Antanas Gustaitis was born on March 26th, 1898, in a rural village Obelinė, Javaravas county, Marijampolė district, Lithuania. He spent the years of World War I in Jaroslavl (Russia), where he graduated from high school, and later studied in the Institute of Engineering and School of Artillery in Petrograd.
He joined the Lithuanian army as a volunteer on March15th, 1919. On December 16th, 1919, he graduated from the School of Military aviation, as a Junior Lieutenant. In 1920, while serving in the 1st Air Squadron, he participated in the battle against the Poles. In the period of 1922-1923 he was the Chairman of commission of terminology and was lecturing for the aviation officers. In 1923 he was assigned the leader of Training Squadron.
In 1923-1924 Antanas Gustaitis visited Italy, Czechoslovakia and Klaipėda, where he supervised the building of aeroplanes for Lithuania. In 1925-1928 he studied in the Superior School of Aeronautics and Mechanical Constructions in Paris. After graduation he served as a deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Military Aviation, as the head of Aviation Workshops and as the chief of Technical department. On May 9th, 1934, A.Gustaitis became the Commander-in-Chief of the Lithuanian Military Aviation. On November 23rd, 1937, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.
While serving in this post A.Gustaitis several times visited the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the USSR. In 1941, after the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union and after liquidation of Lithuanian army, he lectured at the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Perceiving imminent arrest, A.Gustaitis attempted to cross the Lithuanian-German border on March 4th, but he was arrested and taken to Moscow, where he was sentenced on July 7th and executed on October16th, 1941.
Under the leadership of A.Gustaitis, the Military aviation workshops were reorganized into a modern plant, suitable not only for repairs, but also for serial production of aeroplanes. A network of airports and landing strips was established throughout entire Lithuania.
Several new squadrons were formed in the Lithuanian military aviation, constituting the Fighter, Reconnaissance and Bomber Groups. A system of pilots and service personnel training was developed. The most talented would-be pilots were sent to the appropriate schools in foreign countries.
A.Gustaitis, one of the founders of the Aero Club of Lithuania, was later named vice-president and Honorary member of the Club. He encouraged the youth of Lithuania to pay more attention to the less expensive branch of aviation – the gliding. He promoted the training of the first gliding instructors and the building of the first gliders. He spoke several foreign languages fluently, liked music and was an outstanding chess-player (in 1923 he became the chess champion of Lithuania).
However, A.Gustaitis’ biggest achievement was the design of aeroplanes, of nine different types, their testing and organizing of their serial production. He marked his aeroplanes with the letters ANBO. Technologically, all his aeroplanes were of simple construction, high reliability and possessed very good flying qualities. These parameters were developed from the first try - no significant changes were needed, i.e. the prototypes did not differ from the serially built aeroplanes.
Tags: Aviation Transport