Henri-Coanda1Henri 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.  See postscript concerning the innovative aircraft Coanda-1910.


The Coanda – 1910 Air Reactive (Jet) Aeroplane
Second International Aeronautical Exhibition
Grand Palais, Champ-Elysees, Paris, France

Circa October 1910





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.

H. Coanda died on November 25, 1972.

Main reference:
Romanian Inventions And Prioritites In Aviation, Constantin C. Gheorghiu, Ed. Albatros, Bucharest, 1979 (in Romanian).

The basis for this biography was posted on the Romanian mailing list romanians@sep.stanford.edu by Cornel I. Sultan, it has been edited for clarity.


Henri Coanda’s Coanda-1910 was a revolutionary aircraft in many ways.   First and foremost, it is now being recognized as the first air-reactive engine (jet) aircraft, making its first and only flight October, 1910. Henri’s aircraft was the first to have no propeller. This was 30 years prior to Heinkle, Campini, and Whittle who have been considered the ‘fathers’ of jet flight. Lacking support, Coanda did not pursue further development of his ‘reactive’ aircraft.  Other innovations for his time included these many firsts:

  • wings made with steel leading edges instead of wood;
  • movable slats on the forward wing edge to increase lift;
  • the wing profile had a strong chamber
  • the two wings were of different lengths and the upper wing was set ahead of the lower wing which was shorter. This reduced the aerodynamic interference between the two surfaces. This was later termedSesquiplan and reinvented 10 years later where it was applied in Fokker, Brequet, and Poetz aircraft; and
  • gasoline and oil were stored in the upper wing thus reducing the fuselage size and thus drag.

The engine was the real innovation, though, and it is lost to the aircraft industry that development was not further pursued in 1910. Coanda’s ‘air-reactive engine’ was housed under a cowl and was comprised of a four-cylinder, water-cooled, gasoline-powered engine rotating at 1000 rpm. Through a gearbox, the engine turned a compressor at 4000 rpm. An obturator (a device that opens and closes similar to an iris in a camera) remotely-operated by the pilot was found in front of the compressor to regulate the flow of air into the compressor.  The compressor exhaust entered two ring-shaped burning chambers located on each side of the fuselage. The gasoline engine’s exhaust and additional fuel was also ported into the chambers. The combustion of this mixture exhausted from the chambers down the steel-sheeted plywood sides of the Coanda-1910 producing a thrust (220 kgf) much greater than would be available from the gasoline engine and a propeller alone.

Additional References

Who was the parent of reactive aviation?American Aviation, December 5, 1955

Aubrey, Rene: He Flew In 1910Flying, September 1956

Bie, Andre: The first turbo-propulsed airplaneAviation Magaxine, No. 160, 1955

Green and Cross: The Jet Aircraft of the World, London, 1955

Encarta Encyclopedia, Microsoft, 1997

Henri Marie CoandaBiography, http://www.biography.com

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