Category An Illustrated History of the World’s Largest Airline

. Versatile Biplane

. Versatile Biplane

Shvetsov ASH-621R (1 x l. OOOhp) ■ MTQW 5,500kg (12,1251b) ■ Normal Range 845km (520mi)

. Versatile Biplane

. Versatile BiplaneПодпись:Подпись:

Подпись: Comparison with 11-86 LENGTH 14ns SPAN 18M fSffiftJ
. Versatile Biplane

This picture encapsulates the role of the Antonov An-2 in providing the rural bus service to hundreds, perhaps thousands of small communities, such as this one in northern Kamchatka, (photo: Boris Vdovienko)

Unexplained Incident

The versatility of the An-2 ‘Annushka’ became legendary. But on one occasion, it met its match. The story goes that, at a small community far from direct authority, a pilot had to stop over at a weekend, having arrived with the mail and other contents on the Friday. The local populace, fishermen all, persuaded him to make an unscheduled flight to a local river which was reputed to be gushing fish. Fourteen good men and true piled on to the 12-seat aircraft, together with complete fishing gear, and enough provisions to last a week.

The augmented load was too much for even such a willing horse as the An-2. It managed to get off the ground, but only just. The pilot, realizing that he was not going to make it, switched off the engine, to avoid a fire, if it crash-landed. And crash-land it did, ignomi – nously, distributing pieces of aircraft around the field. The assembled company fled.

Came the dawn the next day, and the local constabulary investigated the tangled remains. Strangely, nobody in the whole community had the slightest knowledge of the incident, and the official report, in essence, decided that this was an unsolved mystery. Some dastard­ly vandals from foreign parts, perhaps.

. Versatile Biplane

The First Soviet Airbus

Подпись: WIDE-BODIED AIRLINERS COMPARED First Flight Date First Service Date Aircraft Type Dimensions-m(ft) Speed km/h (mph) Seats HiTOW kg (lb) Normal Range km (mi) First Airline No. Built Length Span 9 Feb 1969 22 Jan 1970 Boeing 747-100 70 1231) 60 (196) 875 (540) 450 333,390 (710.000) 8,800 (5,5 00) Pan American 7121 29 Apr 1988 8 Feb 1989 Boeing 747-400 70 (231) 64 (211) 875 (540) 470 394,630 (870,000) 11,000 (6,9 00) Northwest 200* 29 Aug 5 Aug MDD2 55 47 920 360 206,385 4,500 American 122 1970 1971 DC-10-10 (181) (155) (575) (445,000) (2,800) Airlines 10 Jan 20 Dec MDD 61 52 875 276 276,690 9,270 Finnair 50* 1990 1990 MD-11 (201) (170) (540) (610,000) (5,760) 16 Nov 15 Apr Lockheed 54 47 795 270 945,000 4,800 Eastern 2003 1970 1972 TriStar 1 (178) (1551 (495) (430,00) (3,000) 16 Oct 7 May Lockheed 50 50 780 240 231,330 6,935 British 50 1978 1979 TriStar 500 (164) (164) (485) (510,000) (4,300) Airways 28 Oct 23 May Airbus 54 45 875 265 171,500 2,560 Air 375* 1972 1974 A300 (177) (147) (540) (378,535) (1,600) France 3 Apr 12 Apr Airbus 47 44 875 230 164,000 5,100 Lufthansa 210* 1982 1983 A310 (153) (144) (540) (361,560) (3,200) 22 Dec 26 Dec Ilyushin 60 48 900 350 208,000 2,500 Aeroflot 120* 1976 1980 11-86 (195) (157) (560) (458,560) (1.550) NotesIncludes all -100/-200/300s. 2 McDonnell Douglas,3 includes all versions, * production continues.

Подпись: An 11-86 (SSSR-86119) being towed past five others at Moscow-Sheremetyevo. (Paul Duffy)

Long Gestation

By the time the Soviet Aircraft industry got under way with its first wide-bodied airliner, the Boeing 747 had already entered service. News filtered through to the West during summer 1971 that the Ilyushin Design Bureau, with Genrikh Novozhilov taking over from Sergei Ilyushin’s design leader­ship, was working on a four-engined wide-bodied airliner, with podded engines on the wing. The 350-seat Ilyushin 11-86 had two aisles, permitting eight – or nine-abreast seating, and like most large Soviet aircraft, had a multiple-wheeled landing gear, 14 altogether, with main wheels mounted on three tan­dem-mounted pairs of four. The center one of the three was mounted in the fuselage, like the long-range Douglas DC-10’s. This was — again following Soviet design custom — intended to provide soft-field, but not necessarily short-field perfor­mance. When delivered, the 11-86 normally needed about 2,500m (8,000ft) of paved runway for airline service.

Five years elapsed before the first flight, on 22 December 1976, at Khodinka, only a few kilometers from Red Square. This was almost like a new big jet making its maiden flight
from London’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park — or even down Washington’s Mall. Production was at Voronezh.

