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aviation, operation of heavier-than-air aircraft and related activities. Aviation can be conveniently divided into military aviation, air transport, and general aviation. Military aviation includes all aviation activity by the armed services, such as combat, reconnaissance, and military air transport. Air transport consists mainly of the operation of commercial airlines, which handle both freight and passengers. General aviation consists of agricultural, business, charter, instructional, and pleasure flying; it includes such activities as the operation of air taxis, as well as aerial surveying and mapping.

See also air, law of the; air navigation; airplane; airship.

Early Interest in Human Flight

Interest in aviation can be traced back as far as Leonardo da Vinci; a human-powered aircraft based in part on his designs, Daedalus 88, flew 72 mi (115 km) in 1988. However, real progress toward achieving flight in heavier-than-air machines only began in the middle of the 19th cent. In 1842 the Englishman W. S. Henson patented a design for a machine that closely foreshadowed the modern monoplane; another Englishman, John Stringfellow, developed a model plane said to be the first power-driven machine to fly; and a third Englishman, F. H. Wenham, devised the first wind-tunnel experiments. In France, Alphonse Penaud made successful flying models of airplanes, while Clément Ader actually achieved flight (over a distance of about 150 ft/45 m in 1890 and about 300 yd/280 m in 1897) in a power-driven monoplane fashioned after a bat. In 1894 a plane built in England by Sir Hiram S. Maxim, operated by steam engines and carrying a crew of three, rose into the air from the track on which it was being tested. In the United States, S. P. Langley, Octave Chanute, and Otto Lilienthal made notable contributions to the early development of the airplane.

The Birth and Development of the Airplane

Finally, on Dec. 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first piloted airplane off the beach near Kitty Hawk, N. C. Henri Blériot and Glenn H. Curtiss made significant improvements in airplane design and, as more powerful engines became available, flew successively longer distances. In 1909 Blériot flew across the English Channel; ten years later a Curtiss-designed flying boat crossed the Atlantic Ocean. At first aviation development was motivated by the large prizes put up by publicity-seeking newspapers; but the outbreak of World War I in 1914 provided far greater motivation for aviation research and development (see air forces. The cessation of hostilities made available a large number of aircraft that could be bought cheaply, and the result was a great deal of aviation activity; barnstorming and stunt-flying kept aviation before the eyes of the public for a time, but the real stimulus was the initiation of airmail service in the mid-1920s. The intrepid airmail pilots caught the fancy of the public, and out of this group came the famous solo fliers Lindbergh, St-Exupéry, and others.

During the 1930s aviation continued to expand. Technological improvements in wind-tunnel testing, engine and airframe design, and maintenance equipment combined to provide faster, larger, and more durable airplanes. The transportation of passengers became profitable, and routes were extended to include several foreign countries. TransPacific airmail service, begun by Pan American Airways (later Pan American World Airways) in 1934, was followed by the first transoceanic aviation service for passengers, on the China Clipper, from San Francisco to Manila (to Hong Kong in 1937). In 1939 the first transatlantic service carrying both mail and passengers was inaugurated.

The Era of Mass Commercial Aviation

The outbreak of World War II interrupted commercial air service, but by 1947 all the basic technology essential to contemporary aviation had been developed: jet propulsion, streamlining, radar, and metallurgy. Perhaps the greatest example of this transition from military technology to commercial applications is the Boeing Company, a minor military contractor which became the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world. Commercial jet transportation began in 1952, when the British Overseas Airways Comet first flew from London to Johannesburg. Though this service was short-lived, by 1960 several commercial jet aircraft were in service; today virtually all commercial air routes are flown by jet or turboprop aircraft. The latest significant development in aviation has been the introduction of fly-by-wire control systems, which rely on computers and electronics rather than cables to operate aircraft control surfaces.

The result has been the explosive growth of commercial aviation, from jumbo and superjumbo jetliners to overnight package services, while general aviation has lagged behind. This growth has not been without some major problems. Jet aircraft use more fuel and require longer runways and more durable construction materials, and their sheer numbers create special problems for air-traffic control. In addition, the takeoff and landing of jet aircraft over populated areas create locally dangerous levels of noise pollution.


See A. de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars (tr. 1939); B. Markham, West with the Night (1942, repr. 1987); W. Green and G. Pollinger, The Aircraft of the World (1979); L. K. Loftin, The Evolution of Modern Aircraft (1985); D. Todd and J. Simpson, The World Aircraft Industry (1986).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the flight in heavier-than-air vehicles in the air space surrounding the earth. Airplanes, helicopters, and gliders were used in the aviation of the 1960’s. A primary distinction is made between civil aviation, which transports passengers and cargo, and military aviation. Civil aviation includes transport or cargo aviation, ambulance aviation, training-sport aviation, and special-purpose aviation (agricultural, aerial photo surveying, communications, geological prospecting, exploration and mapping of fisheries and fishing grounds, and so forth). To guarantee regular movement of cargo and passenger traffic on airways, civil aviation makes use of a fleet of turbojet, turboprop, and propeller-driven airplanes and helicopters; air traffic control services and radio engineering, meteorological, and illuminated engineering flight aids (both land-based and airborne); and airfields and airports.

