The Antonov An-2 was one of the most successful Soviet propeller planes. Nicknamed “Annushka” or “Annie”, it flew for the first time on 31 August 1947. It was used as a light utility transport, parachute drop aircraft, aerial agricultural work and many other tasks suited to this large slow-flying biplane. Its slow flight and good short field performance make it suited for short, unimproved fields, and some specialized variants have also been built for cold weather and other extreme environments. The Guinness Book of World Records states that the 45-year production run for the An-2 was for a time the longest ever for any aircraft.
The An-2 has design features which make it suitable for operation in remote areas with unsurfaced airstrips:
- It has a pneumatic brake system (similar to those used on heavy road vehicles) to stop on short runways.
- It has an air line fitted to the compressor, so the pressure in the tires and shock absorbers can be adjusted without the need for special equipment.
- The batteries are large and easy to remove, so the aircraft does not need a ground power unit to supply power.
- There is no need for an external fuel pump to refuel the aircraft, as it has an onboard pump that allows the tanks to be filled from simple fuel drums.
- It has a minimum of complex systems. The crucial wing leading edge slats that give the aircraft its slow flight ability are fully automatic, being held closed by the airflow over the wings. Once the airspeed drops below 64 km/h (40 mph), the slats will extend because they are on elastic rubber springs.
- Take-off run: 170 m (560 ft), landing run: 215 m (705 ft) (these numbers will of course vary depending on take-off/landing weight, outside air temperature, surface roughness, and headwind).
A note from the pilot’s handbook reads: “If the engine quits in instrument conditions or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 64 km/h (40 mph) and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground.”
I took the AN-2 picture you see above in a lovely, little hotel and holiday resort just a few kilometers North of the city of Tver, where it rests and provides endless entertainment for children and aviation enthusiasts alike, as it is possible to climb onto its wings and even explore the interior, including a perfectly preserved flight deck.
The Google map image of the area is obviously a bit old and you can still see the plane resting in its previous position, just a few hundred meters to the South, outside of the resort.
Would you like to discover the Russia that foreigners rarely, if ever, get to see, with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking guide (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about Russian history and traditions? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!
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