The former AERO factory is now a part of the aviation museum – Kbely Aviation Museum (Prague)
The former Aero aircraft factory (Stará Aerovka – Old Aero) is a complex of hangars and office buildings located at the Letňany airfield in Kbely district of Prague.
The history of the Aero factory began shortly after the World War I, when it was founded by Vladimír Kabeš, as the second oldest Czechoslovak aircraft factory. Started as a small workshop it was moved to Kbely airfield in 1920s and then, during the World War II moved again to Letňany airfield (which is located just a few hundred meters from Kbely airfield). During the war years the factory was producing mostly Fw 189 and then Si 204 airplanes, being one of the many aviation factories located around this airfield.
In 1953 the Aero company was moved to its new seat in Vodochody but the area was still used by several consecutive companies for aviation industry purposes. All those activities were terminated in 1989 and the buildings abandoned by the aviation industry.
During the following years the idea of turning the area into a public accessible place with the activities aimed to protect the buildings was still alive, however without any results. The operators of the area did nothing to preserve the historical value of the buildings nor opened the area to public.
In 2011 the area with the hangars was declared the immovable cultural monument and this was the first step towards revitalization of the former Aero factory. After the years of legal disputes the buildings were taken over by LOM PRAHA s.p., a state owned entity. The project focused on revitalization of the area has started in 2014 and the financing it received from EEA Grants programme moved the reconstruction forward.
The area was first opened to public during the reconstruction works, through the open doors events organized there. In 2016, at the season opening in the Aviation Museum in Kbely, the exhibition in the former Aero factory was officially opened, with the part of the Kbely museum exposition moved there.
LOM and Vojenský historický ústav Praha (Military History Institute Prague – VHU) are now together working on finalizing the project, which was named „Return of Historic Airplanes to Glorious Hangars No. V and VI AERO at Letňany “. According to VHU, the exposition of bombers, fighter aircraft, and fighter bombers from the years between the World War II and 1980s will be finally placed in Hangar no. V. The history of the Aero factory and the aircrafts produced there will be presented in Hangar no. VI.
The possibility to move the part of the Kbely museum exposition to the hangars of old Aero factory is really a great idea. One of the problems that could be noticed in the aviation museum in Kbely is lack of the exhibition space and in the main hangar the aircrafts are really tightly packed. This is also the first impression the visitors now have in Aero hangars – there is enough space and light to see all the exhibited airplanes. Another good news is that some of the rare aircrafts were moved into the hangar from the open air exhibition and are not suffering from the weather conditions anymore.
LOM company has also recently renovated the Mi-4 helicopter that could be seen in the Aviation Museum in Kbely. Let´s hope that such cooperation would be continued as there are many aircrafts waiting for their renovation in the museum and in the area of Aero factory. Moving some of them under the roof is certainly the good move but the renovation should be the next step.
The area of former Aero factory is worth to see, not only for the exhibited aircrafts but also for the buildings themselves. This is probably the only aviation factory complex preserved in such condition, where the hangars typical for the years 1910s – 1940s could be seen, showing the development of the aviation architecture through the years.