The life of a pioneer
Henri Marie Coandă was born on June 7th, 1886, in Bucharest, in the family of the soldier and politician Constantin Coandă, being the second child in a large family. His father was General in the Romanian army, a mathematics teacher at the National School of Bridges and Roads and Prime Minister of Romania for a short period of time. His mother, Aida Danet, was the daughter of the french doctor Gustave Danet.
Coandă attended Elementary school at the „Petrache Poenaru” Communal School in Bucharest, then in 1896, began his secondary school career at Saint Sava National College. After three years, his father, who desired a military career for him, had him transferred to the Military High School in Iași where he required four additional years to complete high-school. He graduated in 1903 with the rank of seargent major and continued his studies at the School of Artillery, Military and Naval Engineering in Bucharest. In 1904 he was sent to Germany with an artillery regiment and enrolled in the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Berlin.
Henri Coandă graduated as an artillery officer, but he was more interested in the technical problem of flight and in 1905 he built a missile-airplane for the Romanian Army. He continued his studies at the Montefiore Institute in Liège where he met the Italian aeronautical engineer Gianni Caproni. In 1908 Coandă returned to Romania to serve as an active officer in the Second Artillery Regiment but his inventive spirit did not allow him to lose his potential and after he received his permission he took a long automobile trip to Isfahan, Teheran and Tibet. Upon his return in 1909, he traveled to Paris, where he enrolled in the newly founded École Nationale Superieure d’Ingenieurs en Construction Aéronautique (also known as SUPAERO). One year later he graduated as the head of the first class of aeronautical engineers.
In 1910, in the workshop of Gianni Caproni, he designed and built an aircraft known as the Coandă-1910, which he displayed publicly at the second International Aeronautic Salon in Paris that year. That aircraft used a 4-cylinder piston engine to power a rotary compressor which was intended to propel the craft by a combination of suction at the front and airflow out the rear instead of using a propeller.
There always has been some controversy behind Coandă-1910 because some engineers credited Coandă as being the inventor of the jet-powered aircraft but others, like Charles Gibbs-Smith, stated that “There was never any idea of injecting fuel; the machine never flew; it was never destroyed on a test”. The test had place on December 16, with Coandă as the pilot, near Paris on Issy-les-Moulineaux aerodrome but he lost control and crashed into a wall throwing him outside the plane and breaking two teeth.
Between 1911 and 1914, he worked as technical manager of the Bristol Aeroplane Company in the United Kingdom, where he designed several airplanes known as the Bristol-Coanda Monoplanes and in 1912 one of these airplanes won a prize at the British Military Aeroplane Competition. In 1915 he returned to France where, working during World War I for Delaunay-Belleville in Saint-Denis where he designed and built three different models of propeller airplane, including Coandă-1916.
In the period between wars, he continued traveling and inventing. He told in an interview that one day he was taking a long bat hand he started to play with the water coming out of the pipe. Then he saw that the water started to go down his finger instead of going straight down and started to analyze that effect that later was called Coandă Effect. The Coandă effect is the tendency of a fluid jet to stay attached to a convex surface. As described by the eponymous Henri Coandă in different patents: “the tendency of a jet of fluid emerging from an orifice to follow an adjacent flat or curved surface and to entrain fluid from the surroundings so that a region of lower pressure develops.” The pressure effect, which is usually not indicated, is fundamental for the comprehension of the Coandă effect.
During the 1930’s he used the same principle as the basis for the design of a disc-shaped aircraft called “Aerodina Leticulară” ( lens-shaped aerodyne), a „Flying saucer” shaped aircraft that used an unspecified source of high-pressure gases to flow through a ring vent system. No practical full-scale version was built.
Coandă spent World War II in occupied France where he worked for the Nazist o help their war effort by developing the turboproppeler drive system from his 1910 biplane into a propulsion system for snow sleds. The German contract concluded after one year, yielding no plans for production.
Coandă last years
In 1969, in the early years of the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu 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.
Over his entire career, Henri Coanda was the author of 250 patents in various fields, receiving also honorary titles, including the membership at the Royal Aeronautical Society of London and the membership at the Romanian Academy. In 1965 he received the Harry Diamond Laboratories Award in New York. He also received a UNESCO Award for Scientific Research and the Medal of French Aeronautics, Order of Merit, and Commander ring.
He died on November 25th, 1972 at the age of 86. He is buried at Bellu cemetery.
Inventions and discoveries
- 1910: The Coandă-1910, an experimental aircraft constructed on the principle of air-reactive propulsion.
- 1911: An aircraft powered by two engines driving a single propeller – the configuration canceled the torque of the engines.
- He invented a new decorative material for use in construction, Beton-Bois, used for architectural decorations (the Palace of Culture in Iasi, built-in 1925, had been entirely decorated using Coanda’s material);
- 1926: Working in Romania, Coandă developed a device to detect liquids underground, useful in petroleum prospecting. Shortly thereafter, in the Persian Gulf region, he designed a system for offshore oil drilling.
- The most famous of Coandă’s discoveries is the Coandă Effect. This effect has been utilized in many aeronautical inventions.
- A modular system of seawater desalination and transformation to freshwater, based on solar energy, a clean, ecological, and adaptable system.
Today he is remembered, in Romania, and around the Globe as one of the greatest aeronautical engineers. A small part of his life and career can be seen in the Coandă section of the Bucharest Tehnic Museum. In May 2004 the biggest airport in Romania, Otopeni International Airport was renamed in his honor as Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport.