The company was founded by Pavel Beneš, Miroslav Hajn, Jaroslav František Koch and Václav Malý in 1919 and became part of Akciová společnost, dříve Škodovy závody in 1928. During the 1930s the factory became the biggest aircraft producer in Czechoslovakia and moved to Letňany near Prague, where production continues until present. During World War II Avia produced aircraft for the German Luftwaffe. After the war the company was nationalized and became involved in the automotive industry. It manufactured aircraft up to 1963, then targeted on truck production and continued to make aircraft engines (producing only propellers from 1988). The company was split in 1992 into propeller and truck sections, both using the Avia brand.
Soon after the war, the manufacture of fuel injection pumps, jets and roller bearings for freight vehicle transport was implemented in Avia. The factory also provided repair of trucks. In frame of the Czechoslovak industry post-war reorganization it was subsequently decided that Avia would be fully transformed into the manufacture of new trucks. As early as 1946 a prototype of the Škoda R-706 vehicle was developed, and the first vehicle and bus series was manufactured in 1947. These products were successfully exported to many countries
First of all, the enterprise concentrated on assembling T-805 vehicles. In 1961, it switched to the manufacture of Praga V3S/ S5T, the medium duty truck. The legendary three-tone off-road V3S was maintained in Avia's manufacturing program until 1988. The vehicle was manufactured not only as a platform car but with different types of bodies as well. It fully utilised its construction designed for extraordinarily heavy use in the army, on site, in forest as well as in any other operation demanding a high performance under the heaviest conditions. The modifications of the Praga S5T model also included a semitrailer truck, S5T-TN model with a "trambus" cabin. In 1963, manufacture of chassis units for the OT 64 (SKOT) armoured carrier was launched. Praga and Tatra enterprises, but also some Polish manufacturers participated on the manufacture.
In 1965, structural changes of demand concerning a small tonnage lorry appeared in both national and international markets. At the Avia enterprise, they were considering two ways ahead, i.e. internal development and/or use of a suitable licence strategy. As a conclusion, the French Renault-Saviem manufacturer's offer for two types of trucks was accepted. In the autumn of 1968, the first products started to leave the assembly line. The larger vehicle was named Renault-Saviem SG 4 Super Galion (later Avia A30), and the smaller was named SG 2 Super Goelette (later Avia A15). The new manufacture as well as its scope required new buildings as well as modernization of existing enterprises' premises. New big buildings containing advanced equipment were constructed and thus Avia was included among the largest Czechoslovak car manufacturers. The yearly production reached 17,000 vehicles. During the years, the manufacture of the Avia vehicles was continuously modernized. The volume of the diesel engine increased from original 3.32 up to 3.61, and practically all vehicle units were adapted. In 1983, the Avia A31 developed from the Avia A30 model, while the Avia A15 (later A20) furgon was transferred to the Avia A 21 model. From 1974 to 1978, modernization of A20, 30, and 40 models was prepared, bringing small wheels, redesigned axles, new dashboard, enhanced cab interior, etc.
In 1986, the Avia National Concern comprising also affiliates in Brno, Ivančice and Žilina was incorporated in a so-called "Industry Economical Unit" together with Praga, BSS, Metaz and Kutná Hora enterprises. As per 1 July 1988, a new state enterprise, Avia Concern, comprising Avia, Praga, BSS, and Dačické Strojírny Concern enterprises was established in accordance with the State Enterprise Act. Avia Letňany, as the parent factory, manufactured engines and cabs and assembled all of the chassis. A part of the chassis was fitted with a platform-type superstructure and also vehicles with a furgon-type body were manufactured there. The Brno, Ivančice and Žilina factories purpose superstructures were assembled on the chassis. The Kutná Hora factory manufactured all types of axles for Avia vehicles. The key assortment of Praga Concern Enterprise included truck and bus gear units and a number of other parts for the automotive field. The Dačické strojírny Concern Enterprise produced parts for our car manufacturers. The body assortment was still growing: box bodies, isothermic box bodies, bodies including a cooling unit, assembly platforms, container bodies, dumpers, towing trucks, and other different bodies were manufactured. The Avia chassis also served as a base for the small buses manufactured in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Hungary.
In 1989, the concern split into separte businesses. In the same year, Avia Letňany launched assembly of A21 FC furgons by use of pressed parts. In 1993, manufacture of Avia vehicles equipped with turbo engines designated as A21T and A31T was launched. At the same time, the engine power of these vehicles was increased up to 65 kW, which met the Euro I Standard. Subsequently, an engine with the power increased up to 76 kW (or 85 kW) and intercooler meeting the Euro II Standard was developed. The enhancements also included a modified chassis, strengthened drive unit, power steering system, modified braking system, improved cab interior and enhanced technical parameters of the vehicle.
