Aviation in the Ottoman period

The Ottoman State was the first country in the world where the airplane was used to fight a war that was being waged against it.

Immediately after the war with Italy, fought and lost in Tripoli in 1911, the period of the Balkan Wars commenced. One important reason for the ensuing string of defeats was the force of the air attacks launched by the other forces. The first step taken by the Ottoman State in the field of aviation was therefore military in purpose. An aviation commission was added to the War Ministry Science Detachment General Inspectorate in 1911 at the behest of then-War Minister Mahmut Şevket Paşa, who spearheaded the founding of an air force in the true sense of the word. In the same year Cavalry First-Lieutenant Fesa Bey and Fortifications Lieutenant Yusuf Kenan Bey were sent to flight school in Paris.

Not content with these initiatives, Mahmut Şevket Paşa had the first airport built in 1912 in the area between Ayastefanos (Yeşilköy) and Safraköy (Sefaköy) west of Istanbul. There were two hangars here, each 700 meters wide and 1500 meters long. Two planes purchased from France's R.E.P. firm were immediately parked in these hangars, and the first test flights carried out. On 3 July 1912, an Air Academy was also opened at Yeşilköy and the Turkish Army began training its first flying officers.

With the founding of the Air Academy, there was soon an increase both in knowhow and in the number of personnel employed in the field, and when the Balkan War broke out the air squadrons in the Turkish army were ready for active duty. The Ottoman State had seventeen planes during the war, some of which fell into enemy hands and others of which were destroyed by their pilots when they were unable to smuggle them behind the front.

In 1914 the Air Force was restructured and renamed the  'Aviation Corps Inspectorate', but further efforts to develop it were halted by the outbreak of the First World War. In 1915 as the war raged on, the Ottoman State sent a group of aviators to Germany for flight training and an Aviation Affairs branch was formed separately from the Aviation Inspectorate. The Air Force in this period consisted of a Flight School, Air Stations, Air Squadrons, Fixed Balloon Squadrons, Anti-aircraft Units and Meteorological Stations. Organized in this way, the Air Force took part in the war on several fronts from Galicia to Yemen and the Caucasus.

When the Ottoman State acknowledged defeat at the end of the war and signed the armistice at Mondros on 30 October 1918, it was the end of an era in aviation, as in many other areas of national life, and the start of a brand new one.

With the signing of the armistice, promotions got underway in the army and the German aviators who had been training the Air Force left the country, leaving the 'Air Force' suddenly nothing more than a name on paper. Thanks to the strenuous efforts of a few patriotic airmen, however, air stations were set up at Istanbul, Izmir and Konya with planes left over from the war, and air squadrons were formed at Elazığ and Diyarbakır and all materials to hand collected at these locations. Meanwhile in Anatolia the airmen who fought in the War of Liberation, led by Mustafa Kemal to liberate the country from occupation and achieve independence, came together at the Konya Air Station.

While the Ottoman Aviation Inspectorate had been abolished, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, which was founded on 23 April 1920, regarded as its first task the formation a regular army and, parallel with it, an Air Force attached to the War Office. In line with this decision, materials were obtained with great difficulty and the damaged and worn out planes repaired, and the Turkish airmen took up their duties on the War of Liberation front, never losing their belief in ultimate victory. Following the war which lasted five years, on 29 October 1923 the young Turkish Republic with its head held high, proudly proclaimed to the world that it was a 'free and independent' Republic.