Aviation Pioneers

VECIHI HURKUS – Pioneer of Turkish Aviation

Vecihi Hurkus, born on January 6, 1896 in Istanbul, was a Turkish pilot, aviation entrepreneur and engineer. The whole world knows him as the designer and manufacturer of the first Turkish aircraft. On the other hand, he shot down a Russian plane during the World War I. In this sense, he is the first Turkish aviator to shoot down a plane.

Vecihi Hurkus
source: istanbultimes

Who is Vecihi Hurkus?

Vecihi Hurkus was born in 1896 in a family house by the sea in Istanbul’s Arnavutköy district. His birthday, January 6, was the day the Greeks crossed the sea to celebrate the New Year. His father was a customs officer named Faham, and his mother was Zeliha Niyir, who came to Istanbul at the age of three. Child Vecihi lost his father when he was three years old. Therefore, Vecihi and his mother who was widowed at a young age, started living in the same house with his uncle, aunts and cousins.

Vecihi was the middle child of a family of three children. He studied at Üsküdar Paşakapısı High School. Later, he transferred to Tophane Art School and graduated from this school.

In 1912, he participated in the Balkan War under the supervision of his uncle Colonel Kemal. He was assigned with the forces entering Edirne. After the Balkan War ended, he was appointed by the Istanbul Central Command as the commander of the prisoner of war camp in Beykoz Serviburun.

He wanted to be a pilot, but he was too young to be a pilot. Instead, he entered the mechanics school. With the outbreak of the First World War, he was sent to the Baghdad front as an aircraft repairman. He was injured in a plane crash there and returned to Istanbul. Later, he entered the Aviation School in Yeşilköy and got his dream job as a pilot.

Vecihi Hurkus in the First World War and the Turkish War of Independence

When the calendars showed the autumn of 1917, Vecihi was appointed to the 7th Air Division on the Caucasian front. Vecihi shot down a Russian plane there and became the first Turkish pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft. He was captured by the Russians in the later stages of the war. He was sent to Nargin Island in the Caspian Sea as a war prisoner. Later he escaped by swaming away from this island with the help of the Azerbaijani Turks. He then returned to Turkey on foot via Erzurum with a fugitive friend. In his days of captivity, his love for aviation never died out. He was assigned to the 9th Military Aircraft division in Yesilkoy as pilot.

He designed a fighter plane after his assignment to the 9th Military Aircraft Division, but this design was suspended due to the Mondros Armistice. Hurkus sought ways to join the resistance that started in Anatolia with the signing of the armistice. For this reason, he left Istanbul and moved to Anatolia via Bursa and Eskisehir. He participated in the War of Independence.

Vecihi Hurkus made the first and last flights in the War of Independence. He played a major role in capturing air traffic of Izmir. For his contributions to the war, he was given three commendations and the Medal of Independence by the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Vecihi Hurkus
Vecihi Hurkus

Vecihi Hurkus Builds His First Airplane

After the end of the Turkish War of Independence, Vecihi Hurkus started to work as a pilot instructor at Izmir Seydiköy Hava Mektebi. While teaching here, he was assigned to take a passenger plane that landed in Edirne by mistake. The plane purchased as a result of this service was named “Vecihi”. Thus, the thought of making his own plane was revived in him. In 1923, he produced the first Turkish aircraft based on the engines of the Greek aircraft seized and made its first flight on January 28, 1925.

He was proud both for himself, for his piloting profession and for his country. At least he expected a “thank you”. But in those years, due to the lack of an authority that allows them to flight departure in Turkey, he had made unauthorized departure. Therefore he was punished. Thus, he took a step away from military aviation and switch to civil aviation.

Civil Aviation Venture of Vecihi Hurkus

In 1930, he rented a lumber shop with his initiatives in Kadıköy and built the first Turkish civil aircraft in just 3 months, Vecihi XIV. He made his first flight with this plane on September 27, 1930, on the route Yesilköy – Ankara, taking off from Kadikoy. There was great interest in flying. A large crowd gathered to watch him. It was the day of the firsts.

However, Hurkus could not find what he hoped for after this flight. He applied to the Ministry of Economy for Certification, and on October 14, 1930, his application was rejected on the grounds that “there was no one to determine the technical qualifications of the aircraft”.

Vecihi still did not offend his country. By 1932, he opened the first Turkish Civil Aviation School called Sivil Tayyare Mektebi and undertook the training of the first Turkish female pilot Bedriye Gökmen and 12 pilots. In addition, the first Turkish training and sports aircraft Vecihi XV and aircraft-powered sea sled Vecihi SK-X were produced in Kalamis.

Vecihi Hurkus was a man of firsts in every sense and was an interesting personality. He got his name written in golden letters with his works in Turkish and World aviation history.

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