Holland’s Fokker D.XXI, which we reported on HERE. And now, there is the exciting prospect of seeing a Romanian-designed IAR.80 fighter back in the air. While there are no surviving examples of this type, and engineering details are hard to find, there is a dedicated team hard at work to re-engineer this magnificent fighter, which saw service in the skies over the Ploesti oil refineries, and other strategic locations in Romania during WWII. Here to report on these developments in Calin Neatu…
Resurrecting the IAR 80 – A Sky Legend Association’s Project
In November 1936, the Romanian Aeronautical Industry, IAR, proposed a new aircraft design to Romania’s Ministry of Air and Navy; an all-metal, low-wing, monoplane fighter. This was essentially the birth for what would become the IAR 80. Two and a half years later, on April 4th, 1939, the IAR 80 fighter prototype took to the skies for the first time. More than four hundred examples would serve in Romania’s military during the type’s service life. While a handful lingered on after WWII, the type soon gave way to more advanced jets. Sadly, no one thought to preserve even a single airframe for posterity…
Now, 83 years after pencil was first put to paper on the aircraft’s design, the Sky Legend Association has set out to resurrect the IAR 80 for future generations to see. The Sky Legend Association was founded in 2019 by a group of passionate aviation enthusiasts in Romania seeking to rekindle the fires of the nation’s proud aeronautical heritage. The group is a public, non-governmental, apolitical organization that operates on a voluntary basis.
The group’s main objective is to design and build a full-scale flying replica of the Romanian IAR 80 fighter aircraft, which is as similar as possible to the original. Once design and manufacturing are completed, the aircraft will go through an official approval process and civil registration, so that it can take part in air shows and aviation events, both in Romania and abroad.
The plane will be named IAR 80R, with the ‘R’ standing for “Redivivus.” Although two other replicas of the IAR 80 exist, they are only static mockups, and do not have the ability to fly. Both are on permanent display at the National Museum of Romanian Aviation, in Bucharest.
Founding the Sky Legend Association was the first step along the road to recreating the IAR 80. The next step involves planning and establishing the technical specifications for the replica IAR 80 fighter aircraft. Once these stages were completed, the design and execution stages followed, along with establishing an estimated budget necessary for building the aircraft. The budget is estimated at approximately €200,000 (US$225,000).
At this moment, there is no functional version of the IAR 80 fighter’s IAR 14K powerplant available, nor even one which could be restored to airworthy condition. For this reason, the rebuild team has chosen a US-designed engine of equivalent performance. It will most likely be the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92, the same kind of engine which aircraft like the Douglas DC-3/C-47 and Consolidated B-24 Liberator used. This engine is readily available for reasonable cost, and is still in wide use today, so there is a lot of support available, as well as a spare parts supply.
Another important component which this project needs to consider involves the main landing gear. While no original IAR 80 undercarriage are available for refurbishment, and it would be impractical to consider remanufacturing them, the team intends to adapt a set of gear from another aircraft type which fits the same performance and profile specifications. The closest main landing gear available to those used in the IAR 80 comes from the North American T 28 Trojan. They are widely available, either new or repaired, and also have the benefit of FAA certification. If necessary, modifications can be made to comply with the landing gear technical characteristics of the IAR 80 aircraft. However, if this solution proves inadequate, the team will make the hard decision to design and build their own landing gear from scratch.
Presently, with several stages of the project now complete, work is concentrating on recreating the aircraft components using Computer Aided Design software. Once this design work is finalized, parts manufacture will begin. Members of the Sky Legend Association and other volunteers are carrying out these duties. Their activity can be followed both on the Sky Legend Association website – www.iar80.org, and their Facebook page – IAR 80 Redivivus. On the same website, a flight simulator for the IAR 80 aircraft can be found, along with articles about the IAR 80’s history and the pilots who flew them, not to mention information about how you can help support this important initiative.
This occasion marks the first time that such a project has taken place in Romania, and although it is an ambitious, long-term initiative, we hope to see the IAR 80 fighter flying again in three or four year’s time.
For more information about this project visit www.iar80.org
Kalin Kayarna is a Romanian-based aviation photographer and writer who covers military aviation, scale modeling, Romanian Air Force heritage and more. To learn about Calin’s work, please visit www.aviatim.com
Many thanks indeed to Kalin Kayarna for his article. We wish the Sky Legend Association much luck in their endeavor, and hope that some of our readers might contribute to their cause!