The initial development period of aviation. For practical purposes, aviation began its development only in the 20th century. But the human dream of climbing into the air persisted for many centuries, finding its reflection in fables and legends of peoples in many countries throughout the world. The images of a winged human are encountered in the rock drawings of cave people. There is the well-known ancient Greek myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus, who rose to the sun on wings made of birds’ feathers joined by wax. In antiquity, and in the Middle Ages in China and elsewhere, flying kites were used for military purposes. The Italian artist, scientist, and engineer Leonardo da Vinci left some sketches of flying vehicles powered by muscular strength and of mechanically driven helicopters; he also suggested the idea of a parachute. The great Russian scientist M. V.

Lomonosov constructed a model of a spring-motor helicopter in 1754 and proved in practice the feasibility of flight in such a vehicle.

Attempts were made in the late 19th century to devise motorless heavier-than-air flying vehicles, or gliders. The first theoretical research was carried out in this area. The German scientist O. Lilienthal made a significant contribution to the theory and practice of flying. He designed, constructed, and flew several gliders from 1891 through 1896. The invention and rapid development of the steam engine during the past century led to attempts to devise airplanes powered by steam engines. In Russia, the naval officer A. F. Mozhaiskii took out a patent for such a flying vehicle in 1881, which he called the flying contrivance. In 1885 his vehicle was built, but it crashed on takeoff. In 1894 the British designer H. Maxim designed a gigantic airplane powered by a steam engine, which also crashed on takeoff. The French inventor C. Ader attempted to fly on a winged vehicle reminiscent of a bat’s wings. Ader’s Avion (1897) flew several dozen meters and then crashed. It was not possible to achieve a reasonably successful design at that time because of the low level of engine development: steam engines were too heavy and could not meet the requirements of aircraft.

Improvements in internal-combustion engines, which became very popular in the late 19th century, primarily in automobiles, rendered possible the construction of lightweight yet fairly powerful aircraft engines. The first to install an internal-combustion engine on an airplane were the American mechanics—brothers W. and O. Wright. The first successful flight of their kerosene-engined plane took place on Dec. 17, 1903. Continuing to work on their airplane, the Wright brothers achieved steady controlled flight lasting as long as 1.5 h in 1908. Following close on their heels in Europe, principally in France, other airplane enthusiasts succeeded in building airplanes: A. Santos-Dumont, F. Ferber, and others. On July 25, 1909, the French designer and aviator L. Blériot flew across the English Channel from France to Britain on his monoplane Blériot-XI. Several original airplane designs made their appearance in Russia in 1909–14, through the efforts of Ia. M. Gakkel’, D. P. Grigorovich, V. A. Slesarev, and I. I. Steglau. In 1910, B. N. Iur’ev designed Russia’s first helicopter. In 1913, I. I. Sikorskii’s heavy airplane Russkii vitiaz (Russian Hero) made its first flight. Flights made by the Russian flyers M. N. Efimov, N. E. Popov, G. V. Alekhnovich, A. V. Shiukov, B. I. Rossinskii, S. I. Utochkin and others contributed to the popularization and development of aviation in our country. On Sept. 9, 1913, the Russian aviator P. N. Nesterov with his Nieuport 4 confidently made a loop-the-loop, or dead-stick loop, now known as the Nesterov or basic loop.

The development of aviation moved ahead blindly at random at the beginning of the twentieth century. The first airplanes were built empirically, without any design calculations. The scientific basis and facilities for airplane construction were practically nonexistent. The upshot was a large number of crashes and accidents.

But scientists in many of the advanced countries began theoretical and experimental research in aviation around the turn of the century: S. Langley and O. Chanute in the USA, G. Cayley in Britain, A. Eiffel in France, L. Prandtl in Germany, and others. Russian scientist Professor N. E. Zhukovskii and his pupil, Academician S. A. Chaplygin, made mighty contributions to the development of aerodynamical science. In 1902, Russia’s first wind tunnel was built, on Zhukovskii’s initiative, at Moscow University, and the first aerodynamics institute was organized at Kuchino near Moscow in 1904. Zhukovskii was the first to introduce experimentation as a method of research into aeromechanics. By the beginning of World War I, he had published articles devoted to the theory of airplane flight, to stability in flight, and to other problems in aviation (“On the Theory of Flying,” 1890; “On the Soaring of Birds,” 1891; “On Bound Vortices,” 1906; and others). The work by Zhukovskii and other scientists in Russia and other countries paved the way for scientific airplane design.

