Duks in Royal Serbian Air Force

The Duks factory was founded in Moscow in 1893, and it was initially a machine workshop for the production of metal products, with a dozen employees.


Its founder and owner, Engineer Meller Julius Alexandrovich (Меллер Юлиус Александрович  1865-1944), was an exceptional designer, technologist and production organizer. He was considered to be a very capable enterpreneur. He actively participated in the Moscow public life. He was a sportsman, a member of the Moscow Cycling Club, and he often took part in car racing.
In those years, cycling became a very popular sport, first in Europe and then in America. After a short period of time, bicycle became an object of interest of many enthusiasts in Imperial Russia. This had created new opportunities for the development of Meller’s workshops, as the bicycle production promised large profits.
The workshop soon grew into a factory named Zavod Duks (DUKS - ДУКСЪ). Immediately after its foundation, the annual production of bicycles was over a thousand items of various types: recreational, racing, two-seater in tandem, tricycles, and even four-seaters. The factory demonstrated its Latin name Duks (leader) at exhibitions and fairs organized in the years that followed. It was regularly awarded plaques, medals and acknowledgements with high grades.

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By 1900, the factory employed 115 workers which attracted new shareholders, so it has grown into a stock company with initial capital of 350,000 rubles. The very next year they began the production of steam drive cars, snowmobiles and motor boats, mainly under license. At the beginning, the cars were custom-built for known customers. The offer was expanded in 1902, when the factory put out on the market cars with gasoline engines, trucks, buses, trams, trolleys, carriages...
Until 1910, over 400 cars were made. Then their production was stopped and the production of motorcycles was started, of which the largest part of 500 items was delivered to the Ministry of Army.
Always keeping up with technical progress, following modern global trends and searching for new, attractive products, Meller’s company started producing airships and aircraft in 1909. By the end of 1917, Zavod DUKS made over 1700 aircraft, mostly under French licenses.
The same year, Meller emigrated to France, having previously changed his surname to Brezhnev, after the maiden name of his wife. He returned to Russia by the end of 1920, and again, took over the management of the company, this time as a director.
In mid-1918, the company was nationalized by the Soviet government and renamed to State aviation plant number 1 (ГАЗ No.1). During the years that followed, the factory changed its production programmes and names. Finally in 1993, it was returned its original name, DUKS. The factory still exists and it has been producing aircraft and missile weapons.

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Duks Produces Airplanes
It is assumed that Meller first met aircraft in France in 1908, during one of his journeys. At that time Wilbur Wright often performed propaganda flights in France promoting his Flyer A aircraft. It left a deep impression on Meller, and he firmly decided that his factory would start making aircraft in the near future. Production of new, technically advanced products was something that completely fitted his business philosophy. His factory already had talented engineers and experienced workers who were capable of producing the most complex machine components.
In mid-1909, Meller’s factory made the first aircraft, according to the brothers Wright model of Flyer A. It was constructed by experienced factory engineer Jevgrafov (Н.П. Евграфов). He was already engaged on the project and construction of the Duks airship “Jastreb” (Ястреб), so that he was familiar with all the structural elements of aircraft. The test flights were not performed because the factory couldn’t provide the appropriate engine. The aircraft was nevertheless shown at an aviation exhibit at the end of 1909, together with the aircraft of famous manufacturers from Europe.
Meller realized on time that Russia could not long fall behind the advanced European countries in the aeronautics development, especially the military one. His plan was that the Duks factory should soon start producing aircraft in larger series, initially under license. The problem was that he should choose the right model of the many that broke records every day in those years.
During 1910, Henry Farman “HF III” aircraft became extremely popular in France, despite their structural imperfection. They were made in two versions, for training and for competition. They had a series of record flights and they often won prizes on many aeronautical competitions. They served as models to many constructors even beyond the borders of France. It was this very aircraft that Meller chose for serial production.

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In the very summer of 1910, the Duks factory made the first aircraft modeled on Farman HF III. It was marked Duks I and it was custom- built. It was different from the original construction by the type and the engine power, redesigned tail and reduced angle of wing setting. The ENW 60HP (46kW) engine was more powerful, but also twice the weight of the original. It turned out that these changes didn’t bring the improvement of flight performance, and there also appeared problem with the center of gravity.  These flaws were removed during the test flights and the aircraft was delivered to its buyer at the price of 10,000 rubles.  The factory soon made another aircraft Duks II, which was significantly lighter than the previous one.
In early 1911, the Ministry of Army of Imperial Russia decided to establish the Air Force, following the developed European countries, with six squadrons. Therefore, in the mid-year, a public competition for the selection of military aircraft of indigenous design was announced. There were “Conditions of the military competition for the Russian aircraft” which should be met:.

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...The aircraft must take off from plowed and sown ground. In doing so, the take off roll must be less than 120m and the landing distance to 90m. The aircraft assembly units must be easily interchangeable and the construction must be simple to rework. The aircraft should take off independently, without help from the outside...Minimal load carrying capacity is 160kg+20kg (pilot, passenger and equipment), rate of climb 500m in 15 min, maximum speed over 80km/h, flight time 1.5h the least,  ferry flight over 180 versts(192 km)...The engine must be at least four-cylinder with the margin of power 25-30%...” It was also stated that:”...the aircraft must be folding, so that it could be packed in 7,5x2,9m boxes, not heavier than 400kg, and lighter than 1500kg together with the transport vehicle. Assembling and disassembling time should not be longer that 1-1.5h, and with packing in boxes to 4h...The aircraft should be suitable for the weapon handling and throwing bombs.
The Duks factory registered for the competition with two-seater monoplane of similar construction as Bleriot XI. The aircraft had a crash during the test flight, so it was heavily damaged. Meller managed to replace it and to send another aircraft for the competition. Daily newspaper “Новое время” delivered the news:

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...The famous aviator Gaber- Vlinski arrived from Moscow to St. Petersburg in order to deliver the aircraft made in the Moscow factory “Duks” to the military department. The aviator made series of great flights on this aircraft yesterday...
This time, it was a two-seater Duks biplane made according to the model of the French Farman VII, but it was partially redesigned. The aircraft testing in accordance with the competition programme was resumed in October.
Before the end of the competition, the commission brought the following conclusion:
The aircraft is completely made of indigenous materials, except for the engine. It has the ability to take off and land from plowed ground and unprepared meadows; up to the altitude of 500m it climbs in 10 minutes; the average speed in flight with full load is satisfactory and it amounts to 60 versts per hour (63,3 km/h), which is satisfactory. The aircraft is easy to assemble and it can be packed in only two boxes of the given dimensions, and the assembling and disassembling time is significantly shorter than required.
During the preparations for the last test, the Duks biplane was accidently hit and damaged by another aircraft. Aircraft ferry flight to the distance of 200 meters was not performed, although this requirement would also be met without problems. After the end of the competition, the Duks joint stock company was rewarded with 4,000 rubles. The aircraft was soon repaired, and slightly modified on that occasion. The skis of the landing gear were shortened, the rudder was also redesigned by getting a larger area and the tail skid was also replaced later. Despite the fact that it had met the competition requirements, the Duks biplane was not accepted as a military aircraft by the decision of the Ministry of the Army. It was placed in the factory hangar, and it would be delivered to the Kingdom of Serbia the following year.

 

 

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