In 1992, Avia was transformed into a stock company, and also Avia-Hamilton Standard, a new company with Avia's equity share manufacturing aircraft propellers, was established. One year later, the propeller manufacture was moved from the Letňany factory to the new premises near Stará Boleslav. This definitively terminated the aircraft production in Letňany.
66% of the Avia Company was privatized by Czech entities in two waves. To ensure the further development of the company, the government began to seek a foreign investor. The relevant discussions were led with several parties concerned. In the first line, it was Renault, the French car manufacturing company, with which Avia already had good long-term experience; followed by the German Mercedes-Benz company. However, the 1995 public tender was won by a consortium formed by the South Korean Daewoo company and Austrian Steyr company. The consortium, Daewoo Steyr B.V., (incorporated in the Netherlands) bought 50.2% of Avia's shares, thus becoming the majority owner of the Company. The year after, the trade name of the Company was changed to Daewoo Avia, A.S. In the same year, the company became the exclusive importer and distributor of Daewoo vehicles for the Czech Republic.
In 1997, the Avia A Series was modernized for the last time. Avia A 60/ 65/ 75/ 80 models entered the market. The vehicles had a completely new chassis fitted with a riveted frame, fixed front axle, front disk brakes, lesser wheels 205/75 - 17,50" and Euro II engines with the power of 76 kW and/or 85 kW. The vehicles were fitted with a five-speed/six-speed gear-box. The cabs had a new interior, advanced design and they were tilt cabs in the first line. Generally, 250,000 Avia A Series vehicles, which can be seen in high numbers on our roads even today, left the assembly line of the Letňany car factory in the period between launching the production in 1968 up to its termination, which took place on 13 November 2000. From 1997 to 1999, the Letňany car factory was also assembling Lublin and Lublin II, the light commercial vehicles imported disassembled from the Daewoo Motor Poland company.
Simultaneously, preparation work on a completely new product continued. The Daewoo Avia's new Korean management team staked a demanding goal consisting of development and manufacturing of a completely new medium duty truck, which would cover the 6 to 9 tonnes gvw weight class and would be fully competitive in Western European markets and further afield in terms of design and operating costs. The vehicle cab, which was styled in Italy and provided maximum comfort both to driver and crew, was the most significant new component of the vehicle. The designers at Daewoo's Worthing (UK) engineering centre led the development of the new cab and its interior, while Daewoo Avia specialist designers at the Letnany factory were responsible for the project co-ordination, and engine/chassis development. The total spend on the project was over $160 million—split approximately 50–50 between R&D and manufacturing upgrades. The major investments in manufacturing were the new Eisenmann water-based paint plant—including the e-coat plant which was installed to degrease, prepare and prime the cabs by full electro-cataphoretic full immersion process and a new cab welding line.
With the bankruptcy of the parent Korean Daewoo company on the horizon in 2000, the Prague factory continued its mission as a stand-alone concern – much of the ongoing development work paid by selling local real estate owned by the company including the company-owned workers flats in Letnany.
The new vehicle, known as Avia D Series, was launched at the Brno truck show in June 2000. Along with its new cab, Daewoo Avia also launched its new D432-100 engine which met EEC R49-03 (Euro 3) without electronic control or EGR technology. Plans to enter Western European market also meant that the Cummins ISBe range of engines was installed as an option, as this engine made the vehicle more marketable. Initially available with the 150 hp Cummins ISBe 150 30 engine, produced by Cummins Engnie Company in Darlington, UK, this engine was also available as a derated 130 hp variant and in 2003 a 170 hp version was also launched. The Cummins engine, with its flat torque curve, demonstrated good fuel consumption and better performance on long journeys. From launch, the D Series was available with the ZF S5-42 five-speed gear-box and the six-speed cable-shift ZF S6-850 was launched as a compatible gearbox with the 170 hp Cummins. The D75 (7.5 t gvw) proved particularly popular in the UK and Ireland.
By 2004, continued losses at the factory meant a take-over was inevitable for its survival. A Czech-based investment company Odien started negotiations to buy the Daewoo Steyr B.V. 50.2% share holding—a process completed in early 2005. Odien carried out a complete physical and financial restructuring of the company which saw the Truck Business Unit retrenched from 120 buildings on the full 88 ha site to just four buildings on 4 ha. As part of the restructuring, production of the Daewoo Avia D432-100 engine was halted. Under Odien's watch, the Avia brand was reintroduced with a new logo, and development of the Euro 4 compliant models and a new 12 t gvm model, the D120, were commenced. After discussions with several overseas manufacturers, Odien sold the Truck Business Unit to Ashok Leyland in October 2006.