The first Aeroflot scheduled Ilyushin 11-86 service was in December 1980, from Moscow to Alma Ata, capital of Kazakhstan, and the destination city of the only Soviet super­sonic airline service. Right from the start, the aircraft had nev­er been promoted as a long-range airliner and it was com­pared unfavorably with western wide-bodied types. But with state-supplied fuel and with no competitive pressure, this was not an issue for Aeroflot’s operational requirements.

Virtue Out of Necessity

As time went on, with most of Aeroflot’s transatlantic flights of necessity stopping at Shannon, the spirit of free enterprise and innovative minds generated opportunities for coopera­tion between Aer Rianta, the Irish airport authority, and Aeroflot, to their mutual advantage. Aeroflot set up its own fuel ‘farm’ and thus avoided having to pay out scarce hard currency. Aeroflot paid for airport charges with fuel, which

The 11-86’s carry-on baggage arrangements are excellent. Passengers can deposit their ‘not wanted on voyage’ items on the ‘left-luggage’ shelves.

Shannon then sold to other carriers, including, ironically, U. S. military VIP flights. Soviet travelers also liked the duty-free shopping amenities, and Aeroflot and the airport authorities in Russia invited the Irish to set up similar facilities in Moscow and Leningrad. Ilyushin Il-86s began to call at Shannon in the mid-1980s and Aeroflot became the airport’s biggest customer. In 1990, the Soviet airline began to take advantage of liberal international regulations as the airline world deregulated, and began to promote Ireland as a destina­tion from the United States. Far from being a necessary evil, Shannon has become an Aeroflot asset.

The First Soviet Airbus



Standard Overhead Racks

Lower Level Luggage Compartment

Kuznetsov NK-86 (4 x 13,000kg st, 28,6601b st) ■ MTOW 208,000kg (458,5601b) ■ Normal Range 2,500km (l,500mi)






The First Soviet Airbus

Made For The Market

The 11-86 had some good features, apart from substantially improved cabin and galley furnish­ings — even the seats were more comfortable than those that had served Aeroflot since time immemorial. The passenger entrance was through doors in the fuselage lower level up self-con­tained collapsible steps. Immediately on entering, passengers could take advantage of one of the airliner’s best features, and one that other manufacturers could well copy. This was a downstairs luggage compartment, where all excess carry-on baggage — and Russians always travel with excess — could be deposited, in a ‘not-needed-on-voyage’ aerial equivalent of shipping practice. Incidentally, anticipating extremes of temperature at such destinations as Yakutsk, plastic wing covers were made for the 11-86.

The critics of the Soviet aircraft industry concentrated on its wide-bodied candidate’s lack of range. It could not carry a full payload across the Atlantic, unless it stopped at Shannon and Gander — a necessity that had been dispensed with as long ago as 1957, with the introduction of the Bristol Britannia and the Douglas DC-7C. The critics should have put themselves in the shoes of the Ilyushin market researcher. Not a single intercontinental long-range route required the services of an airliner bigger than the Ilyushin I1-62M. The density of traffic on routes such as Moscow-New York, or Moscow-Tokyo did not come close to that on routes such as London – New York or Los Angeles-Tokyo, and could certainly not justify a 350-seat airliner. And Ilyushin had no illusions about the slim chances of breaking into the world market against Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Airbus.

Domestically, the requirement was quite different. Only two major cities in the far east, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, were far enough away from the big cities of European Russian and Ukraine to demand an aircraft larger than the I1-62M. The main markets from Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev were to the Black Sea and Caucasian resorts, and to destinations such as Novosibirsk, Tashkent, and Krasnoyarsk — within 11-86 range. Whatever the shortcomings of the Ilyushin wide-bodied airliner for long ranges, it was just right for Aeroflot.

The First Soviet AirbusThe First Soviet AirbusOne of the best features of the 11-86 is the lower level baggage compartment, where passengers can stow carry-on items that are not needed during the journey. (R. E.G. Davies)


The Great War did not go well for Russia. Although possessing far superior numbers, its armies lacked good logistics, and were generally badly led. By the time the infrastructure of armaments, food, and clothing supplies were showing signs of improvement, the administration of the Tsarist government had collapsed. Of several political parties, one, the Bolshevik, succeeded in mounting a coup in Petrograd (the new westernized name for St Petersburg) and the October Revolution of 24-26 October 1917 changed the course of history. The autocratic monarchy was replaced by an idealistic but ruthless ruling class.


One of the Bolshevik policies had been, effectively, ‘peace at any price’. When it signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk on 3 March 1918, Russia lost all the western provinces as, one after another, independent republics were formed (see map). The Bolshevik leader Vladimir I. Lenin, was forced to surrender territory as the price of peace — territory that Josef Stalin was to regain (Finland and Poland excepted) after World War II.

