By Vladimir V. Sytin
If the time you can devote to engineering developments in the Kiev Polytechnic Institute (KPI) is extremely limited, this Section alone may be your answer. It is located in one of the authentic buildings of former aircraft-auto shops of the KPI, which were built in 1915-1916. The repair of airplanes and manufacture of some parts was organized there in 1916-1917 during World War I. Plans were afoot to open there the aircraft factory capable of turning out up to 20 airplanes a month. However, such production turned out to be lossmaking and it was stopped. Further, the premises served as utility rooms and storehouses.
In 2007 the KPI administration decided to preserve the building, reconstruct it and place there exhibits devoted to aviation and space history on the basis of the existing section of the museum and the space museum, whose exhibits were collected by veterans of Soviet space-vehicle launching sites, as it faced the risk of destruction.
Its inauguration took place on May 14, 2008. Among honored guests were Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, American diplomats, representatives of the Ukrainian public, KPI students and professors, journalists.
The exposition of the aviation section includes stands with information and exhibits covering the process of exploration of airspace from balloons to modern airliners. The exposition highlights the role of KPI in this process.
The first flight taken by the Wright brothers in 1903, using their powered airplane (be sure to see its model, which was presented by the Boeing delegation to KPI), gave impetus to the establishment of the aviation club at KPI in 1908. This event also stimulated Professor Alexander Кudashev to build the airplane and fly it in June 1910 for the first time in history of the Russian Empire.
Near it are gifts given by the delegation of Boeing top managers, which was led by company’s president and chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg. They visited the Museum and gave models of modern passenger airplanes В-787 and В-747І, photographs, albums, souvenirs and textbooks written by Stepan Тimoshenko, topflight Russian-U.S. machine scientist, who served in the early ХХ century as the chair of the mechanical department at Kiev Polytechnic Institute. His engineering developments were important for building Boeing aircraft, making wide use of composite materials. Fruitful cooperation continues as KPI and companies Boeing and Progresstech Ukraine have opened the first joint center in summer of 2014.
The section devoted to the Russian-U.S. pioneer in aircraft design, namely Igor Sikorsky, is of particular interest. Igor Sikorsky was born in Kiev, made his first helicopter in the yard of his father’s house, designed and piloted airplanes, as well as made record flights. The Museum received a collection of models, thanks to his son Sergey and the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. Among them are the first helicopters and airplanes, as well as amphibian aircraft and helicopters produced in the United States.
The model of the world’s largest Ilya Muromets airliner made in 1913 and the picture representing a flight from St. Petersburg to Kiev in June 1914 features the major event in aviation history of those times. For the first time in world practice, these airplanes had one-piece fuselage with an innovative enclosed cabin. This airliner set a number of records for carrying capacity, number of passengers, the duration and maximum altitude of a flight. Igor Sikorsky redesigned Ilya Muromets as the world’s first bomber that was mass-produced. The aircraft was given the honorable name Kievsky in memory of the famous June flight routing St. Petersburg-Kiev-Novo-Sokolniki-St. Petersburg.
Ilya Muromets piloted by Igor Sikorsky landed in Kiev on June 17, 1914 at 11 a.m. In addition to engineer Vladimir Panasyuk, the crew included two future commanders of Ilya Muromets airplanes, namely pilots of St. Petersburg air force company Captain Khristofor Prusis and naval pilot Lieutenant Georgy Lavrov. Owing to the white summer night the flight started under favorable conditions, but the crew soon caught a strong headwind that cut the speed of Ilya Muromets from the normal 100 to 70 kilometers an hour. The airliner made the first stop in Orsha and the next one at the Kopis station because of a breakage in a gasoline line. Overall, flight conditions were unfavorable. Ilya Muromets soared in storm clouds all the time. The crew had to fly in pouring rain and headwind for two hours. Ilya Muromets reached an altitude of 1,300 meters to fly above the clouds but the sun was blinding and the crew did not see land. The successful flight proved once more endurance of Ilya Muromets. The pilots had to read a compass without sighting land. Near Kiev they dared to break through heavy clouds to land. However, it turned out that they left the city behind. So the pilots had to turn back to the airfield. A distance of about 1,020 kilometers had been covered over the course of 13 hours and 10 minutes. Sikorsky and his fellows stayed in Kiev till June 26, giving several exhibition flights. Sikorsky’s sister, his uncle, the vice-president of Kiev aviation association, Markov were among passengers during one of the flights. Flocked on balconies and rooftops, eyes skywards, almost all residents of Kiev were transfixed by the flight at an altitude of 1,400 meters.
Recently, patrons of art have given the Museum a piano of 1913 vintage, which Igor Sikorsky presented to the wife of his elder brother.
Ukraine is one of the few countries that has the full cycle of aircraft construction from design, prototypes and their testing to mass production of aircraft.
The exposition features information about Оleg Аntonov, chief designer and founder of the Kyiv Design Bureau, as well as the collection of models of Ukraine-built Antonov modern airplanes including Mriya and Ruslan.
There are other Ukrainian aircraft enterprises in the exposition. The Zaporozhye-based plant Motor Sech is represented by two state-of-the-art aircraft engines АІ-24 and D-36. The innovative ducted-fan turbojet engine (DТRD) D-36 of 1980s vintage was developed by the Ivchenko design bureau Progress under the guidance of Vladimir Lotaryov. When developing the engine D-36, its designers chose a high degree of the ducted-fan techniques for the first time in national practice of motor construction. The techniques provided for a high temperature of gas (1,237 degrees centigrade) at the guide vane of a turbine and a large increase in pressure of a compressor. Development of the engine involved a plug-in design under a three-shaft chart, making extensive use of titanium. With a dry weight of 1,106 kilograms, the engine had a take-off thrust of 6,500 kilogram-forces. In 1973 Ukrainian specialists started building a pilot lot of Yak-42 airplanes equipped with engines D-36. It was the rare case in practice of aircraft construction when an engine gave rise to an airplane. The engine D-36 turned out to be so successful that it was used for several aircraft such as Yak-42, Аn-72, Аn-74, and the hovercraft Vikhr-2 and Коmetа-2. The engines of Tu-334, Be-200, An-148, as well as the engine of the world’s largest transport gunship Mi-26, were developed on the basis of D-36. Overall, about 1,700 engines D-36 were made by the plant Motor-Sech.
The Kiev-based plant Elektropribor, which specializes in the manufacture of flight recorders “black boxes”, and the Kharkov state aircraft enterprise whose first director was Konstantin Kalinin, KPI graduate, are still operating in the aircraft industry of this country. Kalinin’s work is represented by models of aircraft in the Museum.
The exposition also includes samples of pilot’s outfit – safety helmets and G-suits. The real helicopter Mi-2 and airplane Yak-40 are exhibited near the Museum.