**Update: 28/05/21 @ 12:00 UTC – With the auction now closed, the article has been updated with the winning bid amounts for the aircraft.**
Last night an auction was held for some fine art, collectibles, and luxury goods. Oh- and two Romanian-built ROMBAC 1-11s aircraft, one previously used by a Romanian dictator. The starting bid for each of the two jets was set at €25,000 ($30,500). Let’s look at these interesting pieces of history.
“Due to its extreme rarity and significance for the technical history of Romania, the plane was registered under the treasure category in the mobile national cultural heritage by Order of the Ministry of Culture no. 2609 / 11.02.2021, benefiting from the special legal regime provided by Law no. 182/2000 for the protection of the mobile national cultural heritage.” -ArtMark
British design, but built in Romania
For any avgeeks who know their older aircraft, this article’s opening paragraph might have raised some eyebrows. Indeed, the BAC 1-11 (or One-Eleven) was developed by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). While BAC built the jet up until 1982, that’s not where the 1-11’s production story would end.
Indeed, between 1982 and 1989, Romania built its own 1-11s. Instead of calling these BAC 1-11s, though, these were designated as the Rombac 1-11 and license-built at the Bucharest Aircraft Company.
The aircraft type takes the title of being “the first jet engine commercial aircraft produced in Romania.” The first aircraft (registration YR-BRA) was completed in August 1982 and was presented to the Romanian press and officials on August 27, 1982. The first official flight took place on September 20, 1982, at Băneasa Airport, in front of state leadership.
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The two jets up for sale
The auction company responsible for finding a new home for these aircraft is Romanian company ArtMark. The company notes that the jets are powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey Mk 512-14DW dual-flow turbofans capable of a thrust of 6,000 kgf. The aircraft have a top speed of 870 km/h (with 119 passengers) with a range of 3,500km.
The auction company notes that Romaero Băneasa (known as the Bucharest Aircraft Company before 1989) built just nine aircraft of this type. Thus, the two jets up for auction are quite a rarity, even without their presidential histories.
The aircraft registered as YR-BRE was a presidential plane between 1986 and 1989. With registrations beginning at BRA, BRE would be the fifth aircraft built.
The aircraft with registration YR-BRI, was the ninth and final ROMBAC 1-11 ever built. This jet had its first flight in 1989 and was a presidential aircraft during the first terms of Ion Iliescu and still “retains the role-specific furnishing,” the auction company says.
YR-BRI was also out on short-term leases to Egypt’s Air Memphis and Cyprus’ Aerotrans Airlines. Both jets have been under the care of the Romanian Air Force since the late 90s/early 2000s.
UPDATE: Now that the auction has ended, we can report that YR-BRE sold for €120,000 while YR-BRI sold for €165,000.
The dark connection
While the history of the jets is interesting, they were also created and operated during a difficult period in Romania’s history.
According to CNN, Nicolae Ceausescu ruled Romania from 1965 until 1989. His rule over the country was considered fairly repressive, and saw secret police conduct mass surveillance while abusing human rights and stifling press freedoms.
A violent anti-Communist revolution would end Ceausescu’s reign and be succeeded by Ion Iliescu – known as Romania’s first freely elected head of state. The BBC states that after Iliescu took power, 862 people were killed.
While he denies any wrongdoing, Iliescu would go on to be indicted for crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violent 1989 uprising in 2019. The trial for the former head of state is ongoing, first postponed due to the man’s declining health, and postponed again due to the current health crisis.
If you had enough money, what would you be willing to pay for one of these aircraft? Let us know in the comments.