Ashok Leyland ownership
Ashok Leyland heralded a new era for the Avia factory and a new company "Avia Ashok Leyland Motors SRO (AALM)" was formed. Sales in 2006 reached 650 units. Sales demand remained strong in the home market and in the UK, Spain, Hungary and Ireland – in the latter, Avia had a 16% market share of its segment in 2006. In 2006 the new 160 and 185 hp Cummins powered Euro 4 models and the D120 were launched, the latter with gcw of up to 22000 kg for drawbar operation.
In 2007, a collaboration with the Tanfield Group of the UK saw the introduction of an "electric Avia", with AALM providing chassis cabs less engines, gearboxes and other diesel truck components to Tanfield subsidiary Smith Electric Vehicles for inclusion in the Smith's Newton all electric truck. This proved to be a highly successful collaboration with the shipment of engineless trucks forming a large proportion of Avia's sales. In the U.S. runs hundreds of Smith Electric electric cars with chassis and cabs from Prague.
Euro 5 launch in 2009 saw a further increase in power outputs—with 185 and 207 hp variants of the four-cylinder Cummins ISBe Euro 5 available. The weight range continued to span from 6 to 12 tonnes gvw.
Years 2010 and 2011 are period of success for the brand both domestically and in foreign markets. Ashok Leyland helped Avia not only overcome the crisis in 2008-2009, but in joint projects opens up a whole new markets. Thanks to this cooperation, from the local truck manufacturer for Central and Eastern Europe, Avia become a global brand. Sales rising in whole Europe, United States, Middle East, Asia, Argentina and Russia.
Avia fares rather well in Russia with a joint production project of small buses with the Volgabus company. The Russian version, called "Ritmiks", was introduced in 2011; the first prototype of eight-metre long bus in design for the European Union were to be unveiled later.
In 2013 Ashok Leyand closed production in the Czech Republic and moved it to India.
Czechoslovak Group ownership
Avia started to produce a new model line Avia D Initia in September 2017. The medium trucks meet the emission class Euro 6 and include four-cylinder motors Cummins ISB 4.5l (150, 180 and 210 hp). Company wants to produce annually about 360-400 trucks.
Also during the war the Germans set up a number of assembly plants in Czechoslovakia for production of the Messerschmitt Me 262, designated the Avia S-92. After the war the manufacturing infrastructure remained intact, so production could start up again for the new owners.
The first S-92 was assembled at Letňany Research Institute in 1945 with the airframes coming from Avia and the engines from the repair works in Malešice (the Junkers Jumo 004, now called the M-04). The S-92's first flight was on 27 September 1946, with Avia's chief pilot Antonin Kraus in control. That same year on December 10 the CS-92 took to the air for the first time.
Delivery of the first S-92 to the Czechoslovak Air Force was on 6 February 1948. Twelve were made in all, nine S-92 and three CS-92, equipping the 5th Fighter Flight, until they were grounded for use as instructional airframes in 1951.
By the time Yugoslavia showed interest in buying the S-92, Avia was looking at closing down the production line to make way for newer up-to-date aircraft, and when Avia were given a license to make the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 Fagot (they were already making the Yakovlev Yak 23 Flora, as the S-101) the S-92 production lines were dismantled.
An Avia S-92 (A-1a) and Avia CS-92 (B-1a) can be seen at the Vojenské Muzeum, Kbely AB.
The Avia S-199 was a fighter aircraft built in Czechoslovakia after World War II using parts and plans left over from Luftwaffe aircraft production that had taken place in the country during the war. While a problematic aircraft, unpopular with its pilots, it achieved fame as the first fighter obtained by the Israeli Air Force for use during the War of Independence. Czechoslovak pilots nicknamed it Mezek ("Mule"), while in Israel it was known as the Messer ("knife" in German and Yiddish) or Sakeen ("knife" in Hebrew) or simply called Messerschmitt.
The S-199 continued to use the Me 109G airframe, but with none of the original engines available, the engine (Junkers Jumo 211) and propeller from the Heinkel He 111 bomber were used instead. The result of this compromise was an aircraft with poor handling qualities. The substitute engine lacked the responsiveness of the Daimler-Benz unit, was heavier, and the torque created by the massive paddle-bladed propeller made control difficult. This latter flaw, combined with the 109's narrow-track undercarriage also made landings and take-offs more hazardous. A final hidden danger lay in the synchronization gear which did not seem to work properly, leading a few Israeli aircraft to shoot off their own propellers.
Later produced Avia B-33 (licensed Ilyushin Il-10) or Avia 14 (licensed Ilyushin Il-14), that airliner version (able to carry 42 passengers) became the largest aircraft ever produced in Czechoslovakia.
