Miscellaneous AN-2 information and tidbits
Photo of M-101 prototype 80% of aircraft
structure is made from AN-2 components
Will be powered by PT-6 turbine driving a 3-bladed prop. Should receive certification
A single-engine Antonov 3T has made Antarctic research history
with a textbook landing on the South Pole.
The aircraft was flown to the Antarctic coast on board an Ilyushin 76 transport plane.
Assembled and test-flown despite the driving wind and freezing temperatures, the AN-3T
immediately set out for the South Pole hoisting the Russian flag on the planet's southern tip.
The flight and landing showcased the huge potential of Russian-made aircraft. The plane flew
more than 1,200 kilometers in manual mode, the first time since Valery Chkalov did the same
decades ago. In a heartfelt appreciation of this daring experiments all members of the US
Amundsen-Scott polar station gathered on the improvised airstrip to welcome their Russian colleagues.
The 12-seat Antonov 3T is a souped-up version of the famous Antonov 2 biplane done by the
Omsk-based Polyot aerospace company. The modification boasts a new, fuel-saving engine that has
dramatically improved the planers flying range and other technical characteristics, starting at
temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The plane has a heated cabin, heated ski landing
gear, which is absolutely crucial in the freezing temperatures of the Far North and South. The
Antonov 3T carries state of the art navigation gear enabling it to handle the electromagnetic
fluctuations the Southern Pole, is known for. The crew had selected the right place to land because
the AN-3T is the only plane around authorized to land under such extreme conditions.
But after a tour of the area, and refueling, their Antonov-3 biplane
was unable to leave. Raytheon
Polar Services' New Zealand manager, John Sherve, told reporters the plane would not start.
Chilingarov told NTV weather conditions had raised doubts about the plane's operational safety
"The weather conditions at the base from which we were flying prevented us from covering the
1,200 km. distance," Chilingarov said. "We had some doubt that the engine would work normally at an
altitude of more than three km." The Russians are being billed $80,000 for their emergency
transportation and are reportedly leaving the AN-3T at the Pole until a technical crew can retrieve it.
by Lawrence E. Pence
Colonel, USAF (Ret)
For most servicemen who served in Vietnam, the Freedom Bird was that civil airliner
which took them back to the land of the big PX at the end of their tour. Mine was a bit different
sort of Freedom Bird.
In mid-1967, as a junior Air Force Captain,
I was detailed to 7th AF Hq in Saigon as an
Air Technical Intelligence Liason Officer, short name: ATLO (the “I” gets left out, as people look
strangely at anyone who calls himself an ATILO, thinking he is somehow related to Atilla the
Hun). My job was to provide 7AF and the air war the best technical intelligence support that
the Foreign Technology Division of AF Systems Command (my parent organization) could
provide, in whatever area or discipline needed. Also I was to collect such technical
intelligence as became available. This was a tall order for a young Captain, and this
assignment provided much excitement, including the Tet Offensive.
At that time, Operation Rolling
Thunder was underway, the bombing of military targets in
North Vietnam. The weather in NVN was often lousy, making it difficult to find and accurately
strike the assigned targets, so a radar control system was set up to direct the srike force to their
targets. This system was installed on a remote, sheer-sided karst mountain just inside Laos on the
northern Laos/NVN border. The site could be accessed only by helicopter or a tortuous trail
winding up the near-vertical mountainside, so it was judged to be easily defensible. The
mountaintop was relatively flat and about 30 acres in size.
On it was a tiny Hmong village called Phu Pha
Ti, a small garrison of Thai and Meo
mercenaries for defense, a helicopter pad and ops shack for the CIA-owned Air America Airline,
and the radar site, which was manned by "sheep-dipped" US Air Force enlisted men in civilian
clothes. Both the US and NVN paid lip service to the fiction that Laos was a neutral country, and
no foreign military were stationed there, when in reality we had a couple of hundred people spread
over several sites, and NVN had thousands on the Ho Chi Minh trail in eastern Laos. This
particular site was called Lima (L for Laos) Site 85. The fighter-bomber crews called it Channel
97 (the radar frequency), and all aircrews called it North Station, since it was the furthest north
facility in "friendly" territory. Anywhere north of North Station was bad guy land.
