The Russian Aero Marine 1910-2000
By Bruno De Michelis
Available in CD-ROM ($50) & A4 Hardbound ($110)
The Russian aviation industry has a very long history, and in many ways
was ahead of the rest of the world. Igor Sikorsky, for instance, built the
world’s first four-engined aircraft and flew it successfully, both before
and during the First World War. While these larger, more prominent
successes are relatively well known, the world of water-based aircraft is
largely left untouched. This title by Bruno De Michelis changes that, and
in one giant leap the field of Russian seaplanes is opened for all to
examine. The book is broken down by year, starting in 1910. These early
tsarist forays into aviation are fascinating, and quite surprising by the
sheer number of people building aircraft. Not only does this book include
indigenous designs, but also those brought from Western Europe, so along
with the Grigorovich, Gakkel and Sikorksy designs, we see Voisin, Curtiss,
and Farman aircraft as well.
There are no entries for the year 1918, which is understandable given
the unsettling events in that year. The tsarist regime fell to the
Bolsheviks, who then settled for a separate peace with Germany to get out
of the war. The soviet system was extremely disruptive to existing
industry as factory ownership shifted from individuals to the state.
Further accentuating these issues is the presentation of nothing but
Western designs in the 1919 section, and a note of the end of the
Imperial-era Grigorovich line in the 1920-21 section (don’t worry, he
makes a comeback). Following that tumultuous period, though, we begin to
see some new names in Russian aviation, and the fascination with seaplanes
continues. Collaboration with former German designers, specifically
Junkers, shows up in the latter half of the 1920s, and in the summer of
1925, the OMOS, or Experimental Seaplane Construction Division, was
created, headed by Grigorovich.
Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s, a solid blend of indigenous and
imported designs remained, with more designers trying their hand at
seaplane design. Polikarpov, Tupolev, Shavrov, Beriev, and Yakovlev all
produce some seaplanes during this time, while notable foreigners such as
Heinkel, Junkers, Dornier, and Savoia Marchetti all had aircraft imported
to the Soviet Union. The 1930s saw some truly interesting designs fly in
the skies over Russia. As the Second World War approached, these European
designs were supplemented by imports of notable US seaplanes, like the PBY
Catalina and the Martin M130.
The wartime years saw a great number of seaplane designs show up in
the Soviet Union, either through indigenous design, Lend-Lease, or
capture. Following the war, the seaplane took a back seat to other
advancing technologies, such as jet engines, but Beriev remained
interested in the subject and continued to innovate. While much of the
rest of the world abandoned the seaplane, Beriev’s designs advanced the
concept to the point now, where Beriev could be listed as the world’s best
seaplane designer. Current aircraft include the A-40 Albatross, a
jet-powered flying boat that is very impressive, and unmatched by anything
in the world.
In addition to traditional flying boats, the Russians experimented in
a couple of areas not explored by others: ground effect aircraft and
flying boat gliders. While the famous Ekranoplan designs have received
much attention in recent years, the concept of flying boat gliders has
never been explored before. While this entire book is fascinating, this
chapter is probably the most interesting due to the rarity.
The book is filled with excellent photos and drawings covering nearly
all of the aircraft portrayed, and its weighty 324 pages make it a comfy
chair-type of book. Pour yourself a nice cup of coffee, adjust the lights,
get comfortable and lose yourself for hours in this meticulously
researched book. Anyone interested the combination of air and sea will
enjoy this book. My sincere thanks to Bruno De Michelis for the review
copy. For ordering information, and to view some sample pages, be sure to
visit his website.
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