Established on 1 July 1953, Aero Vodochody is the successor to the Aero Aircraft factory founded in Prague in 1919. Over the years it has produced more than 11,000 aircraft, most notably the L-29 Delfin (3,665 built) and more than 2,800 L-39 Albatros jet trainers. Major current programme concerns the L159.
The company underwent a change of ownership as part of a restructuring programme approved on 31 July 1996, when it had yet to recover fully from debts occurring in 1990-91. It is now a joint-stock company in which the majority shareholder is the Czech government, through shares held by Letka a.s. (35.66 per cent) and the Konsolidacni Banka (29.00 per cent). From 17 August 1998, a further 35.29 per cent was acquired by Boeing Ceska s.r.o., a joint venture comprising Boeing and Czech Airlines (CSA), owned 90 per cent by Boeing and 10 per cent by CSA. The remaining 0.05 per cent of Aero is owned by other shareholders. Workforce at end of 2002 was 2,341.
Recently the company was reorganised into four main business units: Military Aircraft, Civil Aircraft, Aero Structures and Sikorsky. Current aircraft programmes are the L159 and the Ae 270 Ibis civil transport, in a 50/50 venture with AIDC of Taiwan. Delivery of the first L159As to the Czech Air Force enabled the company to return to an operating profit. In early 2003 the company was actively seeking a launch customer for the L159B, while by 5 December 2002 it had 67 firm orders and six options for the Ae270.
A deal with Sikorsky was announced in June 2000, under which Aero is undertaking fabrication and subassembly of S-76+ helicopter airframes (but not their dynamic systems). The agreement calls for delivery of 15 airframes per year over a seven-year period; first set, assembled from US-built kits, was redelivered to Sikorsky at Stratford, Connecticut, in January 2001. In-country manufacture by Aero had begun by the end of that year, with the number of airframes rising annually since then.
BAE Systems has indicated its interest in acquiring a stake in Aero if the Czech government should approve the purchase of JAS 39 Gripens for the Czech Air Force.