Art & CultureFEATUREDNews

‘Tsehai’: First Aircraft Built in Ethiopia to Return Home from Italy

ADDIS ABABA – The first aircraft built in Ethiopia is set to be repatriated from Italy more than eight decades after it was moved to Rome.

The aircraft – named after Emperor Haile Selassie’s daughter Princess Tsehai – was appropriated and taken to Rome during Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia.

In the past years, “great efforts” were made in discussions with the Italian government to guarantee its return home, per the PM Office of Ethiopia.

The efforts ended with a positive response from Giorgia Meloni’s administration.

“Today is a day of great pride for Ethiopians as we celebrate the official handover of ‘Tsehay’ by the Italian Government,” PM Abiy announced in a statement on Tuesday.

“I extend my immense gratitude to Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni for her support over the past year in facilitating its return.”

Tsehai was built under the collaborative efforts of the German engineer and pilot of the emperor, Herr Ludwig Weber, and Ethiopians of that era.

Weber, who came to Addis Ababa in 1933 as a representative of the German firm of Junkers, and his team worked on three aircraft under Ethiopian Government auspices.

Per the late historian Prof Richard Pankhurst’s account:

“Weber based the design for the airplane ‘Tsehai’ on a German model which had been built in Freiburg a year or so earlier. He began construction work in Addis Ababa on no less than three aircraft, But only one, ‘Tsehai’ on account of the Fascist invasion, was ever completed.”

Tsehai was a monoplane, with a seven-cylinder Walter Venus I 115 horsepower engine, and a Schwartz propeller. Its wings were largely of wood and its fuselage was made of steel and was painted in the Ethiopian national colors, green, yellow and red.

The maiden flight of the aircraft took place in December 1935, during which Weber flew 50 kilometers from Addis Ababa. The flight lasted approximately seven minutes, with the airplane maintaining an altitude of 1000 meters above sea level.

The history of “Tsehai”, unfortunately, was a short one. According to prof Pankhurst, Tsehai had flown only thirty hours when Ethiopia was invaded by the Italian Fascist on 3 October 1935.

It was then appropriated by the invaders who dispatched it to Italy where it is generally referred to as “the aeroplane of the Negus”. Tsehai eventually transferred to the Italian Aviation Museum where it currently awaits its return home.

One thought on “‘Tsehai’: First Aircraft Built in Ethiopia to Return Home from Italy

Comments are closed.