“I-12” is one of the most famous airplanes designed by Kārlis Irbītis, head of the technology plant VEF's aircraft building division, which has participated in several aviation shows and exhibitions before World War II, and has won prizes in international aviation competitions. Its replica was constructed by Latvian aviation enthusiasts under the direction of Juris Grīnbergs, following the original blueprints.
One of the aircraft's engineers, its owner Ivars Zorgenfreijs, indicated in the inaugural event that this is a monument not only to aviation but also to Latvia and its capabilities:
“We are unveiling a monument to Kārlis Irbītis honoring his genius, this is also a monument to my colleague, Juris Grīnbergs, with whom we built the plane. Thanks to our joint work, we see this plane here at Rīga airport."
The aircraft is airworthy and has a number assigned to it. The first flight was conducted in 2010 near Iecava.
“It was a bumpy field that neighbors had ploughed [..]. This was entirely enough for the aircraft to take off in the air and obtain an airworthiness certificate,” said Zorgenfreijs.
The plane's replica is not intended for regular operation and has been constructed as a museum copy. It is equipped with the original engine produced by Cirrus Minor, which was used on the original “I-12” planes.
The owner of the plane also told LTV that the original plane could be flown from London to Rīga within nine hours without making an additional landing to refill the fuel. It was a great achievement in 1938, and “I-12” became noticeable. The plane has received several acclaim and awards.
None of the 12 original planes have survived.
At the inaugural event, Transport Minister Jānis Vitenbergs (National Alliance) acknowledged that the plane had finally found its place.
"Kārlis Irbītis' contribution to the history of aviation in Latvia is immeasurable. The story is alive, and it is made alive by this airplane, which everyone can see at the airport. It is exactly the kind of people that Kārlis Irbītis was who allow us to be leading aviation in our region today," the minister said.