Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Aviation

Mankind made its first flight with the balloon discovered in 1783. The revolutionary development in aviation was the invention of the airplane in 1903. The aircraft, which remained in the air for a few seconds in its first flight, was developed over time and became the fastest means of transportation. The third dimension was added to the battlefields as the aircraft began to be used for military purposes. From this perspective, let’s examine Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and aviation.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has been in military aviation since its inception. In 1910, when he was a young staff captain, he saw the first military plane in the exercises he participated in France. Later, from the Tripoli War to the Turkish War of Independence, he understood the importance of military aviation in the war environment he was in without interruption.

Atatürk, who wanted the Republic of Turkey, of which he was the founder, to be one of the most advanced states in aviation, has been the biggest supporter of efforts in this direction.

Atatürk closely followed the development of the world aviation industry until his death. In this process, there have been countries that have taken the first steps in the field of aviation. Atatürk has always been in a position to guide the society in this critical process.

“The future is in the skies. Nations that cannot protect their skies can never be sure of their future.”

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
image source: THK

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and His Aviation Vision

Atatürk was undoubtedly a farsighted person. He emphasized the importance of aviation with his words “The future is in the skies, the nations that cannot protect their skies can never be sure of their future”, which he used thanks to his foresight. In these years, aviation was newly born and experiencing a period of development. The flow of civilization, the fast pace of science and technology force nations to look for their future in the skies. In this direction, Atatürk said, “Youth with wings is the greatest assurance for the future of the country. If one day the western feet are going to leave their footprints on the Moon, it is necessary to start working and make progress in order to find a Turk among them.” The expression also reveals Atatürk’s prediction about the level that aviation will reach in the future.

Atatürk followed the developments in the field of aviation and ensured that steps were taken for its development in Turkey. According to him, great developments that would be at the service of humanity would be in the field of aviation. In fact, the day would come when human beings would go to outer space, to other planets, and even conquer the Moon and similar planets. And these modern wars would be won by the nations that were superior in aviation. During his visit to the Eskişehir Aircraft Regiment in 1936, he said, “The most effective weapon and vehicle of the future is the airplane without any doubt. One day, human beings will walk in the skies without an airplane, go to the planets, and maybe send us signals from the moon. For the realization of this miracle will not have to wait for year 2000. Developing technology already heralds this. Our duty is to ensure that we do not lag too far behind the West in this regard.” Mustafa Kemal Atatürk encouraged the youth to aviation with his speeches.

Atatürk and Aviation

In 1903, after the first plane took off and embraced the skies, the concept of the homeland, which had been defined as a land and sea section until then, did not fit this definition.

Airplanes, flight techniques developed so rapidly that air power had a decisive influence on the outcome of the First World War, which began in 1914. Classical war strategy and tactical principles also lost their value, and new ways and methods of war emerged.

From time to time, aviation issues and the memories of those who experienced the events were widely covered in the famous magazines of western countries. The aim of this was undoubtedly to provide useful resources for those dealing with aviation history, and to encourage the young generation to be trained in aviation. In our country, it was considered beneficial to raise knowledgeable and enthusiastic young people in this field and to create a conscious environment.

Establishment of the Turkish Aircraft Society

Mustafa Kemal sensed that aviation would develop rapidly, and warned those concerned about it. He took the necessary initiatives without delay in order to ensure the development and strengthening of Turkish aviation.

The Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) was established on February 16, 1925, 16 months after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, under the name of “Turkish Aircraft Society” by the orders of Atatürk. With the congress decision taken in 1935, the foundation aims of the Association, are as follows:

• Establishing the aviation industry in Turkey,

* To explain the military, economic, social and political importance of aviation,

• To ensure the development of military, civil, sportive and touristic aviation,

* To prepare the necessary tools and equipment for aviation activities,

• It is determined as to train personnel and to create a flying Turkish Youth.

The Aircraft Society has developed in a very short time, as a result of its hard and virtuous work, and gains appreciation, love and trust at the national level; imposes its existence on society.

TOMTAŞ Aircraft and Engine Factory

THK; In 1926, Atatürk first opened the “Aircraft Machinist School” and then the “TOMTAŞ Aircraft and Engine Factory” in Kayseri. Thus, the production, maintenance and repairs of A-19 and A-20 aircraft began to be carried out in Turkey. The factory was established in 1929 by the National Defense transferred to the Ministry. The interest of the public has been so great that with the revenues collected, THK manufactured or purchased 351 aircraft in the first 10 years and delivered them to the Turkish Air Force. The institution became a member of the International Aviation Federation, which was established in 1905, in 1929 with the aim of developing sportive aviation in Turkey and promoting it to young people. After TOMTAŞ in aircraft production, THK workshop was turned into a factory and serial assembly of British Magister training aircraft was started.

The aircraft factory established in Etimesgut went into full production in 1940. In addition to Magister aircraft, various THK series gliders and training, aerobatic, medical and transport aircraft were also produced in this factory. In 1944, the first aircraft engine factory was established in Atatürk Orman Çiftliği, but production was stopped in 1952 and the factories were closed. After this date, Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) has focused entirely on aviation education and national and international sports activities.

Atatürk and Aviation
Tomtaş Factory
image source: rayhaber

First Days of Turkish Airlines

Separately from the Turkish Aeronautical Association, on 20 May 1933, the “State Airlines Administration” was established under the Ministry of National Defense. The initial budget of the organization, headed by Fesa EVRENSEV, one of the first Turkish aviators, is 180 thousand liras. And there are a total of 24 personnel, including seven pilots, eight mechanics, eight officers and a radio operator. In the first fleet; There are 2 King Birds (5 seats), 2 Junkers F-13 (4 seats) and 1 ATH-9 (10 seats). This is how the story of Turkish Airlines, which is one of the world’s leading airlines today, began. The institution, which was opened under the name of Airlines State Enterprise, took the name of Turkish Airlines in 1955.

Atatürk – The future is in the skies

Atatürk explains his views on aviation as follows: “The future is in the skies. Nations that cannot protect their skies can never be sure of their future”. These sentences of Atatürk also pioneered the policy of the period and the steps taken. In these years, aviation was newly born and experiencing a period of development. The atom was not split, the hydrogen bomb was not even imagined. There is no thought of going to the moon or planets. However, the flow of civilization, the fast pace of science and technology force nations to look for their future in the skies.

Atatürk also mention aviation in his speeches at the meeting of the Teachers’ Union in Bursa on 8 june 1926: “The Turkish nation’s understanding of the need to strengthen our air force and its valuable assistance is the greatest proof of its attainment of political civilization. The Turkish Aircraft Society, which guides the nation in this field, I appreciate your work. I am sure that the citizens will make an effort to ensure that the meetings held in various parts of our country for the Association to find a fixed and definite income will result in a beneficial outcome”. Before Atatürk ends his speech, he gives the most important task to the Organization with the following words: “… The Association’s work is important in promoting and popularizing aviation in the society, as well as encouraging the youth to become enthusiastic.”

As a result, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was undoubtedly a foresighted person ahead of his time. He made many initiatives in the field of aviation for the Republic of Turkey and encouraged development in this field.