Siege and Counter-Attack

The agony was not yet over. In April 1918, a contingent of British troops had landed at Murmansk, at first in support of its Russian ally, but quickly becoming part of an international alliance of intervention whose objective was to destroy the threat of a communist Russian state. As the map shows, the intervention was widespread, encircling the besieged Bolsheviks with a ring of opposing forces that became known as The Whites, to distinguish them from the Bolshevik Reds. The British in the North, at Murmansk and Archangelsk, were joined by the troops and naval forces of many nations, both on land and in the Black Sea. Many Russians themselves, with their Slavic cousins in the Ukraine, Byelo-Russia, and Poland, took up arms in a bloody civil war. In the east, a makeshift army including Czech prisoners-of-war, under the leadership of Admiral Kolchak, actually set up a Government of West Siberia at Omsk on 1 July 1918, and changed its name to the All-Russian Government on 18 November 1918. On 8 August of that year, British and French troops landed at Vladivostok, to be joined by the Japanese on 12 August and the Americans on 15 August. By 6 September, the British and Japanese had reached Chita, in a westward march to outflank the Russians.

But the tide turned. Just as the British troops in the north, reinforced by White Russians, reached the shores of Lake Onega, posing a threat to Petrograd, the Red Army, under the direc­tion of Leon Trotsky, counter-attacked in the east on 28 April 1919, repulsing the Czechs, who had reached the Volga at Samara. In October, the Red Army went on to the offensive against General Denikin in the Ukraine and against General Yudenich on the Baltic front. During the next year, the Bolshevik forces steadily re-occupied the lost territories, meeting, however, stiff resistance from the Poles, who won a great victory under General Pilsudski, with considerable losses on the Russian side. But by the end of 1920, it was all over. The White forces under General Wrangel evacuated southern Russia, and the Peace of Riga on 18 March 1921 ended the war with Poland.

Lost Opportunity

One of the casualties in the terrible conflict had been the dismemberment of the Escadra vozduzhnykh korablei E. V.K. (see page 10), and the destruction of many of the Il’ya Muromets aircraft. A few were assembled near Moscow and in spring 1920, were sent to the western and southern fronts. The Russo-Baltic Works ceased production. Igor Sikorsky him­self was on the wrong side, and, like thousands of other educated technicians and scholars, he fled to the West, arriving in New York on 30 March 1919.

Upolev Tu-134


Soloviev D-30 (2 X 6,800kg st, 15,0001b st) ■ MTOW 44,000kg (97,0001b) ■ Normal Range 2,000km (l,250mi)

  Upolev Tu-134

Comparison with 11-86

LENGTH 34m (115ft) SPAN 29m (95ft)


Flexible Seating

The Tupolev Tu-134’s cabin was narrower than that of its comparable western types, with four-abreast, rather than five – abreast (and, in the case of the Boeing 737, six-abreast) seating. With this aircraft, the air traveling world in general became familiar with the standard Soviet airliner seat. Rather flimsy, and less luxurious than any western type, it was nevertheless effi­cient in many respects. The seat bottom could be folded upwards — a convenience for storing otherwise bulky baggage; and the seat backs could also be folded forward to a level position, a convenience which has been cheerfully put to good use by Soviet air travelers.

The Tupolev Tu-134 was designed to be able to use what are sometimes referred to as unprepared strips, with gravel or grass surfaces. Whether using these or asphalt or concrete runways, the aircraft’s take-off distance was long and its landing speed high, tending to draw the comment that this was more like the performance of a military airplane. Such commen­tary was also directed towards the ‘bomb-aimer’s window’ in the lower part of the fuselage nose, in which the navigator took his position during flight, with the two pilots separated by the ‘oven-door’ access. This position for the navigator is the best possible for a wide, almost 360° panoramic view; and in the Soviet Union during the 1970s, the navigator had a special responsibility for guiding his crew across the limitless and featureless taiga and tundra, with few navigational aids.





















Normal Range km (mi)







20 Aug

9 Apr



















25 Feb

8 Dec


















29 Jul

9 Sep


















9 Apr

10 Feb


















9 May

28 Mar

Fokker F.28
















Notes: 11ncludes subsequent developments (DC-9-80 series and MD-88); 2Includes subsequent developments (F.28-0100/Fokker WO): * production continues.


Upolev Tu-134Upolev Tu-134

Dobrolet Becomes Aeroflot

Growth of an Aircraft Industry

The Polikarpov U-2 (or the Po-2 after the death of Polikarpov in 1944) made its first flight on 8 January 1928. A two-seat biplane, it was to become a maid-of-all-work, and particularly an elementary trainer. Thousands of them were built, used even for bombing in the Great Patriotic War, and Nikolai Nikolayevich Polikarpov’s design was an essen­tial factor in the development of Soviet aviation, akin to the role played by Britain’s Tiger Moth and America’s Piper Cub. Production of the PO-2 continued until 1944, and was built in Poland from 1948 until 1953. Produced for 35 years, it was the most popular light aircraft in the Soviet Union.

Of aircraft in the transport category, the ANT (Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev) series, prefaced by the Models 3 and 4 (see page 19) led to the ANT-9, which first flew on 1 May 1929, and is more fully reviewed on the page opposite. The Kalinin series, already described on page 21, was estab­lishing itself, especially the Model K-5. On 22 December 1930, Andrei Tupolev watched the first flight of his four – engined bomber, the ANT-6, which was put to good use as a transport airplane in 1937 in support of the Polar expeditions (see pages 30-31). Often overlooked, or even ignored by west­ern observers, this was a big aircraft, and no freak, in its time.