The Channel 97 radar system was an old
SAC precision bomb scoring radar which
could locate an aircraft to within a few meters at a hundred miles. In this application, the
strike force would fly out from Lima Site 85 a given distance on a given radial, and the site
operators would tell the strike leader precisely when to release his bomb load. It was
surprisingly accurate, and allowed the strikes to be run at night or in bad weather. This
capability was badly hurting the North Vietnamese war effort, so they decided to take out Lima
Because of the difficulty of mounting
a ground assault on Lima Site 85, and its remote
location, an air strike was planned. Believe it or not, the NVNAF chose biplanes as their "strike
bombers!" This has to be the only combat use of biplanes since the 1930's. The aircraft used
were Antonov designed AN-2 general purpose 'workhorse" biplanes with a single 1000hp radial
piston engine and about one ton payload. Actually, once you get past the obvious "Snoopy and the
Red Baron" image, the AN-2 was not a bad choice for this mission. Its biggest disadvantage is, like
all biplanes, it is slow. The Russians use the An-2 for a multitude of things, such as medevac,
parachute training, flying school bus, crop dusting, and so on. An AN-2 just recently flew over the
North Pole. In fact, if you measure success of an aircraft design by the criteria of number
produced and length of time in series production, you could say that the AN-2 is the most
successful aircraft design in the history of aviation!
The NVNAF fitted out their AN-2 "attack
bombers with a 12 shot 57mm folding fin aerial rocket pod
under each lower wing, and 20 250mm mortar rounds with aerial bomb fuses set in vertical tubes let
into the floor of the aircraft cargo bay. These were dropped through holes cut in the cargo bay floor.
Simple hinged bomb-bay doors closed these holes in flight. The pilot could salvo his bomb load by
opening these doors. This was a pretty good munitions load to take out a soft, undefended target
like a radar site. Altogether, the mission was well planned and equipped and should have been
successful, but Murphy's Law prevailed.
A three plane strike force was
mounted, with two attack aircraft and one standing off as
command and radio relay. They knew the radar site was on the mountaintop, but they did not
have good intelligence as to its precise location, It was well camouflaged, and could not be seen
readily from the air. They also did not realize that we had "anti-aircraft artillery" and "air defense
interceptor" forces at the site. Neither did we realize this.
The AN-2 strike force rolled
in on the target, mistook the Air America ops shack for the
radar site, and proceeded to ventilate it. The aforementioned “anti-aircraft artillery” force- one
little Thai mercenary about five feet tall and all balls- heard the commotion, ran out on the
helicopter pad, stood in the path of the attacking aircraft spraying rockets and bombs everywhere,
and emptied a 27-round clip from his AK-47 into the AN-2, which then crashed and burned. At
this juncture, the second attack aircraft broke of and turned north towards home.
The "air defense interceptor" force
was an unarmed Air America Huey helicopter
which was by happenstance on the pad at the time, the pilot and flight mechanic having a
Coke in the ops shack. When holes started appearing in the roof, they ran to their Huey and
got airborne, not quite believing the sight of two biplanes fleeing north. Then the Huey pilot,
no slouch in the balls department either, realized that his Huey was faster than the biplanes!
So he did the only thing a real pilot could do-attack!
The Huey overtook the AN-2’s a few miles
inside North Vietnam, unknown to the
AN-2’s as their rearward visibility is nil. The Huey flew over the rearmost AN-2 and the
helicopter’s down-wash stalled out the upper wing of the AN-2. Suddenly the hapless AN-2 pilot
found himself sinking like a stone! So he pulled the yoke back in his lap and further reduced his
forward speed. Meanwhile, the Huey flight mechanic, not to be outdone in the macho contest,
crawled out on the Huey’s skid and, one-handed, emptied his AK-47 into the cockpit area of the
AN-2, killing or wounding the pilot and copilot. At this point, the AN-2 went into a flat spin and
crashed into a moutainside, but did not burn.
It should come as no surprise that the
Air America pilot and flight mechanic found
themselves in a heap of trouble with the State Department REMF’s in Vientiane. (REMF is an
acronym. The first three words are Rear, Echelon, and Mother.) In spite of the striped-pants
cookie-pushers' discomfort at (horrors!) an international incident (or perhaps, partly because of
it) these guys were heroes to everybody in the theatre who didn't wear puce panties and talk with
a lisp. They accomplished a couple of firsts: (1) The first and only combat shootdown of a biplane
by a helicopter, and (2) The first known CIA air-to-air victory. Not bad for a couple of spooks.