Aviation during World War I. World War I, beginning in 1914, gave a strong impetus to the development of aviation: vast opportunities were opened up for the use of airplanes in military operations. Airplanes were first used in conjunction with balloons for reconnaissance and for spotting and adjustment of artillery fire and were later equipped with machine guns and bombs. Special-purpose small fighter planes equipped with machine guns were then built to deal with bombers and reconnaissance planes. Russia occupied first place in the development of heavy aircraft. Sikorskii’s Il’ia Muromets, a heavy four-engined craft built in 1913, had no equal anywhere in the world; it carried up to 800 kg in bombs, was fitted with from three to seven machine guns, and had accommodations for a crew of eight. The Grigorovich M-5 (1915) and M-9 (1916) flying boats, built first in Russia and widely used in military operations over water, were the best seaplanes of their time. The most famous foreign airplanes of the World War I period were the French Farman, Voisin, and Nieuport, the British Sopwith, and the German Fokker, whose velocities were in the range of 90–120 km/h. Military airplanes in Russia were built mainly on French prototype models.

Simultaneously with the development of aviation engineering, scientists in Russia and other countries carried out theoretical research and experimental work in the field of aerodynamics and material strength of airplanes. The scientific contributions of Zhukovskii in his articles “An Elementary Presentation of the Dynamics of Airplanes” (article 1, 1913; article 2, 1916), “Vortex Theory of the Screw Propeller” (1912), and others, exerted an enormous influence on the development of world aviation science. Zhukovskii provided designers with a method for calculating airplane performance data. His pupil V. P. Vetchinkin did theoretical work in the fields of strength calculations and airplanes and propellers. Chaplygin extended the development of airfoil theory. His contribution “On Gas Jets” (1902) was far ahead of similar work along those lines by scientists in Western Europe and the USA. Research was carried out on models of various airplane structures and configurations in wind tunnels. Research proceeded on improving propellers, the first parachutes, and so on. As a result, airplane performance underwent considerable improvement during World War I; fighter speeds rose from 90–120 to 200–220 km/h; ceilings rose from 2 to 7 km.

The successful use of aircraft on the front lines established their great value as a new type of weapon. Britain, France, and Germany created the aviation industry and expanded it considerably during the war years. The manufacture of airplane engines and airplane instruments was set in motion, and scientific research facilities and institutes were set up. Prior to the Great October Socialist Revolution, the building and assembly of aircraft was carried out in Russia at the following plants: the Russko-Baltiiskii railway car factory, the Shchetinin and Lebedev factories (in Petrograd), the Duks (in Moscow), the Anatra (in Odessa), and in several small workshops in various cities. However, these factories and workshops were poorly equipped, and the frequent changes in the types of aircraft being manufactured impeded the development of advanced technological processes. The shortage of aircraft engines, as well as of various materials and instruments imported from outside prior to the war, had a particularly bad effect. There was also a shortage of qualified and trained engineers, technicians, and workers.

Aviation during the period 1918–41. The Communist Party, the Soviet government, and V. I. Lenin personally paid close attention to the development of aviation. The Air Force Board, set up in 1918, addressed itself to the problem of bringing order into the aviation industry and began by collecting airplanes, engines, and aircraft spare parts from all the various fronts. Aircraft factories first began to produce aircraft based on captured models; permits for the construction of foreign-design airplanes were acquired in the same period. The Central Board of the Workers and Peasants Red Air Fleet was set up in May 1918, and Sovnarkdom (Council of People’s Commissars) issued a decree in June on the nationalization of aviation factories. In the same year, with the direct participation of V. I. Lenin, the Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) was established and was eventually to become the country’s leading center of aviation science. TsAGI was headed by N. E. Zhukovskii. The Moscow Aviation Technical School was set up on his initiative in 1919; this later (1922) became the N. E. Zhukovskii Military Aviation Engineering Academy (VVIA). The mechanics department of the N. E. Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School (MVTU) began to specialize in aerodynamics. The Sergo Ordzhonikidze Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) was set up in 1930, based on the MVTU. In the 1920’s, Soviet airplane design offices were organized; these were headed by A. N. Tupolev, N. N. Polikarpov, and D. P. Grigorovich. The first Soviet planes built at TsAGI were the Tupolev light sports monoplane ANT-1 (1923), the three-seater passenger planes AK-1 Latyshskii strelok (Latvian rifleman) by V. L. Aleksandrov and V. V. Kalinin (1924), and the Tupolev ANT-2 (1924). In 1923, Polikarpov designed the 1–1 fighter; in 1924, Grigorovich designed the 1–2 fighter; and in 1925, Tupolev brought out the reconnaissance plane ANT-3 (R-3) and the ANT-4 (TB-1) heavy bomber. The flight speed of the fastest planes at that time did not exceed 270 km/h.

Scientific research moved ahead on a broad front. A new aerodynamics laboratory (now know as the S. A. Chaplygin Aerodynamics Laboratory) was founded at TsAGI on May 9, 1924. Laboratories for testing aviation materials and motors, a water tunnel, and an experimental factory were also built there. The Society of Friends of the Air Force, founded in March 1923, rendered the government enormous assistance in publicizing the idea of aviation and in collecting funds for the construction of airplanes.