List of aircraft
- Avia BH-1 (1920) Single engine monoplane two-seat touring aircraft, one built
- Avia BH-2 (1921) Single engine monoplane one-seat touring aircraft, one built
- Avia BH-3 (1921) Fighter aircraft development of BH-2
- Avia BH-4 (1922) Development of BH-3 with larger engine, one built
- Avia BH-5 (1923) Single engine monoplane two-seat touring aircraft, one built
- Avia BH-6 (1923) Single engine one-seat biplane fighter aircraft, one built
- Avia BH-7 (1923) Single engine one-seat parasol-wing fighter/racer aircraft, two built
- Avia BH-8 (1923) Development of BH-6, one built
- Avia BH-9 (1923) Development of BH-5
- Avia BH-10 (1924) Development of BH-9, one-seat sport aircraft
- Avia BH-11 (1923) Development of BH-9, two-seat sport aircraft
- Avia BH-12 (1924) Development of BH-9 with foldable wings
- Avia BH-16 (1924) Very light single engine one-seat monoplane touring aircraft
- Avia BH-17 (1924) Single engine one-seat biplane fighter aircraft
- Avia BH-19 (1924) Development of BH-3, two built
- Avia BH-20 (1924) Single engine two-seat biplane training aircraft
- Avia BH-21 (1925) Single engine one-seat biplane fighter/racing aircraft
- Avia BH-22 (1924) Single engine two-seat trainer aircraft; developed from BH-21
- Avia BH-23 (1926) Night-fighter development of BH-21 and BH-22, two built
- Avia BH-25 (1926) Single engine seven-seat biplane transport aircraft
- Avia BH-26 (1927) Single engine two-seat biplane reconnaissance aircraft
- Avia BH-27 (late 1920s) Single engine four-seat high-wing monoplane transport aircraft. Not built
- Avia BH-28 (1927) Single engine two-seat biplane reconnaissance aircraft, one built
- Avia BH-29 (1927) Single engine two-seat biplane trainer aircraft
- Avia BH-33 (1927) Single engine one-seat fighter aircraft; development of BH-21 with larger engine
- Avia BH-35 (1929) Three-engine high wing mail/transport aircraft project
- Avia BH-39/F.39 (1929) Czechoslovak bomber adaptation of Fokker F.IX, three-piston-engine high-wing monoplane
- Avia BH-133 Development of BH-33 powered by Pratt & Whitney Hornet radial engine
- Avia B-34 (1932) Single engine one-seat biplane fighter
- Avia B-234 (1932) Single engine one-seat biplane fighter (prototype only)
- Avia B-534 (1933) Single engine one-seat biplane fighter
- Avia B-51 (1933) Three-engined six passenger transport aircraft
- Avia B-122 (1934) Single engine one-seat biplane aerobatic aircraft
- Avia B-71 (1934) Czechoslovak version of Soviet Tupolev SB 2M-100A, twin engined monoplane bomber
- Avia B-156 (1934) Single engine six passenger transport aircraft, prototype only
- Avia B-57 (1935) Three-engined 14 passenger transport aircraft
- Avia B-36 (1936) Twin-engined mid-wing medium/heavy monoplane bomber project
- Avia B-35 (1938) Single engine monoplane fighter
- Avia B-58 (1938) Twin-engined medium bomber, developed into B-158
- Avia B-158 (1938) Twin-engined light bomber, prototype only
- Avia B-135 (1939) Production version of B-35 with metal wing
- Avia S-99 (1945) Czechoslovak postwar production of German Bf-109G single engine fighter aircraft
- Avia VR-1 (1945) Czechoslovak postwar production of the German Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache helicopter
- Avia S-92 (1946) Czechoslovak production version of German Me 262, twin jet engine one- or two-seat fighter aircraft
- Avia S-199 (1947) Development of S-99 using different engine and propeller
- Avia 14 (1950) Czechoslovak version of Soviet Ilyushin Il-14, twin engined airliner
- Avia B-33 (1951) Czechoslovak production version of Soviet Ilyushin Il-10, single engine two-seat low-wing ground-attack aircraft
- Avia B-228 Czechoslovak version of Soviet Ilyushin Il-28, medium bomber
- Avia S-105 Czechoslovak version of Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19S
In 1956 and 1957, Avia made a small series of twelve (or fifteen) light automobiles, completely built from aluminium sheet. These cars have a single centrally-placed driver's seat and steering column up front and two rear seats, a sliding cabin for access, and a rear-mounted two-cylinder engine with exactly the same displacement as the 350cc Jawa motorcycle engine, but it was a completely different development. The engine produced 15 PS (11 kW). Two examples of this car still survive, at least one of which is a monoposto streamliner.
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