Then in 1931, the little Shavrov Sh-2 amphibian and the Stal’2, designed by A. I. Putilov, made their appearance. Of steel construction (Stal is Russian for steel) it could carry four passengers. It first flew on 11 October 1931 from Frunze air­field (Khodinka) in Moscow.

Dobrolet Becomes Aeroflot








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On 29 October 1930, as a feature of the First Five Year Plan of 1928, Dobrolet was replaced by as an all-state airline, a joint- stock company, Grazdansiy Vozduzhniy Flot (G. V.F.). It acquired Ukrvozdukhput (page 16) and developed a domestic hub at Moscow, with passenger services to all important cities, as far east as Irkutsk.

Air Pravda

On 3 June 1930, the first experimental delivery was made of type matrices of the official Pravda newspaper, and on 4 June

Dobrolet Becomes Aeroflot

Dobrolet Becomes Aeroflot

The twin-engined PS-9 was the main production version of the ANT-9, (photo: Boris Vdovienko)

1931, it appeared in Kharkov only eleven hours after being type-set in Moscow. On 16 June, a special aviation section was created to ensure matrix delivery to Leningrad, Kharkov, Sevastopol, Pyatagorsk, Grozniy, Odessa, Kazan, Rostov-on- Don, Tiflis, and Sverdlovsk.

A five-engined airliner, the ANT-14, first flew on 14 August 1931. With 36 seats, it was too large for the traffic on airline routes but was used extensively by Pravda for sightsee­ing and propaganda flights, mainly around Moscow. Only one was built, and its only long-distance foray was to Bucharest; but it carried 40,000 passengers during its ten-year service life, quite an achievement for the time.

Maturity of an Airline

During the 17th Congress of the All-Soviet Communist Party, held in Moscow from 30 January to 4 February 1932, a resolu­tion was passed that "air travel should expand in all direc­tions, as it is one of the important communication links with remote rural regions, and with major industrial centers." On

25 February, Grazdansiy Vozduzhniy Flot (G. V.F.) was reorga­nized as the Main Directorate of the Civil Aviation Fleet. On

26 March 1932 it was given the trading name of Aeroflot. Aeroflot continued the good work of its predecessors. On

15 December 1933, the final link to the east was completed, by an extension from Irkutsk to Vladivostok (see page 24). Moving up the learning curve, an Aeroflot PS-9 (version of the ANT-9) opened up the first all-Soviet westward route on 31 August 1935, to Prague, Czechoslovakia. The joint Soviet – German airline Deruluft was wound up on 31 March 1937, and in the same year Aeroflot service began from Leningrad to Stockholm, Sweden, in cooperation with A. B.A. The expan­sion of the Soviet airline was gathering momentum.

Dobrolet Becomes Aeroflot

The only example of the ANT-14, and one of the few five-engined aircraft ever built, (photo: Boris Vdovienko)

Dobrolet Becomes Aeroflot

Wright J6 Whirlwind (3 x 300hp) ■ MTOW 6,000kg (13,2001b) ■ Normal Range 1,000km (620mi) ■ Length 17m (56ft) ■ Span 24m (79ft)

Подпись: London^ •^9sberS Y-° -с— л Moscow Paris; 1 Berlin ^ JO— Nevers t \ ViennoP GROMOV’S EUROPEAN TOURS  / ANT-3 (Proletarii) 31 Aug.-1 Sep. 1926 ANT-9 (Wings of the Soviets) 10 Jul.- 8 Aug. 1929 Rome Marseilles< R.EGD Подпись:Dobrolet Becomes Aeroflot

Tupolev Makes His Mark

Andrei Tupolev produced his first multi-engined type, the ANT-9 nine-seat passenger trans­port, which first flew on 7 May 1929, and was publicly presented in Red Square. It had a metal corrugated fuselage and wing, fixed landing gear, and air-cooled engines, initially Gnome – Rhone Titans. Compared with previous Tupolev designs, it not only looked more elegant and aerodynamically efficient, its performance matched its looks.

Wings of the Soviets

On 10 July 1929, the same day when a common flag was adopted for the civil aviation fleet of the U. S.S. R., Mikhail Gromov took off in the prototype ANT-9, named Krylya Sovyetov (Soviet Wings), on a tour of Europe that included five foreign capital cities. He returned in triumph on 8 August. For the first time, the Soviet Union had an airliner that was possibly the best in Europe. Indeed, there is a report that, calling as it did twice in Berlin, it influenced the Junkers firm to convert the Ju 52 from a single-engined aircraft into a tri-motor. The ANT-9 went into service with Deruluft and Dobrolet early in 1931, initially as a tri-motor with M-26, later U. S. engines. Production of the ANT-9 totaled 75, of which 60 were М-17-powered twins, known as PS-9s, and the type remained in the fleet of Aeroflot until the end of the Second World War.

The tri-motor ANT-9 prototype URSS-309 Krylya Sovyetov (Soviet Wings) at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in July 1929, during Mikhail Gromov’s second European tour. Note the three waiters in the fore­ground preparing champagne for the dignitaries, (photo: Lufthansa)


The Mi-2 appeared in a wide variety of color schemes depending on its mis­sion. Agricultural sprayers were generally a gloss olive green; Medevac aircraft were red and white; and passenger versions appeared in several variations of orange and blue finishes, one of which is shown here.


