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THE ANTONOV AN-2—A CLASSIC SOVIET

AIRCRAFT, BY VIRTUE of their technology and engineering, are sleek and well-finished. Unless they’re the Antonov An-2, affectionately known as the “Aннушка,” “Annushka,” “Annie.” Close up, an Aннушка looks like it was built by a talented middle school metal shop class. 

This An-2, photographed in 2013, served in the Estonian Air Force. It was previously allocated civil registration ES-BAD, c/n 1117(473)20. Image by Alan Wilson.

Annie’s Virtues. The An-2 has other things in its favor: It is one of the world’s largest single-engine biplanes, with more than 18,000 produced between 1946 and 2002. Many of these sturdy aircraft remain in military and civilian service around the world. 

For example, in addition to a primary Antonov An-2 article, Wikipedia maintains an extensive list (51 military; 17 civilian) of Antonov An-2 Operators. Both North and South Korea have flown them; Armenian and Azebajian forces as well. Kyrgyzstan has both military and civil An-2s, as does Mongolia.

Another endearing characteristics of the An-2 is an expansive greenhouse. This is what attracted me to the An-2 as a GMax project for use in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Above, Aeroflot An-2 79954; image from antonov.com. Below, my GMax rendering.

Annie’s Heritage. The An-2 arose in 1946 at the Antonov Design Bureau in Kyiv, Ukraine. Its purpose was to replace the wood-airframed open-cockpit Polikarpov Po-2, itself a classic design that holds the record for biplane production, perhaps as many as 33,000 built between 1928 and 1952. The Po-2 has appeared here at SimanaitisSays in “Polikarpov Po-2 and the Night Witches.”

Like the Polikarpov, the An-2 was designed to serve in varied roles, such as utility aircraft, crop duster, air ambulance, and gunship, to which Annie added water-bombing forest fires, dropping parachuters, and for scientific atmospheric sampling. 

Noteworthy features: a 59 ft. 9-in. span of its upper wing with automatic leading-edge slats, large cargo hatches optionally on either side, traditional exposed control horns for its ailerons and flaps, and that expansive greenhouse.

Annie’s Technicalities. The An-2 is powered by a Shvetsov nine-cylinder air-cooled supercharged radial developing 1010 hp. 

Above, Annie’s 1010-hp powerplant. Below, her cowl flaps, GMax-animated using carrier-fighter tailhook coding.

The An-2 has a maximum speed of 160 mph, a cruising speed of 120 mph, and a service ceiling of 14,800 ft. At the other extreme, Annie is capable of low-speed maneuvering as slow as 30 mph. Take-off can be completed in 560 ft.; landing, in 705 ft. To put these in perspective, a Cessna 172 performs these in 1630 ft. and 1335 ft., respectively.

Typically, the An-2 carries a crew of two. As many as twelve passengers can be accommodated. Other options include folding jump seats maximizing cargo capacity. 

I fitted my GMax model with the jump seats. Just for fun, I animated one, actuated by keyboard coding used for wing folding of carrier-based aircraft. 

Annie’s Automatic Leading-edge Slats. As described by Wikipedia, “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.”

“The An-2 has no stall speed,” Wikipedia says, “a fact which is quoted in the operating handbook. 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] the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground.’ ”

Wikipedia continues, ”As such, pilots of the An-2 have stated that they are capable of flying the aircraft in full control at 48 km/h (30 mph).” By contrast, a Cessna 172 has a stall speed of around 50 mph. 

Since 1996, Annie is featured on the hyrvna, the national currency of Ukraine. The hyrvna is currently valued at around 25 to the U.S. dollar. Image by Национальный банк Украины—scan by NBU.

Flying Backwards. “This slow stall speed,” Wikipedia notes, “makes it possible for the aircraft to fly backwards relative to the ground: If the aircraft is pointed into a headwind of roughly 56 km/h (35 mph), it will travel backwards at 8 km/h (5 mph) whilst under full control.”

GMax/Microsoft limitations precluded my fitting the automatic wing slats. Despite this, I tried slowing in a 35-mph headwind and found it possible to buzz the Kremlin.

I hope Putin didn’t object to the noise.

All in good classic Soviet fun. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

4 comments on “THE ANTONOV AN-2—A CLASSIC SOVIET

  1. Tom Tyson
    March 29, 2021

    Spanish pilot friend Jose Carretero flies one of these from time to time under contract to the UN in Africa and South America doing both fire suppression and crop dusting (though obviously not at the same time).

  2. Damian
    March 29, 2021

    There was what looked like one up at the Auburn Airport, along with a very well-used fuselage. The intact Antonov was green with the red star on the vertical stabilizer, while the derelict fuselage was red. Reminded me very much of the old car hobby, where a parts car was sometimes needed, and always advisable.

  3. Gary.perser
    March 29, 2021

    Love it. Big ol’ Ruskie VSTOL. I wish I could see one at an air show. Thanks for sharing.

    >

    • simanaitissays
      March 29, 2021

      Thanks, Gary, for your kind words. I sure liked fooling with its GMax rendering.

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