Category An Illustrated History of the World’s Largest Airline

Showing The Flag

Подпись: (Left) Mikhail Gromov (Right) S.A. Shestakov, pilot of the ANT-4 Strana Sovyetov (Land of Soviets) and his flight engineer, D. V. Fufaev. (photo: Eugene Altunin) Подпись:

Feeling Its Way

Following the exhausting civil war, Russian aviation had struggled to pick up the pieces of a shattered industry. Carefully, almost methodically, it had begun to rebuild. Between 1918 and 1922, several exploratory flights were made with foreign-made aircraft, Farmans, L. V.G. s, and British types, not only from Moscow but in other parts of Russia and Central Asia. From 16 to 20 September 1922, B. K. Bellint made a round-trip in a Russian-built Junkers Ju 13 from Moscow to the Crimea, and from 20 May to 1 June 1923 flew another Ju 13 to Tashkent, as a prelude to Dobrolet’s pioneer­ing activities there (see page 18).

From 10 to 22 July, 1924, piloting an AK-1 — the first successful all-Soviet transport design — A. N. Tomashevskya flew from Moscow to Kazan; and from 29 September to 1 October of the same year, P. Kh. Mezheraup, in a Polikarpov R-l, flew to Kabul, Afghanistan. From 2 February to 8 April the next year, V. Ch. Kopilov, in a Junkers Ju 13, made a 10,400km (6,500mi) round-trip circuit in the northeastern and eastern regions of European Russia. And this kind of activity increased in intensity throughout the year, culminat­ing on 10 June 1925 when six aircraft (two R-ls, two Ju 13s, an R-2, and an AK-1) took off from Moscow to Peking (Beijing), China. Piloted by Mikhail M. Gromov (R-l), N. E. Nadenov (Ju 13), M. A. Volkovoynov (R-l), A. N. Ekatov (R-2), E. K. Polyakov (Ju 13), and A. E. Tomashevsky (AK-1), all six aircraft covered the 6,476km (4,025mi) in a little more than a month, arriving on 17 July. Gromov capped the performance by flying on to Tokyo, via Manchuria and Korea, from 30 August to 2 September.

Circuit of Europe

As if to emphasize that the products of TsAGI amounted to more than drawings and announcements, the Russians began to show their metal in western Europe where, because of the dearth of information emanating from Moscow, foreign politicians, press, and public alike were understandably skepti­cal about reports of aircraft construction in the brave new world of the Soviet Union. On 31 August 1926, Mikhail M. Gromov made a courageous demonstration which was quite literally a proving flight, as it proved to the skeptics that the Russians did have flying hardware.

Gromov took his ANT-3 from Moscow to Konigsberg, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw, and then back to

Moscow. The Proletarii (Proletariat) completed this European circuit on 2 September, having covered the 7,150km (4,444mi) in 34hr 15min of flying time, at an average speed of 209km/h (130mph) (see map, p. 23).

Across the World

The following year, the ANT-3 made another important flight that must have given encouragement to the design team at TsAGI. On 20 August 1927, S. A. Shestakov flew an ANT-3 (RR-INT Osoaviakhim SSSR Nash Otvet (Our Answer) from Moscow to Tokyo, arriving there on 1 September. The 22,000km (13,670mi) round-trip was completed in 153 flying hours, at a leisurely speed of 144km/h (89mph) and both the pilot and his mechanic, D. V. Fufaev, were awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

Two years later, with gaining confidence, Shestakov made a more ambitious flight, this time with an ANT-4 (URSS-300 Strana Sovyetov (Land of Soviets). Between 23 August and 2 November 1929, he made an historic flight from the U. S.S. R. to the U. S.A., via the Pacific northern rim. As with most long­distance flights, high speed was not the objective. The 21,200km (13,200mi, about the same as the Moscow — Tokyo round-trip) were covered in 137 flying hours, at an average speed of 155km/h (96mph). The twin-engined aircraft was fit­ted with floats at Khabarovsk for the occasion, and the arrival in the U. S. was on Lake Washington, Seattle.

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An-2s in the Far East

Подпись: The maintenance shed at Nikolayevesk-na-Amure — inclined to be draughty in winter. (R.E.G. Davies) Подпись:An-2s in the Far EastAn-2s in the Far EastAn-2s in the Far East

An-2s in the Far East

Antonovs For Ever

In an area of Siberia much larger than the United States, where no railways exist and roads are a rare luxury, the Antonov An-2 is the only link with civilization itself. Many hundreds of the versatile 12-seater carry people to work, to school, to the shops, and to visit friends and relatives. The maps and the photographs on this page provide a glimpse of such aerial bus services in the Far East Region of Aeroflot.