Several long-range flights were carried out by the first Soviet airplanes: Moscow to Peking (1925) by the AK-1, R-l, and R-2 airplanes (accompanied by a German Ju-13 airplane); Moscow-Tokyo-Moscow (1927) by an R-3 airplane; Moscow to New York (1929) by an ANT-4 airplane; and so on. These flights demonstrated the excellent qualities of Soviet airplanes and the skill of the aviators. During the first five-year plan (1929–32), improvements in aviation technology continued, and mass production of airplanes was instituted.

The further development of aviation in the prewar years and during World War II benefited from the introduction of a whole series of aircraft engines designed by V. Ia. Klimov (M-100, VK-103, -105, -107), A. D. Shvetsov (M-ll, ASh-62, -82), A. A. Mikulin (AM-34, -38, -39), and others, which freed the Soviet nation from dependence on foreign nations in the field of aircraft engine design. In 1930 the basic airplanes at the disposal of the Air Force were the Polikarpov-Grigorovich 1–5 biplane fighter, with its 480 hp M-22 engine, developing a speed of 280 km/h; the two-seater Polikarpov R-5 reconnaissance biplane with its 500 hp M-17 engine, developing a speed of 230 km/h; and the Tupolev TB-1 monoplane bomber, with two M-17 engines, capable of carrying 1000 kg of bombs over a flight range of 1,350 km. All of these aircraft matched the best that foreign aviation was able to develop at that time and were superior in many features.

The further development of scientific research work at TsAGI was aided by the founding of the following subordinate agencies: the design office (KB) of Tupolev; the division of aviation materials, later converted into the All-Union Institute of Aviation Materials (VIAM); and the aircraft engine division, later to become the Central Institute of Aircraft Engine Design (TsIAM). Working parallel with the major Tupolev and Polikarpov design bureaus were several small design teams under the leadership of V. V. Kalinin, V. B. Shavrov, D. P. Grigorovich, A. I. Putilov, and A. S. Iakovlev, at the Moscow and Kharkov aviation institutes and elsewhere.

A substantial aviation industry had been built in the USSR by the middle of the 1930’s. Scientific research institutes and design offices were responsible for significant improvements in the performance of aircraft. Appearing one after another were the Polikarpov fighters 1–15, 1–16 (1933), and 1–153 (1938), which achieved flight speeds of 450–525 km/h; the Tupolev-designed SB frontline close support bomber, carrying a payload of 500 kg and capable of 420 km/h; and the S. V. Il’iushin DB-3 long-range bomber with a 500 kg payload, a flight range of 4,000 km, and a speed of 450 km/h. Passenger airplanes on civil airways were the sixseater K-5 with a speed of 172 km/h and flight range of 1,020 km and the nine-seater ANT-9 with a speed of 170 km/h and flight range of 830 km.

Soviet aviators flying Soviet-designed airplanes completed flights which brought fame to our country. From March 5, through April 13, 1934, 104 crew members on the ice-breaker Cheliuskin, which went down in the icy waters of the Bering Strait, were rescued from an ice floe by ANT-4’s, R-5’s and other airplanes. For their courage and heroism in saving the crew of the stricken icebreaker, aviators A. V. Liapidevskii, S. A. Levanevskii, V. S. Molokov, N. P. Kamanin, M. T. Slepnev, M. V. Vodop’ianov, and I. V. Doronin were awarded the first title of Hero of the Soviet Union by resolution of the Central Executive Committee (TsIK) of the USSR on Apr. 20, 1934. Three years later, on June 18–20, 1937, pilots V. P. Chkalov and G. F. Baidukov and navigator A. V. Beliakov completed a flight on an ANT-25 aircraft over the Moscow-North Pole-Vancouver (USA) route, a straight-line nonstop flight covering 8,504 km in 63 hours and 16 minutes. Within the very next month (July 12–14) pilots M. M. Gromov, A. B. Iumashev, and navigator S. A. Danilin flew an ANT-25 airplane over the Moscow-North Pole-San Jacinto (California, USA) route, covering a straight-line distance of 10,148 km in 62 hours and 17 minutes, to set a world record for nonstop flight. An all-woman crew—pilots V. S. Grizodubova and P. D. Osipenko and navigator N. M. Raskova—flew a Rodina plane designed by P. O. Sukhoi over the Moscow-Soviet Far East (Amgun’ River region) on Sept. 24–25, 1938. This aircraft flew a straight-line nonstop distance of 5,908 km in 26 hours and 29 minutes, which was acknowledged as the women’s international distance record. On Apr. 28–29, 1939, pilot V. K. Kokkinaki and navigator M. Kh. Gordienko flew the TsKB-30 Moskva, designed by Il’iushin, nonstop from Moscow across Greenland to North America to the island of Miscou in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, flying 8,000 km (a straight-line distance of 6,516 km) in 22 hours and 56 minutes. These and other flights completed during those years showed the skill and courage of Soviet pilots and of the major scientific and engineering achievements of Soviet aviation, radio engineering, and the meteorological service.