Mil Mi-2

Izotov (2x 400shp) Ш MTOW 3,500kg (7,7001b) Ш Normal Range 240km (148mi) Ш Length 12m(39ft) Ш Rotor Diameter 15m(48ft)

Подпись: THE LARGER MIL HELICOPTERS First Flight Date First Aeroflot Service Aircraft Type Dimensions-m(ft) Speed km/h (mph) Seats MTOW kg (lb) Normal Range km (mi) No. Built Fuselage Length Rotor Diam. 1961 1967 Mi-8 18.3 21.3 200 28 12,000 360 6,000+ (60.1) (69.10) (125) (26,450) (223) 1957 1961 Mi-6 33.2 35.0 250 65 42,500 1,050 850+ (108.10) (114.10) (155) (93,700) (650) 1960 1967 Mi-10 32.9 35.0 180 28 43,450 400 60+ (107.9) (114.10) (112) (95,790) (250)

First of the Mils

The Mil Mi-1, of orthodox helicopter design, with a single main rotor and anti-torque rotor mounted on a tail boom, was the first Soviet helicopter to go into series production. As the first of the long line, making its first flight in 1948, it went through the teething troubles of all infants, and its early years were almost in the nature of experimental research. Most Mi-ls had three-bladed rotors, and during the development period, the life of both the blades and the rotor head were considerably improved, while the overhaul of the Ivchenko engines went from TBOs of about 150 up to more than 1,000. They were used mainly by the Soviet Air Force, but Aeroflot began to take delivery in May 1954, using them for agriculture, forest patrol, ambu­lance, and other aerial work, and occasionally for carrying passengers in mountainous areas.

The Mil Mi-4

Carrying only three passengers besides the pilot, the Mil Mi-l’s work load was limited. By 1952, in response to a specification, directly from the Kremlin, for a larger machine, Mil produced the Mi-4 (there was no Mi-3; and the Mi-2, curiously, came later), in competition with Yakovlev’s Yak-24 design. It too had early problems, but necessity was the mother of invention. Four-blad – ed rotors made from a steel tube/wooden rib/plywood-and-fabric combination gave way to all­metal construction, including honeycomb sections. Magnesium corrosion led to replacement by aluminum parts. But when all was done, a good aircraft emerged and, as noted on the opposite page, the Mi-4 had the honor to open the first regularly scheduled helicopter airline service in the Soviet Union, carrying between eight and eleven passengers on each flight.

The Mil Mi-2

Mikhail Mil had already taken advantage of the light weight of turbine engines when he pro­duced the Mil Mi-6, world’s largest helicopter at the time, in the autumn of 1957. He then turned his attention to sharpening the performance of the smaller craft. In essence, he used two smaller and lighter turbine engines to make a new version of the Mi-1. By placing the engines above the fuselage, there was room enough for eight passengers. This was almost as much as the larger Mil Mi-4 could carry, so that essentially the Mil Mi-2 was able to replace both of the older types.

True, the passenger cabin was a little more cramped. The Mi-2’s 4.47m (14ft 8in) length was a foot longer than the Mi-4’s; but its 1.2m (4ft) width and 1.4m (4ft 7in) height were almost two feet narrower and more than a foot shorter, respectively. But this did not seem to matter, as helicopter journeys are invariably of short duration, and the clientele does not need either to stand up or to move about.

Equally, the Mi-2’s range was inferior to that of both predecessors; but this could be improved by supplementary tanks, if necessary. In compensation, the Mi-2’s speed was 25 per­cent more than the Mi-4’s and 50 percent more than the Mi-l’s.

Rotor-blade technology was impressive. Of bonded construction entirely, the three-bladed main rotor was equipped with leading-edge electro-thermal de-icing, with a 2,000-hour or more life. The anti-torque tail rotor had only two blades. Altogether, the Mil Mi-2 emerged as a thor­oughly reliable, modern aircraft of advanced construction, and it took its place in Aeroflot’s inventory from 1967 onwards as a standard type which has stood the acid test of time and strin­gent operational conditions.


















Normal Range km (mi)























































Mil Mi-2
Подпись: Krasnoyar
Подпись: THE BAM
Подпись: r°yshet
Подпись: lizhneangai
Подпись: Irkutsk
Подпись: FIXED WING AIRCRAFT DEPLOYMENT • • Antonov An-12 • Yakovlev Yak-4-О •• Ilyushin 11-14- • Antonov An-2 ® Main Aeroflot Bases
Подпись: Ulan Bator-
Mil Mi-2

Mil Mi-2

The Beginning

Throughout the history of the Soviet Union, the extension of the railroad system has always been a constant economic objec­tive, to provide the logistics connection between the sources of wealth, particularly mineral wealth, and especially in the far reaches of the Asian territories. Gradually, branches of line sprouted from the Trans-Siberian Railway, often linking it with northerly ports on the great rivers, the Ob, the Yenesei, and the Lena. Of these, the most remote was the Lena, whose source is close to Lake Baikal, but which flows northeast through what was, until recently, largely uncharted territory.