An-2s in the Far East

In the areas of Russia where the snows seem to be ever-present, air­craft are painted red for better visibility. (Paul Duffy)

An-2s in the Far East

Подпись:Four of tire local Antonov An-2 networks in the Far East Region of the Soviet Union, where 120 towns and villages are served by about the same number of aircraft. More than 60 such networks link about 2,000 communities throughout the vast U. S.S. R., now the CIS.

Father of Russian Aviation — The Constructor

No book on Russian aviation is complete without refer­ence to the inventor Aleksander Fedorovich Mozhaisky (1825-1890). He began to study bird flight when aged 31, and during the next 20 years, experiment­ed with models. He flew kites and designed propellers. In 1876 he himself flew in a large kite, towed by a team of three horses.

In 1877, the War Ministry granted 3,000 rubles for further tests, and on 23 March 1878 Mozhaisky outlined an ambi­tious ‘large apparatus’ able to lift a man. Granted a further 2,000 rubles, he traveled to England in 1880 to obtain, from R. Baker, Son, and Hemkiens, two small steam engines, one of 20hp, the other of ten. On 3 November 1981, he received a ‘Privilege’ to build his flying machine.

Parts were constructed at the Baltiisky factory at St Petersburg and assembled at the Krasny Selo military field. On 31 January 1883, he approached the Russian Technical Society with a request to demonstrate his appa­ratus. By the end of the year, it was moving under its own power, at least on the ground.

The fuselage and the tail, as well as the 353т^ (3,800sq ft) square planform wing, were built of wood, with steel angle brackets, and covered with varnished silk fabric, as were the three four-bladed propellers, the center one of which was 8.75m (28ft 7in) in diameter.

Some time in 1884, an unknown pilot attempted to fly Mozhaisky’s apparatus. He was launched down a sloping ramp, but failed to take to the air because of inadequate power. Mozhaisky ordered more powerful engines from the Obukhovsky steelworks, but died before the work was completed.

Other Russian scientists and inventors, such as S. I. Chernov, K. Ye. Isiolkovsky, and S. A. Chaplygin, all made considerable contributions to aeronautical knowl­edge during the 1890s.


A Country In Chaos

Had civil war not intervened in Russia, Irgor Sikorsky’s Il’ya Murometsy might have put his country in the forefront of air transport in Europe. But as the map shows, the massive foreign invasion after the Bolshevik Revolution postponed any development in this direction.


A Country In ChaosA Country In ChaosA Country In Chaos

Short-Haul Jet

Short-Haul Jet

Подпись: The Tupolev Tu-134 was the first Soviet jet airliner to find widespread approval in eastern Europe. The one (Tu-134A SSSR- 65892) was leased from Aeroflot by MALEV. (Bob Neumeier) Подпись:Short-Haul JetПодпись:

Workhorse for the Seventies

While the giant Tupolev Tu-114 was making headlines during the latter ‘Sixties with its trans-Atlantic and long-haul serv­ices to east Asia, another aircraft from the same Design Bureau entered the Aeroflot scene rather quietly. Produced at Kharkov, the Tupolev Tu-134 was a much-modified Tu-124, so modified, in fact, with engines moved to external nacelles at the rear and vertical stabilizer at the top of the fin, in the fashion of the ВАС One-Eleven and the DC-9, that the origi­nal designation Tu-124A, was soon dropped. Rather like the Antonov An-24, its wider deployment on Soviet domestic, rather than international routes, meant that its extensive use was not at first realized by western observers. But, after enter­ing service on 9 September 1967, the new short-haul jet quickly made its mark, as its export potential was greater than that of any previous Soviet airliner.

A Standard Airliner

Because of the sharp political barriers between east and west that prevailed during the Cold War, the Tupolev Tu-134 was not seen much in western Europe; but it quickly became a common sight at all the major airports in eastern Europe. The six countries of the ‘East Bloc’ as well as an airline in commu­nist Jugoslavia, all bought substantial numbers of the rear – engined short-haul jet. This success was aided by, if not inspired by, the Berlin Agreement of 27 October 1965, signed by Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and east Germany, known familiarly as the ‘Six-Pool’. Though outnumbered by the larger Tupolev Tu-154, the smaller twin – jet was still to be seen here and there throughout the former Soviet Union well into the 1990s, a quarter of a century after its introduction.

The World’s Largest Airline

The Tupolev Tu-134’s debut coincided with a notable mile­stone in Aeroflot’s history. For several years, annual announcements by the Soviet Ministers for Civil Aviation (for which Aeroflot was effectively its operating division) suggest­ed that its statistical stature was growing to the level of parity with the largest western airlines. By 1967, the Soviet airline was able to claim that it was the largest airline in the world, whether measured in passenger journeys made, or in passen­ger-miles flown. As Aeroflot’s presence in overseas markets was still modest, and often unobtrusive, most of this achieve­ment was drawn from the domestic network. Fares within the

U. S.S. R., measured in terms of percentage of discretionary income, were (and still are, even in the post-Soviet era) extremely low. With state – subsidized cheap housing, public utilities, and public transport, and with cheap food, the aver­age Soviet citizen could take an air trip to visit relatives or to take a vacation without diving too deeply into the family budget, meager though this may have appeared by a straight comparison with western income levels. The first Tu-134 ser­vice was from Moscow to Sochi, the Black Sea seaside resort, an event that was possibly symbolic of the momentum for growth that was sustained by Aeroflot during the 1970s.