Several hundred types of military and civilian craft, many already in mass production, appeared in the 1920’s and 1930’s in Britain, France, the USA, Germany, and elsewhere. Noteworthy among the foreign airplanes were the British Supermarine S.6B (which set a speed record of 656 km/h in 1931); a plane built by the American firm Ryan and flown by pilot C. Lindbergh, who in 1927 was the first to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from the USA to Europe; and the American Douglas DC-3 passenger plane, which for many years remained the mainstay of civilian aviation in many countries throughout the world.

Initially, most airplanes were built in the biplane configuration, but by the middle of the 1930’s a decisive and definitive swing away from the biplane toward the monoplane had taken place. This shift became possible because of new advances in aerodynamics, structural mechanics, and aircraft engine design. Precision techniques in structural design were now available. The design and use on aircraft of braking wheels and wing mechanization (air flaps, trailing edge flaps, leading edge slats) made it possible to increase the specific wing load from 700–1,000 to 1,400–1,700 N/m2 and thereby step up flight speed. A 20–25 percent reduction in drag marked a major achievement in aerodynamics. This reduction took place because a way was found to retract the undercarriage during flight; variable pitch propellers also made their appearance. Enclosing the engine in a streamlined cowling, switching to a closed cockpit canopy filleted into the streamlined fuselage shape, and using smooth wing skin with flush riveting were other improvements in airplane design which contributed to faster flight speed. Together, they allowed 20–30 percent increases in speed at the same engine power. Aircraft engine design techniques kept pace with those improvements. Designers collaborating with scientists succeeded in raising the power output of mass-produced aircraft engines from 700–800 to 2,000 hp while simultaneously reducing the specific mass from 0.9 to 0.5 kg/hp.

During that same decade, Soviet scientists solved some fundamental problems in aviation, specifically the problem of how to eliminate flutter—vibrations of the wing and tail assembly with increasing amplitude in a stream of air—and how to recover from a spin, which contributed to a rapid qualitative improvement in Soviet airplane design. The phenomenon of flutter was studied as far back as the 1920’s by Vetchinkin and Chaplygin, and a special team was organized in 1931 at TsAGI to study the problem. The theoretical and experimental research conducted by that team, which included M. V. Keldysh, E. P. Grossman, and others, paved the way for recommendations to designers which resulted in freeing airplanes from the dangerous phenomenon of vibrations for good. A practical study of recovery of airplanes from spin was initiated (1916) by the Russian pilot K. K. Artseulov. A solution to the problem of spin was contributed by the Soviet aerodynamics scientists V. S. Pyshnov and A. N. Zhuravchenko. Investigations of spin conditions were conducted in a specially designed TsAGI wind tunnel.

Work on the design of the first Soviet helicopters, begun as far back as the 1920’s, was also continued at TsAGI. I. P. Bratukhinand B. N. Iur’ev produced several experimental helicopter designs: the TsAGI 1–EA (1930), TsAGI 5–EA (1933), TsAGI 11–EA (1936), Omega (1941), and others. Engineer A. M. Chedremukhin set a world altitude record of 605 m on August 14, 1932 with the TsAGI 1–EA helicopter.

The Designers’ Manual, which unified procedures in the planning, design, and testing of the airplane, elaborated by a team of TsAGI specialists and specialists from other institutes in 1940–1941, played an important role in the practical utilization of scientific research and in engineering realization of the research findings.

The participation of Soviet volunteers flying I-15’s, I-16’s, and SB’s in the National-Revolutionary War in Spain of 1936–39 (Spanish Civil War) made it possible to test the quality of aviation engineering under combat conditions. While the Spanish Republican pilots flying Soviet fighter planes successfully defeated the enemy at the beginning, the appearance of the German Me-109E with its heavier armament and greater speed soon changed the state of affairs and enabled the fascist aviation to gain mastery in the skies.

In 1939 the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party (TsK VKP (b)) and the Soviet government took extreme measures to strengthen the Soviet aviation industry. The design of new airplane prototypes was entrusted to several design offices. Especially successful in coping with the assignment were the personnel of the design offices headed up by S. V. Il’iushin, S. A. Lavochkin, A. I. Mikoian, V. M. Petliakov, and A. S. Iakovlev. The measures taken resulted, within the space of 1½ to 2 years, in the design, testing, commissioning, and quantity production of the fighters LaGG-3, MiG-3, Iak-1, the bombers Pe-2, Pe-8, Il-4, and the attack plane Il-2.

By the start of the Great Patriotic War, aviation based on the latest achievements of science had become completely converted to the monoplane airplane configuration with retractable undercarriage, streamlined fuselage, enclosed cockpit canopy, and other features. Fighter speed had reached 600–650 km/h, with altitude ceiling of 11–12 km. Bomber speed had reached 550 km/h, with flight ranges of 3,000–4,000 km, and bomb loads of 3–4 tons. It was at that time that Il’iushin designed the unique 11–2 attack plane equipped with powerful armament and armor. This plane was designed for antitank warfare.