Communication with Headquarters was very good in
Vietnam, and I learned of this
incident within an hour or so of its happening, although I had no details. But the prospect of
access to a North Vietnamese aircraft of any sort was very attractive to an intell type, so I grabbed
my flyaway kit and headed for Udorn AFB in northern Thailand, where I knew I could get
transport to the crash site from the Air Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS), the Jolly Green
Giants. Sure enough, the next morning we headed for bad guy land with a flight of three Jolly
Green Giants. The State Department geniuses had decided to cover their ample butts by having the
remains of the AN-2 airlifted down to Vientiane to put on display to an outraged world press, thus
proving that North Vietnam had violated Laotian neutrality by sending armed aircraft against a
peaceful civil airline facility. Yawn. The Air Force went along with it because it provided good
cover for our intelligence operation. Of course, when State found out that I had gone in without
saying Mother-may-I to them, they were really hot. But by then I had already gotten the goods we
wanted, and what could they do to me? Fire me and send me to Vietnam?
We found the crashed AN-2 a few miles
inside NVN. There were already some Meo
mercenaries there led by a CIA field type, whose mission was to bag the crew's bodies and check
to see if they were Russians. They weren't. The jungle and rough terrain precluded landing, so
we went in by jungle penetrator, a cable-mounted weighted affair somewhat like a large plumb
bob. I would have liked to parachute in because a behind-the-lines jump is considered a combat
jump, opposed or not, but the jungle and rough terrain would have made that very dangerous. I
may be a little crazy- all parachutists are- but I'm not stupid. With me went a couple of PS's-
pararescue specialists. These men are elite young tigers who regularly risk their lives to save
downed aircrews. They are universally and deservedly admired and respected. The PS's function
was to rig a sling on the AN-2 so it could be lifted out, and to look after me. I was very glad they
I was delighted to find the crashed AN-2 had the
piece of equipment aboard that I had
hoped to find, a brand new undamaged IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) electronic "black box".
An IFF ~ a coded signal when interrogated by a friendly radar, thus identifying itself as a friendly.
All combat aircraft have an IFF, and I had felt certain that the AN-2 would have been fitted with it
for this mission. We had never before gotten our hands on one in undamaged condition. With this,
we could "reverse engineer" a system which could reliably locate the small, sleek, elusive MiG-21's
before they could sneak up on our strike aircraft. And we did just that, greatly improving the RED
CROWN warning system we had at that time. This capability saved a good many crews and
aircraft during the later years of that miserable war. I am very proud to have had a hand in this
After rigging the sling on the AN-2, and finishing my intell
collection, we tried to lift it
out, but it was too heavy for the Jolly Green helo. (We sent in an Army Chinook heavy-lift
helo the next day to lift it down to Vientiane.) All this activity took several hours. Suddenly
we got a call from the Jollys that an RS57 had been shot down somewhere north and had
strung bailed-out crew members along a twenty mile path. An all-out rescue effort was
required and our helicopters were being pulled off our mission immediately, without even time
to pick us up. They would be back to get us when they could. Suddenly, what had been a
relatively low risk in-and-out mission took on a whole different aspect. I knew from good
intell that there were NVN Army elements in the vicinity, and they would no doubt be
directed to find and destroy the crashed AN-2. All the stooging around with noisy helicopters
we had done that morning, plus voluminous radio comms, could not have failed to alert them.
We were four Americans, who knew not ten words of Umong between us, and about a
dozen Meo mercenaries, none of whom spoke English. Our arms consisted of three -38
revolvers, my Colt 1911 .45 automatic, and the Meos' ragtag lot of Ml's, Ml4's, and '03
Springfields. We had very little ammo, no water, no rations, no flares or smoke grenades, not
even a compass. We did have short range ground-to-air radios, and a promise to return for us, but
who knew when that would be. Not a good situation.
