7. Aurel Vlaicu was a Romanian flying ace and inventor who had dreams of soaring above the mountains in his own plane
As a young man, Aurel Vlaicu left his native Romania to study engineering in Munich. Whilst in the German city, he became fascinated by flight and began designing his own aircraft using nothing more than wood, paper and rubber bands. Years later, he had the chance to make much bigger models and to fly them, too. Vlaicu secured funding from the Romanian Ministry of War and, in 1910, he made his first flight. At first, he flew gliders. But then he designed a powered plane and took to the skies in that. His initial flights were so successful that by 1913, he was ready to try and become the first man to fly over the Carpathian Mountains.
In September of 1913, Vlaicu took to the skies in a plane he had designed and built himself. On a practice run ahead of his planned flight over the country’s biggest mountain range, his plane came down hard whilst coming in to land. Vlaicu was killed instantly. Some of his peers suspected sabotage. However, it’s much more likely that his plane simply stalled at the wrong time. Despite never making his record-breaking flight, Vlaicu is still remembered as a national hero in Romania and celebrated as a true aviation pioneer.