On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
SOVIET AIRCRAFT DESIGNER VIKTOR BELYAEV had faith in his batwing idea, but one thing and another complicated matters. We’ve already discussed its rear gunner locations being too cramped to operate twin firepower. And its engine exhaust fumes requiring the crew to wear gas masks (unless the rear gunners left their top glazing in open position). Things don’t get much better today in Part 2, though the original source Russian documentation is its own reward.
Propulsion. Wikipedia lists the DB-LK’s powerplants as M-88s (950 or 1000 hp each). The Russian document said, “But after V.P. Chkalov crashed with this engine on the I-180 [the Polikarpov fighter plagued with problems], the M-88 was banned for the duration of the investigation and the less powerful M-87B was installed on the DB-LK.”
“In the course of work,” the report said, “the testers revealed a number of shortcomings. Initially, for the DB-LK, the customer set … maximum speed at an altitude of 7000 m—550 km/h…. But with the M-87B engine of 950 hp [the craft] managed to squeeze out only 488 km/h.”
Hmm…. Thus far in my early virtual flight testing, I’ve not seen much beyond 200 knots (370 km/h, 230 mph). On the other hand, the Russian document later recounted “Maximum speed near the ground 395 at height 488.”
I don’t believe I’ve taken the craft beyond 3000 ft (914 m), nowhere near the 7000 m (23,000 ft) of the document’s comment.
Forward Firepower: “In addition,” the report said, “two twin ShKASs were installed in the center section along the axis of the aircraft. They deviated, if necessary, by 10º to the sides, which was carried out by remote control. The total ammunition for 7 ShKAS was 4500 rounds.” (I count only six.)
It’s clear that deviating fire much from straight ahead would shoot off the craft’s propellers, but I’m puzzled by the “two twin” ShKASs.” The drawing shows only two barrels and Wikipedia cites “2 x 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns; fixed, forward firing, in the wing centre section leading edge.”
Also, note the discretion necessary in operating the mid-tail ShKASs, each seemingly capable of taking out the craft’s central tail surfaces.
Flight Testing. “The aircraft,” the report said, “was built at plant number 156 and in April 1940 was delivered to the Air Force Research Institute for testing…. A total of 102 flights were made.”
Here Google Translate gets a bit muddled in its syntax. “The car evoked an unusual reaction from the airfield people: ‘What kind of undersized is this?’ ‘Yes, how will he fly? After all, he has everything backwards!…”
An Errant Tree Stump. “At that time, the airfield was being reconstructed,” the report noted, “but in some places there were still unremoved tree stumps. The first runs on the DB-LK were undertaken by the head of the research institute, General A. Filin himself. On one of the approaches at a speed of 240 km/h, the venerable tester ran into a stump and demolished the wheel.”
Bad Luck Haunted the ‘Nonstandard Bird.’ “Due to an error in balancing in one of the approaches,” the translation continued, “the car soared sharply like a candle. The end slots [of the wing] came to the rescue: They worked automatically, and the plane seemed to hover, and then smoothly moved to the nose, picking up speed.”
Then followed a post-Soviet observation: “This incident significantly raised the authority of the new machine: not every aircraft is capable of this. But the ‘specialists’ are on the alert: they immediately launched a case on ‘additional measures.’ And, as usual, a commission was quickly created to assess the possibilities of further tests.”
The report continued, “The exhausting red tape of high aviation ranks began. Everything dragged on until the pilot Nyukhtikov finally lost his temper and, spitting on this bureaucratic fuss, at his own peril and risk, as soon as the high-ranking commission left, he lifted the DB-LK into the air and made the first full-fledged flight, flying from Chkalovskaya to Monino.”
Google Maps shows this to be about 11 miles.
Red Square, Then and Now. “Things were getting better,” the report said. “On May 1, 1940, DB-LK was even honored with a flight over Red Square so that the whole country and Comrade Stalin personally could see what unusual aircraft Soviet designers were building.”
“True,” the report said, “neither Stalin nor Voroshilov was on the podium….”
On February 23, 2023, I too visited Red Square (virtually, of course). I like to think that Viktor Belyaev and even Marshal Voroshilov would be proud. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2023
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Being a semi-educated aerodynamicist, I too have been drawn to the promise of flying wing efficiency since my pre-teen modeling days. Thank you, Dennis for feeding into my addiction.
You might look into the key pioneers of the genre: Alsatian Jose Weiss, Brit J.W. Dunne (who partnered with Wrights). French Charles Fauvel, German Reimar and Walter Horton and of course, Jack Northrop.
Note that my creative hero of heroes, Dr. Paul MacCready settled on flying wing planforms for his stratospheric solar drone Helios, aimed at providing above-the-weather ag surveillance, remote site communications access, etc. from >100,000 ft, linked to a stationary area, cheaper and simpler than satellites.
I’d expect to see you tantalized by some of these aerial oddities … at least odd to a public conditioned by all the flying machines with efficiency robbing tacked on stabilizers.
Then, apropos of your visit to Red Square, recall that naive German teen Matias Rust made an ’80s unauthorized peace seeking fly-in visit there in his Cessna 172. He was promptly imprisoned, until Reagan gained his freedom.
Thank you for the development details included in your post. They filled in a lot of information that my three book sources on the DB-LK lacked.
Photos of this aircraft in flight seem to be nonexistent, but your much appreciated screenshots show the aircraft’s form and details to advantage.
Are your Gmax projects that appear in Simanaitis Says available for download anywhere?
Thanks for your kind word. I haven’t uploaded projects to flightsim.com in quite some time, at least in part because I tend to build, fly a bit, and soon go onto the next GMax, with no writing of uploaded docs, instructions, and other backup support. That is, I’d be happy to share the FS9 folder sans any supporting docs. Just drop me a line at email@example.com.