A replica of the I-12 airplane built in 1937 by the legendary Latvian aircraft designer Kārlis Irbītis, the Head of the VEF (Valsts Elektrotehniskā fabrika, State Electrotechnical Factory) Aircraft Construction Department, can be now viewed in the passenger check-in hall of Riga Airport.
The I–12 is one of the most famous airplanes designed by Kārlis Irbītis, which participated in several air shows and exhibitions before the Second World War and won awards in international aviation competitions.
Having emigrated to Germany during the Second World War, where he worked for several years as a designer at Messerschmitt in Bavaria, Irbītis was a senior engineer at Canadair, Canada's largest aviation company, from 1950 to 1970. In 1970, he received the prestigious McCurdy Award for the vertical takeoff aircraft "V-STOL CL-84" that was created at that time.
During his lifetime, Irbītis created 20 aircraft models and remains in the history of world aviation with several patents registered in Canada and many publications. In addition, Irbītis is also the author of the mass production process of VEF's famous radio receivers and the VEF logo itself.
The I-12 replica with registration mark YL-ABG was built in 2005-2010 by aviation enthusiasts under the leadership of Juris Grīnbergs and Ivars Zorgenfreijs following the original drawings of Kārlis Irbītis, which are preserved in the Latvian National History Museum. In 2010, a test flight was made to make it airworthy, however, the replica aircraft is not intended for regular service and is built as a museum specimen.
"The legendary Kārlis Irbītis and what he accomplished remain in history not only as an outstanding aviation engineer, but also as an essential part of Latvia's industrial heritage. He is a symbol and proof that we can reach the top even in such a complex industry as aviation. I hope that the replica of his famous plane I-12 at Riga Airport will remind us of both the life's achievements of Irbītis and inspire other aviation enthusiasts to new goals. Let his story be a lesson for us about perseverance, creativity and resolutely following your dreams!" Jānis Vitenbergs, Minister for Transport of Latvia, said at the opening.
Riga Airport is a fast-growing Northern European air traffic hub, connecting the Baltic countries with European business centres and popular holiday destinations. Being aware of its role and responsibility in the national economy of Latvia, Riga Airport develops sustainable services and infrastructure, taking care of its employees and the environment, and keeping pace with society and the local community. By joining the Net Zero 2050 initiative, Riga Airport has committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050.