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.