Henri Marie Coanda (June 7, 1886 – November 25, 1972) was a Romanian inventor, aerodynamics pioneer and the builder of world’s first jet powered aircraft, the Coanda-1910.
Born in Bucharest, Coanda was the second child of a large family. His father was General Constantin Coanda, a mathematics professor at the National School of Bridges and Roads. His mother, Aida Danet, was the daughter of French physician Gustave Danet, and was born in Brittany. He was later to recall that even as a child he was fascinated by the miracle of wind.
Coandã studied at the Petrache Poenaru Communal School in Bucharest, then (1896) at the Liceu Sf. Sava (Saint Sava National College). After three years (1899), his father, who desired a military career for him, had him transfer to the Military Lycee in Iaºi. He graduated from that institution in 1903 with the rank of sergeant major, and he continued his studies at the School of Artillery, Military, and Naval Engineering in Bucharest. Sent with an artillery regiment to Germany (1904), he enrolled in the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Berlin.
Coandã graduated as an artillery officer, but he was more interested in the technical problems of flight. In 1905, he built a missile-airplane for the Romanian Army. He continued his studies (1907-1908) at the Montefiore Institute in Liège, Belgium, where he met Gianni Caproni. In 1908 Coandã returned to Romania to serve as an active officer in the Second Artillery Regiment. However, his inventor’s spirit did not comport well with military discipline. He solicited and obtained permission to leave the army, after which he took advantage of his renewed freedom to take a long automobile trip to Isfahan, Teheran, and Tibet. Upon his return in 1909, he travelled to Paris, where he enrolled in the newly founded École Nationale Superieure d’Ingenieurs en Construction Aéronautique (now the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace, also known as SUPAERO). One year later (1910) he graduated at the head of the first class of aeronautical engineers.
With the support of engineer Gustave Eiffel and the mathematician, politician, and aeronautical pioneer Paul Painlevé, he began experimenting the aerodynamic techniques: one of this experiments was mounting a device on a train running at 90 km/h so he could analyse the aerodynamic behavior. Another experiment used a wind tunnel with smoke and an aerodynamical balance to profile wings to be used in designing aircraft. This later led to the discovery of the aerodynamic effect now known as the Coandã effect.
In 1910, using the workshop of Gianni Caproni, he designed, built and piloted the first ‘thermojet’ powered aircraft, known as the Coandã-1910, which he demonstrated publicly at the second International Aeronautic Salon in Paris. The powerplant used a 4-cylinder piston engine to power a compressor, which fed to two burners for thrust, instead of using a propeller. It would be nearly 30 years until the next thermojet powered aircraft, the Campini Caproni CC.2.
At the airport of Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, Coandã lost control of the jet plane, which went off of the runway and caught fire. Fortunately, he escaped with just a good scare and some minor injuries to his face and hands. Around that time, Coandã abandoned his experiments due to a lack of interest and support on the part of the public and of scientific and engineering institutions.
Between 1911 and 1914, he worked as technical director of Bristol Aeroplane Company in the United Kingdom, where he designed several airplanes known as Bristol-Coandã airplanes. In 1912 one of these planes won the first prize at the International Military Aviation Contest in the UK.
In 1915, he went again to France where, working during World War I for Delaunay-Belleville in Saint-Denis, he designed and built three different models of propeller airplane, including the Coandã-1916, with two propellers mounted close to the tail; this design was to be reprised in the “Caravelle” transport airplane, for which Coandã was a technical consultant.
In the years between the wars, he continued traveling and inventing; inventions included the first jet-powered sleigh, and the first de luxe aerodynamic railroad train. In 1934 he was granted a French patent related to the Coandã Effect. In 1935, he used the same principle as the basis for a hovercraft called “Aerodina Lenticulara”, which was very similar in shape to the flying saucers later developed by Avro Canada before being bought by the United States Air Force and becoming a classified project.
In 1969, during the first years of the Ceauºescu era, he returned to spend his last days in his native Romania, where he served as director of the Institute for Scientific and Technical Creation (INCREST) and in 1971 reorganized, along with professor Elie Carafoli, the Department of Aeronautical Engineering of the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, spinning it off from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Coandã died in Bucharest November 25, 1972 at the age of 86.
Bucharest’s Henri Coandã International Airport is named after him.
Inventions and discoveries
· 1910: A mobile platform for aerodynamic experiments, mounted on the side of a train, running at 90 km/h on the Paris – Saint-Quentin route. Effectively, this gave him a wind tunnel; using smoke and a photographic camera of his own design, he was able to test the stability of designs for airplane wings.
· 1910: The Coandã-1910, the world’s first thermojet aircraft (which crashed on its only demonstration).
· 1911: A two-engine, one-propeller airplane.
· 1911-1914 as technical director of Bristol Aeroplane Company, designed the Bristol-Coandã airplanes.
· 1914-1916: at Delaunay-Belleville, designed three more types of airplane, including the Coandã-1916, with two motors near the tail.
· He invented a new decorative material for use in construction, beton-bois; one prominent example of its use is the 1926 Palace of Culture, in Iaºi.
· 1926: Working in Romania, Coandã developed a device to detect liquids under ground, useful in petroleum prospecting. Shortly thereafter, in the Persian Gulf region, he designed a system for offshore oil drilling.