An early production Tu-134 at Helsinki in 1972. (John Wegg)

Short-Haul Jet

Eugene Loginov was the U. S.S. R. Minister of Civil Aviation during the 1960s, and effectively the head of Aeroflot. He was in charge when the Soviet airline became the largest airline in the world, measured by passenger boardings. (Boris Vdovienko)


M-22 (1 х 480hp) ■ MTOW 3,600kg (7,9001b) ■ Normal Range 820km (500mi) ■ Length 16m (52ft) ■ Span 20m (66ft)


The Elliptical Wing

Some Kalinin aircraft pictures strongly suggest Dornier ancestry, and clearly the designer drew some inspiration from the German company, which was closely associated with Ukrvozdukhput, the Ukrainian airline which was based at Kharkov, and used Dornier Komets, some of which were assembled in its workshops. Kalinin shared floor space in these shops.

But in one important respect, the Kalinin aircraft differed. Whereas both the leading and the trailing edge of the Dornier and Merkur aircraft were parallel, a plan view of the Kalinin wing showed an almost perfect ellipse.

Early work

Konstantin Alekseyevich Kalinin was born in December 1889 at Valuki, near Kharkov. In 1905 he was arrested for suspected revolutionary activities, but by 1912 he had entered the Military School at Odessa. After serving in the Russian Army in the Great War, he entered the Air Training School at Gatchina, near Petrograd, in 1916. When the 1917 Revolution broke out, he was with the 26th Corps Aviation Squadron on the Romanian front. Emerging from the civil war, he studied aviation, first at the Red Army’s Aviation Institute, then at the presti­gious Zhukovskiy Academy.

After many a brush with bureaucratic interference, Kalinin was finally able to design his first aircraft, aided by some like-minded friends at Kiev. The K-l made its first flight on 26 July 1925, was flown to Moscow on 11 April 1926, and used by Dobrolet for crop-spraying, aerial photog­raphy, and as an air ambulance. Kalinin then transferred his base to Kharkov, and successive designs followed (see table), using all-metal construction, rather than welded steel framework, with wood and fabric.

The Kalinin K-4

During the summer of 1928, Kalinin demonstrated the moderately successful K-4, which was not used for passengers until the summer of 1929.

But on 27 June 1929, the K-4 inaugurated service on the important route from Moscow to Tashkent; and in August, the Chervona Ukraina (Heart of Ukraine), piloted by M. A. Chyegirev, demonstrated its performance and reliability by flying round-trip from Kharkov to Irkutsk, via


Moscow, a distance of 10,800km (6,700mi). Twenty-two K-4s were built and used extensively on Dobrolet’s routes until the early 1930s.

The Kalinin K-5 and the End of the Line

Kalinin’s finest aircraft was the K-5, first flown by Chyegirev on 7 November 1929. It had vari­ous engines, the Russian 450hp M-15 (for the prototype), the Pratt & Whitney Hornet, the 480hp M-22 radial based on the Bristol Jupiter, and the 730hp M17F water-cooled in-line, which gave the K-5 a cruising speed of 170km/h (105mph). Of welded construction, it had dual con­trols, a toilet, and baggage compartment. It could fly across the Caucasus, reducing the Moscow – Tblisi distance by several hundred miles. Two hundred and sixty aircraft were built, retiring only at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in 1941.

As shown in the table, Kalinin built other types after the K-5, but none went beyond the pro­totype stage. Of special mention is the K-7, a seven-engined twin-boom monster, designed to carry 120 passengers. Chyegirev first flew it on 11 August 1933, made a few test flights, then crashed on its ninth flight on 21 November, killing him and 14 of the total of 20 on board. Seven years later, Kalinin himself was to die on 24 April 1940, a victim of Stalin’s purges.

Airline Helicopters

Reviving a Tradition

Back in the days of Tsarist Russia, Igor Sikorsky had made some experiments with helicopter designs, and was to revive his ambitions to pioneer vertical lift flights in America where he had emigrated at the outbreak of Revolution in St Petersburg in 1917. Not until the late 1940s did the helicopter spin its way upwards again in the Soviet Union, and not until the late 1950s was it put into commercial operation.