By 1950, a line had reached Bratsk, site of a huge hydro­electric station under construction, and during the next decade, this was extended to Ust’ Kut, on the Lena. For the first time, albeit only during the May-October summer sea­son, when the Lena was ice-free, the historic trading center of Yakutsk, surrounded by newly-established satellite mining sites of great wealth, was linked with Moscow by a modem surface transport system.

Birth of the BAM

On 8 July 1974, the Supreme Soviet officially declared the cre­ation of a railroad construction program of great magnitude. The Baikal-Amur Magistral (Main Line, or Artery), or the BAM, was to parallel the Trans-Siberian Railway over about 3,500km (2,200mi) of its eastern length. This action took place at a time when relations between the Soviet Union and China were cool, and the BAM was widely perceived as a defensive measure against the possible cutting of the Trans­Sib by an attacking force. But the BAM also opened up vast possibilities for improving the access to the riches of Siberian mineral wealth.

Preliminary surveys had started on 30 April 1974, using Mil Mi-2 and Mi-8 helicopters. But progress at first was handicapped by the onset of an early winter — in August! Housing for the workers was incomplete, and one of the first tasks for the growing armada of supporting aircraft was to bring 2,500 tons of heating equipment to the first construc­tion sites. The first workers arrived on the Ulkan River on 28

October 1974, and in the following year, in a Soviet equiva­lent of “Go West Young Man," teams of Komsomol (Young Communist Workers League) headed east in their thousands.

Rail-Air Cooperation

Aviation, including the resources of Aeroflot, supported BAM during the entire period of its construction, with main­line connections to cities on the trans-Siberian Railway, and countless sorties by feeder aircraft, fixed wing and rotary wing. Other than the 3,500km (2,175mi) of track, the mainly Komsomol teams built 2,237 bridges, established 60 cities, some of them now large centers, as well as many villages. Hundreds of thousands of passenger flights were made, and supplies for the 22 special construction trains and 37 mecha­nized columns, and the hundreds of bridging and tunneling units, were carried largely by air, until the BAM line was pro­gressively completed.

Mil Mi-2


The compilation of this book would not have been possible without the cordial cooperation of the International Commercial Department of Aeroflot, under the direction of Vladimir Tikhonov, and with the supervision of Vladimir Masenkov, who assembled a team to provide data essential for the work. The team consisted of Vadim Suvarov, veteran pilot of the Great Patriotic War; Boris Urenovsky, Professor of the Civil Aviation Institute in Moscow; and Tatiana Vinogradova, once a senior flight attendant (she flew on the Tupolev Tu-114 to Havana and to Tokyo). Together the team helped to ensure that errors in early drafts were corrected and accuracy ensured.

Much of the Russian documentation was translated by Alex Kampf, an enthusiastic student of Aeroflot history. In Moscow, I received great support from my good friend Yuri Salnikov, television director of aviation documentaries and author of magazine articles on famous Soviet airmen. He introduced me to Vladimir Samoroukov, who examined my credentials and first approved the book project.

Vasily Karpy, editor of Vozduzhny Transport, proof-read the text and gave valuable advice. He also introduced me to Boris Vdovienko, photographer par excellence, from whose magnificent collection I was able to draw. Veteran pioneer pilot, General Georgy Baidukov, Valery Chkalov’s right hand on his epic 1937 polar crossing, gave me a personal insight into the workings of the old Aeroflot, and a first-hand account of the historic meeting with Josef Stalin in 1936.

I received generous help from many others. In Leningrad/St Petersburg, I was hosted by the Academy of Civil Aviation, where Professor-Director Georgy Kryzhanovsky, Deputy Director Anatoly Khvostovsky, Nina Nekrasovich, Irene Volkova, Vitaly Khalikov, and the Academy’s librarian, Natella Safronova, were most helpful. In Novgorod, thanks to the Chief of the Sub-Region, Anatoli Golovanov, and Deputy Chief Vladimir Bolovsky, I was able to sample the crop-spraying ver­satility of the remarkable Antonov An-2. In Khabarovsk, the

Vozduzhny Transport correspondent, Oleg Borisov, has been a catalyst for some thrilling research. Through the courtesy of Vladimir Skripnik, Director of the Far Eastern Region of Aeroflot, I learned much about the airline’s provincial opera­tions, including a demonstration of the acrobatic prowess of the An-2. At Nikolayevsk-na-Amure, Valery Dolmatov, Head of the Nikolayevsk station and also a deputy to the Russian Parliament in Moscow, afforded me the extraordinary privilege of making a helicopter pilgrimage to the dignified monument on Chkalov (formerly Udd) Island; and I met Vadim Romanuk, local helicopter mechanic and historian, who inspired the erection of the monument. Later, Leonid Nagorny, who succeeded Skripnik in 1991 (and whose 50th birthday party I shall long remember), Vladimir Lenuk, Aleksander Glushko, and Vladimir Kuznetzov, also gave me much assistance. In Tyumen, Director Vladimir Illarionov and especially Mikhail Ponomarev opened my eyes to the heli­copter capital of the world. At Krasnoyarsk, Deputy Director Boris Kovchenkov was most hospitable, as was Nikolei Klimenko at Yeneseisk. At Irkutsk, Vladimir Sokolnikov and Peter Osharov were generous hosts, and my guide to the excel­lent museum there was Professor-Doctor Yvgeny Altunin, aviation historian and author from Irkutsk University. Similarly, at Yakutsk, General Director, Vitaly Pinaev, Mikhail Vasilev and others introduced me to the special problems of operations in Yakutia, and to aviation historians Ivan Nygenblya and Vladimir Pesterev.