Aviation during the years of the Great Patriotic War. The treacherous attack by fascist Germany on the Soviet Union in 1941 left Soviet aviation in a perilous state. Heavy losses of fighter aircraft parked on the runways at airfields in the very first days of the war could not possibly be made up rapidly; the new types of airplanes were being produced only in small quantities. But the heroic labor of the production-line workers and engineering-technical workers of the aviation industry in manufacturing airplanes under the onerous conditions prevailing during the first period of the war, with evacuation to the east of the country and the hard winter in the beginning of 1942, yielded its results: the arrival of new airplanes at the front increased day by day.

These airplanes were simple in design and built from readily available materials, which greatly aided the task of mass production under wartime conditions. In simplicity and reliability, Soviet airplanes possessed advantages over foreign rivals, particularly American planes. Because of the excellent work done in ironing out technological production problems, improvements could be made in the airplane designs under mass production conditions without losing time. At the same time the flow of planes off the production line was kept steady.

The new Soviet airplanes (La-5, La-7, Iak-3, Iak-9 MiG-3, Pe-2, 11–2, 11–4, and Tu-2) were of higher quality than their German rivals (Me-109, FW-190, Ju-87, and Ju-88) in aerodynamic performance, weight, and armament. The technical strategy emphasizing the production of lightweight, highly maneuverable, well-armed fighters, attack planes, and frontline tactical support bombers paid off. The best fighters in the Allied forces were the British Spitfire and the American Airacobra and the Mustang; among bombers the best were the American B-17 and B-29 and the British Lancaster and Mosquito.

Aviation continued to develop in the postwar years both in the USSR and in other countries, on the basis of prewar scientific research. By the end of the war, Soviet piston-engine planes (the La-9 and Iak-3 fighters) reached speeds of 690–720 km/h. Any further increase in speed was limited by the excessive increase in size and weight of piston engines and by the sharp fall-off in the efficiency of the propeller.

Development of jet propulsion aviation. A qualitative breakthrough constituting the beginning of a veritable technical revolution in aviation occurred when the high-powered and lightweight jet propulsion engine, which does not require a propeller, came on the scene. As early as the late 1930’s, intensive work on the design and development of jet engines had been in progress in the USSR, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the USA. Soviet designers and scientists made a major contribution to the development of jet propulsion engines. B. S. Stechkin developed the theory of the air-breathing jet engine and published an article by that name in 1929. A. M. Liul’ka was a pioneer in the development of Soviet turbojet engines and began work on his first aviation turbojet engine in 1937. German turbojet and liquid-fuel jet propulsion engines manufactured by the BMW and Junkers firms appeared in 1939, along with a British turbojet designed by F. Whittle.

The first jet propulsion flight made in the USSR took place in February 1940, when pilot V. P. Fedorov flew an SK-9 rocket-propelled glider designed by S. P. Korolev, later to be known as a famous designer of Soviet spaceships. Pilot G. Ia. Bakhchivandzhi made the first flight in the experimental liquid-fuel rocket propulsion BI-1 airplane on May 15, 1942. This plane was the work of a designer team headed by V. F. Bolkhovitinov. But further immediate development of aviation proceeded along the lines of using turbojet engines. In other countries the first flights with jet-propelled airplanes were the Camproni-Campini CC-1 and CC-2 (1940–41) in Italy, the Gloster with an F. Whittle turbojet engine (1941) in Britain, and the Airacomet with an F. Whittle turbojet engine (1942) in the USA. The German Me-262 and Me-163 turbojet fighters and the British Meteor, all designed in 1941–42, saw war action in World War II, and the specially designed Gloster Meteor IV turbojet propelled plane set a world speed record of 969.9 km/h on Nov. 7, 1945. The first Soviet turbojet propulsion airplanes, the Iak-15 and the MiG-9, took to the air on Apr. 24, 1946. These airplanes did not differ from conventional airplanes with piston engines in their aerodynamical configuration but boasted of speeds 100–200 km/h higher.

The drastic increase in flight speed confronted science and designers with new problems. The phenomenon of air compressibility began to take effect at flight speeds above 700 km/h, drag increased, and stability and controllability suffered. Research on new types of airplanes was required as flight speed approached the speed of sound. Numerous scientific works and experimental investigations demonstrated that the airplane wing must present a thin aerofoil configuration and a swept-back configuration under such flight conditions. In December 1948, an experimental 176 jet plane designed by S. A. Lavochkin, featuring a 45° swept-back wing, attained the speed of sound in downward flight. New Soviet jet planes, the La-15 and MiG-15 with a 35° wing sweepback made their appearance in 1947–48, featuring heavy armament. They were capable of speeds up to 1,050 km/h. Other jet planes appearing at the same time were the Iak-23 straight-wing jet fighter and the Il-28 and Tu-14 jet bombers. It was during that period that the problem of rescuing pilots in accidents at high flight speeds was solved with the appearance of the first ejection seats.