By this time, commercial helicopters had been innovative­ly introduced in the United States, to operate subsidized mail and passenger services in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago; in Belgium, where a vigorous hub was established in Brussels for international services; and sporadically in Great Britain, for mail and passenger services. Interestingly, in the Soviet Union, though for different reasons, the program of helicopter operational development never became a promi­nent part of the scheduled passenger air network. But Aeroflot helicopters did carve important niches in areas where even the An-2 could not reach adequately.

Airline Helicopters

Mikhail Mil, father of the famous series of Soviet helicopters, surveying the scene in 1959. (Boris Vdovienko)

Routes in the Crimea

Aeroflot’s first helicopter services were in the Crimea, where mountainous terrain on the popular coastal vacation area pre­vented the establishment of airports with long paved run­ways; and even the laying down of strips for the Antonov An – 2. On 15 December 1958, a Mil Mi-4 eight-seater made the first flight from the main airport at Simferopol to Yalta, one of the delightful destinations of what may be termed the Crimean Riviera. This was followed shortly afterwards by a similar service on the Black Sea coast of the Russian Caucasus, from the main aiiport at Adler to the big resort of Sochi. Mi – 45 from Adler also connected to Gagra, Khosta, Lazarevskaya, and Gelendzhik.

City Services

In 1960, further helicopter routes were opened. On 2 March, Mi-4s began a shuttle service from the Caspian oil capital of Baku to Neftune Kamne, an artificial island offshore and site of highly productive oil wells. On 19 July a helicopter station opened at Khodinka (Frunze) airfield, where Aeroflot’s central bus terminal had been established on Leningradski prospekt, only four miles from Red Square. Mil Mi-4s carried passengers to Sheremetyevo Airport, and on 1 November a similar con­nection was made to Vnukovo and Bykovo Airports. Moscow’s fourth airport, Domodedovo, was added the next year.

For about a year, in 1964-65, the Mi-4 was also used for an

Airline Helicopters

A Mil Mi-2 on Chkalov (formerly Udd) Island, in the Bay of Sakhalin. On the left can be seen the tiny pole, erected as a commemorative monument by Vadim Rotnanuk, helicopter mechanic and founder of the local air museum. This was before the erection of the permanent monument (see page 32). (R. E.G. Davies)

Airline Helicopters

A Mil Mi-4 (SSSR-35277) alights on the roof of the main Post Office building in the center of Moscow. The helicopter mail service lasted about two years in 1964-65, but was terminated because a certain ‘important lady’ complained about the noise. (Boris Vdovienko)

experimental postal service, carrying mails directly from the roof of the post office in the center of Moscow to the airports. Such services had been tried as early as 1939, in Philadelphia, U. S.A., using a Kellett autogiro, but lasted only about one year. The Aeroflot services were rumored to have been termi­nated because the wife of a prominent political figure com­plained of the noise.

A Public Utility

Although helicopter services were tried in Australia, Canada, Italy, Pakistan, and Japan during the 1960s, none was sus­tained for very long, simply because helicopters are very expen­sive to operate. In the United States, where the three big city helicopter companies had been augmented by a fourth, at San Francisco, these too went into decline, partly because the Civil Aeronautics Board withdrew subsidy in 1965, and partly because of well-publicized fatal accidents. All were finished by 1979.

In the Soviet Union, on the other hand, where profit-and – loss statements were non-existent, and all air services were provided as a public utility, helicopter services continued to flourish in any region of the far-flung territory where they were needed: delivering mail in the northern tundra to outly­ing communities of the Arctic, or to inaccessible places in the mountains of Tadjikistan or Kirghizia, or to villages in north­ern Kamchatka, where even the An-2 was vulnerable. The use of helicopters is dictated by operational necessity, not eco­nomic feasibility, judged by western criteria; and they are often to be found in the regional timetables of Aeroflot, deployed interchangeably with other feeder aircraft.

Father of Russian Aviation — The Scientist

It was left to a notable scholar of the next generation to examine the scientific principles of flight and to publish analyses of his research. Nikolai Yegorovich Zhukovskiy (1847-1921) is recognized in Russia as the founder of modern aerodynamics and hydrodynamics.

Zhukovskiy graduated at Moscow University in 1868, taught at the Moscow Higher Technical School (M. V.T. U.) from 1872, and, from 1886, simultaneously at the

University. He continued teaching in Moscow, and super­vised the construction of his first wind tunnel in 1902, founded Europe’s first aerodynamic institute in 1904, and M. V.T. U.’s own aerodynamics laboratory in 1910.

His continued studies led to the publication of the law governing lift in 1906, profiles of aerofoils and propellers in 1910-11, and analyses of propeller tip vortices in 1912­13. He published many important monographs on aero­dynamic theory.

In 1918, Nikolai Zhukovskiy was chosen to head the pres­tigious Central Aero-Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI). He died in 1921, but such was his stature that TsAGI became known as the Zhukovskiy Institute.