Back in Moscow, I was able to meet Genrikh Novozhilov, Igor Katyrev, Aleksander Shakhnovich, and Georgy Sheremetev, of the Ilyushin Design Bureau; Yuri Popov, Gleb Mahetkin, and Sergei Agavilyan, of Tupolev; and Aleksander Domdukov and Evegeny Tarassov, of Yakovlev. I interviewed veteran Aeroflot pilots such as Constantin Sepulkin and Aleksander Vitkovsky. Tatiana Vinogradova, Vasily Karpy, Yuri Salnikov, and Viktor Temichev arranged the programs of visits — no easy task during often-congested traveling schedules.

I must not forget the eminent British writers who have contributed so much to the annals of Soviet aviation history during times when information was most difficult to obtain. Veteran author and authority John Stroud, airline chroni­cler Klaus Vomhof, and technical specialist Bill Gunston have all produced pioneering works that have become stan­dard references (see bibliography) for latterday writers such as myself. Bob Ruffle, stalwart of Air-Britain’s Russian Aviation Research Group, generously supplied pre-war fleet data and scrutinized the text. Carl Bobrow and Harry Woodman provided expertise on the Il’ya Muromets and Paul Duffy’s camera work and information bulletins on post-U. S.S. R. developments (not to mention his scoop in ascertaining the Lisunov Li-2 production total) have been invaluable.

Tupolev Tu-104

Tupolev Tu-10450 SEATS ■ 770km/h (480mph)

Mikulin AM-3M (2 x 8,700kg st, 14,8901b st) ■ MTOW 76,000kg (167,5001b) ■ Normal Range 2,650km (l,650mi)

Tupolev Tu-104Подпись: Comparison with 11-86 LENGTH 39m (127ft) SPAN 34m (113ft) Tupolev Tu-104

The Break-Out

Six months after the Ilyushin 11-14 had entered service with Aeroflot on 30 November 1954, a silver lining appeared behind the dampening clouds of modest piston-engined performance. On 17 June 1955, the Tupolev Tu-104 jet airliner made its first flight. A conversion from a bomber design, it was nevertheless commercially acceptable. Unusually for the Soviet manufac­turing industry, normally conservative in its approach to launching new airliners, the Tu-104 took the world by storm (see opposite page) and soon entered service with Aeroflot on 15 September 1956.

Not before time. Ominously, the British had gone back to the drawing boards and were pro­ducing a new line of Comets, which had previously done their own world-storming in 1952, but

had met with tragedy two years later. More ominously, the Boeing Company of Seattle, U. S.A., had, on 15 July 1954, demonstrated the Model 367-80 as a prototype for a future airlin­er, the 707, which was to conquer all before it. Curiously, the famous Boeing ‘Big Jet’ was also developed from a bomber design, the B-47.

Andrei N. Tupolev.

(photo: Boris Vdovienko)

The Tupolev Tu-104 design team (with a model of the Tu-124). Left to right: A. R. Bokin, S. M. Eger, A. N. Tupolev, A. A. Arkhangelski, B. M. Kondozski, and IT. Nezval. (photo: courtesy Vasily Karpy)

Tupolev Tu-104

Подпись: Technical Transformation

Подпись:Tupolev Tu-104
Tupolev Tu-104Подпись: The galley of a Tupolev Tu-1()4B. (photo: Boris Vdovienko) Tupolev Tu-104

Tupolev Sets Tie Pace

Because of the debut of the Tupolev Tu-104, 1956 was a water­shed year. But the years that followed were no less significant in Soviet commercial aviation. The Ilyushin 11-18 Moskva four-engined turboprop airliner, reliable workhorse for Aeroflot (and other airlines) in the years to come, made its first flight on 4 July 1957. At about the same time, Tupolev developed the Tu-104A, which proceeded to break a number of official load­carrying and speed records for turbojets.

Then, to cap everything, the impressive Tupolev Tu-114 made its first flight on 3 November 1957. But this important news of the world’s largest airliner at the time (see pages 52­53) was eclipsed on the following day, when, to the astonish­ment and admiration of the world (and to the chagrin of complacent defense agencies in Washington, D. C.) the U. S.S. R. carved its name indelibly in the annals of world his­tory by launching, with complete success, the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik.