Supersonic aviation. New advances in aerodynamics and the appearance of new, higher-powered jet propulsion engines made it possible to break through the sound barrier. Aviation became supersonic. The speed of airplanes in level flight exceeded the speed of sound. The first supersonic plane to be built in the Soviet Union, the single-seater MiG-19 fighter in the early 1950’s, featured a 55 ° wing sweepback, with flight speed as fast as 1,450 km/h. New Soviet aircraft with swept-back wings appeared in that period—the Iak-25, a two-seater all-weather interceptor-fighter, and the Tu-16, a long-range bomber.

The next few years of aviation development were marked by new achievements in the solution of complicated problems concerning further increases in speed, range, and flight altitude. New examples of Soviet military aviation engineering were demonstrated at the air displays held at Tushino (1961) and Domodevov (1967)—for example, the supersonic MiG-21 delta-wing fighter, the supersonic Iak-28 multipurpose aircraft, and the Su-7 fighter-bomber. Vertical takeoff and landing craft and lightweight fighters with variable-geometry wings were demonstrated for the first time. One of the aircraft demonstrated—the single-seat interceptor-fighter E-266 designed by Mikoian—set three world records in October 1967: an altitude record of 30,010 m (carrying a 2–ton load), a speed record of 2,930 km/h (over a 500 km closed route), and a speed record of 2,910 km/h (over a 1,000–km closed route). The most interesting foreign airplanes appearing during the late 1960’s were the American fighter-bomber Phantom F-4, the multipurpose swing-wing F-lll craft, and the long-range SR-71 reconnaissance plane. French military aviation is typified by the appearance of a whole series of Mirage-III fighters and the “Mirage-IV” strategic bombers. The Harrier British VTOL craft should also be noted.

By the mid-1960’s, airplanes were achieving flight speeds of 3,000–3,500 km/h, altitude ceilings above 30,000 m, and flight ranges beyond 10,000 km, ranges that can be extended virtually without limitation by midair refueling techniques.

Civil aviation in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Civil aviation underwent vigorous development throughout the world in the postwar years, keeping pace with military aviation. Prior to the Great Patriotic War, the civilian air fleet of the USSR was poorly developed. The construction of the 24–seater Li-2 airplane (based on an American license for the Douglas DC-3 plane) exerted some influence on the development of Soviet civil aviation during the mid-1930’s. Soviet civil aviation began to develop at the end of the war, with the appearance of the two-motored Il’iushin Il-12 airplane, followed by the Il-14 modification which began service with Aeroflot in 1947 and with the Li-2 became the backbone of Soviet civil aviation. But these comparatively slow-speed craft with limited passenger accommodations could not satisfy the rising needs for passenger and freight air transportation during the 1950’s. Jet aircraft soon came to replace them. The first flights of jet-engined high-speed airplanes—the British Comet and the Soviet Tu-104—were completed in 1949 and 1955, respectively. The Tu-104, carrying a load of up to 100 passengers at flight speeds of

Table 1. Basic data on Soviet passenger aircraft (January 1969)
Type of airplanePassenger accommodationsSpeed (km/h)Maximum range (km)
Turboprop and turbojet   
Tu-104B ..............1008003,100
Tu-114 ...............1707708,950
An-24 ................504502,000
Tu-124 ...............568002,100
Tu-134 ...............728703,250
II-62 .................1868509,200
Iak-40 ...............246001,500
Tu-154 ...............1641,0006,000
II-14M ...............363201,750
Li-2 ..................242202,000
An-2 .................10190850

800–900 km/h, became the principal airplane on the Aeroflot trunk airways beginning in 1956. In 1957–59 the 11–18 and Tu-114, as well as the An-10 and An-24, designed by the staff of the O. K. Antonov design office, made their appearance. By the early 1960’s there were five types of passenger airplanes propelled by jet engines in service in the Soviet Union. It is interesting that only one of these (the Tu-104) was a turbojet craft, the remainder being turboprop craft. This preponderance of turboprop passenger planes was also characteristic of foreign countries—the Britannia and Viscount in Britain, and the Electra in the USA, for example. France’s first turbojet passenger plane, the Caravelle, was the precursor of a whole series of second-generation airplanes (early 1960’s) characterized by low-consumption double-flow turbojet engines mounted in the rear fuselage. Basic data on the passenger planes in Aeroflot service in 1968 are entered in Table 1.

The world’s largest transport airplane, the An-22 (the Antei), designed by Antonov, was built by the aviation industry of the Soviet Union in 1965. The Antei is powered by four turboprop engines, each developing 15,000 hp. It is capable of carrying an 80–ton payload over a distance of 5,000 km at a speed of 740 km/h. This airplane set a record on Oct. 26, 1967, carrying a load of 100.4446 tons to an altitude of 7,800 m. The Tu-154, powered by three jet engines (designer N. D. Kuznetsov), designed to transport 164 persons at speeds to 1,000 km/h over distances to 6,000 km, completed its maiden flight in 1968.