· Probably the most famous of Coandã’s discoveries is the Coandã Effect. After the crash of the “Coandã-1910” airplane, Coandã observed that flames and incandescent gas emitted by the fire tended to remain close to the fuselage. After more than 20 years studying this phenomenon along with his colleagues, Coandã described what Albert Metral was later to name the “Coandã Effect”. This effect has been utilized in many aeronautical inventions and is crucial to successful supersonic flight.
Henri Marie Coanda was the second son of Constantin M. Coanda who had five sons and two daughters. H. Coanda was born in Bucharest on June 7, 1886. As he later stated he has been attracted by the ‘miracle of wind’ since he was a boy.
Henri Coanda attended high-school in Bucharest and in Iasi. After this he joined the Bucharest Military School where he graduated as an artillery officer. Fond of technical problems, especially of flight technics, in 1905 he built a ‘missile-airplane’ in Bucharest for the Army. Then he went up to Berlin to attend studies at Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, after which he followed with studies at the Science University in Liege, part of the Electrical Institute in Montefiore. He registered at the Superior Aeronautical School in Paris where he graduated in 1909.
H. Coanda began his engineering practice in aerodynamics where he is only now becoming become world reknowed. He was awarded distinctions around the world for many inventions. a few are mentioned here:
* a mobile platform for aerodynamic experiments; he mounted this device on a train and carried out the experiments while the experimental train was running at about 90 km/hr. on the Paris-Saint Quentin route. In this manner he could determine quantitatively aerodynamic phenomena; using an wind tunel with smoke and an aerodynamic balance of his conception he quantified aerodynamic principles using a special photo camera (designed by himself). Due to these experiments he could establish the appropriate profile of wings which were later used for airplanes design.
* in 1911 at Reims, H. Coanda presented a two-engine airplane with only one propeller;
* between 1911-1914 he held the position of technical director of Bristol Airplanes in England, where he designed several ‘classical’ airplanes (with propellers) known as Bristol-Coanda airplanes. In 1912 one of these planes won the first prize at the International Military Aviation Contest in England.
* between 1914-1916 H. Coanda worked at Dalauney-Belleville Airplanes in Saint Denis. Here he designed three types of airplanes, among them Coanda-1916, with two propellers mounted close to the tail (like the well known ‘Caravelle’ transport airplane; in fact Coanda took part in the design of this airplane as a technical consultant).
In addition to these H. Coanda also had preocupations in different technical domains. Among the most notable were:
* the invention of a new construction material known as ‘beton-bois’, used for architectural decorations (the Palace of Culture in Iasi, built in 1925, had been entirely decorated using Coanda’s material);
* in 1925 Coanda designed in Romania a device for detecting the liquids in the soil. It was used for oil-gas extraction at a much higher rate as well as constant removal.
* in the Persian Gulf, Coanda built an oceanic storage equipment for oil extracted by equipments working very far from the seashore.
All these achievements can now be seen in Bucharest at the Technical Museum Professor Dimitrie Leonida.
But the most known, studied, and applied discovery of Henri Coanda is the ‘Coanda Effect’. Henri stated that the first time he realized something about what would become known as the Coanda Effect was while he was testing what he termed was his reactive airplane, Coanda-1910. After the plane took off, Coanda observed that the flames and burned gases exhausted from the engine tended to remain very close to the fuselage. For a long time this phenomenon of the burned gases and flames hugging the fuselage remained a great mystery which he explored by exchanging opinions with specialists in aerodynamics around the world. After studies which lasted more than 20 years, (carried out by Coanda and other scientists) it was recognized as a new aeronautical effect. Prof. Albert Metral named the phenomenon for Coanda.
On October 8, 1934 Coanda received the pattent, Procedure and device for the deviation of a fluid inside another fluid. This procedure has so many applications that it is difficult to pick the most important ones: changing thrust direction for modern aircraft (thrust reversal), the lowering of noise levels for reactive engines (or for experimental stands) for high speed aircraft, and the lift of aerodynamic surfaces can be increased to name a few.
In 1935, based on the ‘Coanda Effect’, Henri designed a flying machine which resembles what is known today as ‘flying saucer’ (he called his machine Aerodina Lenticulara – Romanian). Coanda himself considered that this could be the most important application of his effect for the aviation of the future; in 1967, at a Symposionum organized by the Romanian Academy he said:
These airplanes we have today are no more than a perfection of a toy made of paper children use to play with. My opinion is we should search for a completely different flying machine, based on other flying principles. I consider the aircraft of the future, that which will take off vertically, fly as usual and land vertically. This flying machine should have no parts in movement. The idea came from the huge power of the cyclons.
Among the medals and distinctions awarded during his lifetime we mention:
* In 1956, Henri was celebrated in New York for the realization of the first reactive airplane and flight. He was then called ‘the past, present and the future of aviation’.
* In 1965, at the International Automation Sympozium, New York, Henri received the ‘Harry Diamond Laboratories’ diploma.
He also received:
* the Diploma and Great Gold Medal ‘Vielles Tiges’;
* ‘The Diploma for Scientific Research’ from UNESCO;
* ‘The Medal of French Aeronautics’; and
* the order ‘Pour Le Merite’ and the Commander ring for all his activity;
In 1970, Coanda returned to Romania and settled for the last years of his life in Bucharest. In 1971, he and Prof. Elie Carafoli reorganized the Aeronaurical Engineering discipline at Bucharest Polytechnic Institute, splitting the Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department into two departments of study — Mechanical Engineering and Aircraft Engineering.