During 1958, Aeroflot concentrated on expanding its Tu-104 services (see page 44) and opened its first scheduled helicopter routes in the Crimea and on the Black Sea coast. Then, in 1959, the 100-seat Tupolev Tu-104B went into service on the busy Moscow-Leningrad route on 15 April. Five days later, the Ilyushin П-18В also started service, on the equally busy vacation route from Moscow to Adler (with helicopter con­nection to Sochi). Not yet ready for scheduled service, the Tu – 114 demonstrated its range with a non-stop flight from

Tu-104 No. 29 operated the first service of the type to Vladivostok on 19 January 1958. This was after a ceremonial circling of the city and being ‘talked down’ by photographer Boris Vdovienko.

Moscow to Khabarovsk on 21 May. The 90-seat Antonov An-10 Ukraina turbo-prop, which had first flown on 7 March 1957, went into service on 22 July 1959.

Dm ttie Front Pads

Within three years, with Aeroflot carrying the banner, the Soviet Union had rocketed from being an also-ran right into the front pack of runners in the highly-competitive techno­logical race. In almost every category of airliner, the design bureaux of Tupolev, Ilyushin, and Antonov were producing aircraft comparable in performance, if not in economics, with equivalent airliners in the West.

Tupolev Tu-104B SSSR-42431 at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, (photo: Aeroflot)

World’s Biggest

The Mostest

Sheer size has always fascinated people in all walks of life. The tallest building, the longest bridge, the biggest ship, the highest mountain, the longest river; all these have excited a natural curiosity, and though the world’s natural wonders are unchanging, mankind has constantly tried to build things bigger, even if they are not better. The Russians have shared this urge and attempted, none too successfully, to build outsize aircraft during the 1930s. After the Second World War, the banner for bigness was taken up by the Ukraine, whose Antonov Design Bureau produced a fine series of large freighter aircraft.

The pictures and the diagrams on this and the following page tell their own story. Except for its six-engined cousin (see below), the Antonov An-124 Ruslan, tipping the scales at more than 400 tons, is, by a comfortable margin — 55 tons — the world’s largest aircraft to be pro­duced in quantity.

Standard payload for the An-124 is 150 tons. On one occasion, it carried 171 tons to an alti­tude of 10,750m (35,250ft), or the normal cruising height of most long-range airliners—about seven miles. To help load such weights, the freight hold is equipped with two overhead travel­ing cranes, each one able to lift ten tons. Heavy duty floors, roller-tracks, and winches match this capability, which, incidentally, makes the giant freighter virtually self-supporting.

The An-124 has an upward-hinging front loading door, and a rear-loading ventral door. Both are equipped with heavy duty ramps, and the aircraft can be tilted to the fore or to the aft to assist the loading procedures.

As Antonov built them bigger, it just added wheels to accommodate the heavy loads and to maintain the low wheel loading for use on soft surfaces, including packed snow. The An – 124 has 24 wheels; five pairs mounted in tandem in fuselage pods on each side, and two twin nose-gear wheels.

The Mriya

Exceeding the American Lockheed C-5A in all departments, the Ruslan was unchallenged in the Guinness Book of Records throughout the 1980s — until the last month of 1988. An even larger aircraft, a stretched-fuselage modification of the An-124 the Antonov An-225 Mriya (Dream), with a larger wing to add two extra engines, was produced specifically to carry the Soviet Space Shuttle Buran. The Ruslan had only been able to carry the huge SS20 missile (or the fuselage sections of almost any airliner). With Antonov’s two giant machines, the store of superlatives is almost exhausted. Fortunately for the world, the Cold War has ended, the Arms Race is over, and the need for quantities of giant air freighters has declined. Only one Mriya has been completed. However, this aircraft is of considerable general interest and is included in this book if only to escape criticism for omitting it by applying too strictly the qualifying definition.

(Top) On one special flight, on 6-7 May 1987, the Antonov An-124 circumnavigated the U. S.S. R., flying a closed circuit distance of 20,151km (12,524mi)—slightly more than halfway round the earth at the equator; the flight took 25hr ЗОтіп.

(Center) Before 1991, all civil aircraft in the Soviet Union—and many non-civil—were required to wear Aeroflot colors or did so under a ‘flag of convenience’. Although many An-124s appeared in Aeroflot colors, none was part of the airline’s fleet. This Ruslan (SSSR-82008) is operated jointly by the manufac­turer and U. K. cargo airline AirFoyle. (Malcolm Nason)

(Bottom) The Antonov An-225 Mriya, world’s biggest aircraft, carrys the space shuttle Buran.

World&#39;s Biggest

World&#39;s Biggest

. Fokker F. lll




, In.



RR 1


RR 2



Rebuilt as Grulich V1, to D 902

RR 3


to D 1389

RR 4


to D 904

RR 5


Rebuilt as Grulich V1. Via

RR 6



to D 906

RR 7


RR 8



to D 200



RR 10



to D 910 Zugspitze




ex H-NABS, to D 180

Notes: Deruluft also operated Fokker F. VRR 13120501. ex H-NABW:

Fokker F. VIIRR21148451. to H-NACR: L VG С. VIRR11146443).

exD 123: Albatross L.76a D 1127 (10101): and at least one Polikarpov PM-1.

F.111s RR 3, RR 5, RR 6, &RR 10 to Ukrvozdukhput.