Helicopters designed by M. L. Mil’, (the Mi-1 and Mi-4), others designed by N. I. Kamov (the Ka-15, Ka-18), and later the giant rotary-wing Mi-6 (the world’s largest), Mi-8, and Mi-10 began to gain popularity in applications to the national economy (agriculture, transportation of passengers and freight to remote regions with difficult access, and so on) and in military service in the mid-1950’s.

Training aircraft. The development of military and civil aviation is indissolubly connected with the preparation and training of aviation and technical personnel. The first Soviet training plane was the U-l biplane built on the model of the British trophy plane Avro-504. In 1927, Polikarpov designed the famous U-2 airplane (later the Po-2) with a 100–hp M-ll motor, which remained for many years the principal air training vehicle in the USSR. About 33,000 Po-2 airplanes were manufactured. The Po-2 plane became popular not only in training aviation but also in agricultural, public health, communications, and other applications in the national economy. It performed successful service as a lightweight nighttime bomber during the Great Patriotic War.

The UT-2 monoplane, powered by the same M-ll motor, was built and tested by the A. S. Iakovlev design office in 1935. It was used as a training plane for flying schools to train pilots for the high-speed monoplane fighters of the 1930’s. Over 7,000 UT-2 airplanes were manufactured. The Iak-18 training and sports plane, built in 1946, was the precursor of a whole series of training and sports racing planes which gained wide popularity both in the USSR and in other countries. In the early 1960’s, training planes powered by jet engines were designed. The Iak-30 and Iak-32 in the USSR, the T-33 and T-37 in the USA, the Jet Provost in Britain, the Magister in France, the L-29 (Delfin) in Czechoslovakia, the TS-11 (Iskra) in Poland, and others were built in the early 1960’s.

Intensive research and development work on supersonic passenger airplanes continued into the late 1960’s in many countries (on the Tu-144 in the USSR, on the Concorde in Britain and France, and on the Boeing 2707 in the USA), with flight speeds of 2,500–3,000 km/h and ranges of 6,000–8,000 km. The first flight by a supersonic passenger jet was completed by the Tu-144 Soviet passenger plane on Dec. 31, 1968.


Vozdukhoplavanie i aviatsiia v Rossii do 1907 goda: Sbornik dokumentov i materialov. Edited by V. A. Popov. Moscow, 1956.
Denisov, N. N. Na reaktivnykh samoletakh. Moscow, 1956. Illiustrirovannyi aviatsionnyi slovar’ dlia molodezhi. Moscow, 1956.
Green, W., and R. Cross. Reaktivnye samolety mira. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from English.)
KPSS o vooruzhennykh silakh Sovetskogo Soiuza: Sbornik dokumentov, 1917–1958. Moscow, 1958.
Vinogradov, R. I., and A. V. Minaev. Samolety SSSR, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1961.
Sofronov, E. V., and I. B. Chudakov. V vozdukhe—samolety Aeroflota. Moscow, 1967.
Iakovlev, A. S. Tsel’zhizni. Moscow, 1967.
Stefanovskii, P. M. Trista neizvestnykh. Moscow, 1968.
Grazhdanskaia aviatsiia SSSR, 1917–1967. Moscow, 1968.
Aviatsiia i kosmonavtika SSSR. Moscow, 1968.
Iakovlev, A. S. 50 let sovetskogo samoletostroeniia. Moscow, 1968.
Energeticheskaia, atomnaia, transportnaia i aviatsionnaia tekhnika: Kosmonavtika. Moscow, 1969.
Izakson, A. M. Sovetskoe vertoletostroenie. Moscow, 1964.
Shavrov, V. B. Istoriia konstruktsii samoletov v SSSR do 1938 goda. Moscow, 1969.
Wissmann, G. Geschichte der Luftfahrt. Berlin, 1960.
Canby, C. The History of Flight. New York, 1963.
Petit, E. Histoire mondiale de I’aviation. [Paris, 1967.]


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(aerospace engineering)
The science and technology of flight through the air.
The world of airplane business and its allied industries.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The art, science, or practice of flying through the air in heavier-than-air aircraft. Various types of aviation are civil aviation, military aviation (tactical aviation, fighter aviation, bomber aviation, etc.), agricultural aviation, and so on.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


Kitty Hawk
site of first manned, powered flight (1903). [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 563]
Lafayette Escadrille
American aviators assisting Allies in WWI. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 273]
Night Flight
relates the harrowing experiences of early airmail pilots on South American routes. [Fr. Lit.: Magill III, 687]
Red Baron
nickname given to Baron Richthofen. [Aviation: EB, VIII: 574]
Smilin’ Jack
comic strip pilot who solves crimes. [Comics: “Smilin’ Jack” in Horn, 624–625]
Spirit of St. Louis
Charles Lindbergh’s plane. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 287]
Wright brothers
creators-aviators of first manned aircraft (1903). [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 563]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a. the art or science of flying aircraft
b. the design, production, and maintenance of aircraft
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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