After a hasty conference, we decided to remain at
the crash site until an hour or so before
dark, and then move off and find a defensible place to spend the night, if necessary. So we
waited. Late that afternoon, we heard a helicopter and got a call that the big rescue operation was
completed, and we should saddle up for extraction. I can't begin to describe how relieved we were
to see that big beautiful Freedom Bird flying toward us. Our Freedom Bird picked us up with no
problem, and we were back at Udorn in time for Happy Hour. No ARRS crewman ever bought his
own drink at any club in 'Nam. I can assure you none did that night.
As a postscript, Lima Site 85 was overrun by
ground troops about a month after the
bombing attempt, and all US personnel were killed or captured. The comm guys who heard their
last messages said it was a pitiful situation as the site team reported the attackers' progress at
getting at them in their cave bunker. The official version of what happened is that North
Vietnamese troops climbed the sheer sides of the mountain with ropes and pitons to attack the
site. I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now. The attack had all the earmarks of a
Spetsnaz operation, probably insertion by a HALO parachute team, but unless the Russians admit
it we will probably never know.
Of interest, the History Channel
in their Missions of CIA series, did a one hour
documentary on the Lima Site 85 incident which I saw a few months ago. It showed footage of
the AN-2 in Vientiane, and discussed the ground assault (the "official" version). All in all, they did a
pretty good job with it, especially considering that it was over thirty years ago. They got some
things wrong, and some they never knew about, but they weren't there at the time. I was.
© HOME FRONT PRESS
A monthly publication of the American Air Power Heritage
Flying Museum's National Capitol Squadron , 2001.
I don't know if this might interest you, but last year I had a pretty
extreme AN-2 experience.
I am a journalist with the London Daily Mail. I was despatched last January to the coldest town on Earth -
Ojmayakon in eastern Siberia. It turned out, the only way of getting there was in a chartered, ancient,
AN-2 from Yakutsk and then flying 525 miles NE across the Verkhoyansk mountains.
It is fair to say I owe my life to that plane. Firstly - it was one of the coldest weeks on record.
At Ojmyakon, when we landed, it was nudging -61Celsius (that's about -90F I believe).
(It was minus 55 in balmy Yakutsk).
Secondly, there was no landing strip! (there was, but our pilot coudn't find it)
Our plane was fitted with skis, and we landed in a bumpy,snow-covered rather rocky field
(used for soccer in the summer) less than 150metres long. It was tight, but we made it. Taking off was
incredible - he must have got that plane in the air in less than 100m - and then cleared some quite high trees.
The aircraft (which was manufactured in the late 1960s) didn't miss a beat.
We were worried about the fuel lines freezing, but nothing happened. It wasn't comfortable, however.
Inside, with the heater on at full blast, we only managed to get the temperature up to minus 30!
- and we had to sit in that for five hours. We found the asbestos engine cover made an excellent warming blanket.
Because it was so cold, and because we were low on fuel, getting over the mountains on the way back was a
bit of a trial. But still, no problems. I was told they had never lost one of these planes.
Far rather an AN-2 than one of those mad Soviet helicopters ...
According to Vremya-MN national newspaper, in 2000 the number of AN-2s
in Russia was around 6,500. Many of
them are still being used beyond their expected length of service, and the Omsk plant has been upgrading the rest.
The improved AN-3 version has a lifting capacity of 2 metric tons while AN-2 is capable of lifting 1 to 1.3 tons. AN-3
requires only a 500-meter-long runway for takeoff and it can glide in the event of engine failure.
In the Soviet Union the most numerous aircraft in civilian service was the Antonov An-2 biplane. In fact, every
Soviet civilian pilot began his career with flying an An-2 in one of Aeroflot regional departments. First flown in
1947, the An-2 has been manufactured in 18,000 copies in the USSR, Poland, Germany and China. It still
remains in active service as a chemical sprayer, light freighter and passenger plane, trainer and airborne
platform for parachutists, etc. Although considered outdated and uneconomical by modern standards, the An-2
is still competing well on the second-hand market with more recent designs. The keys to its longevity have
been low acquisition price (less than $100,000 for a low-hour airframe), reliability, toughness, ease of repair
and maintenance, vast technical support infrastructure. Despite numerous attempts of various design teams to
produce an heir to the legendary biplane designed by Oleg Antonov in 1946, a suitable successor is still to be
found. In that sense the Siberian Fair provided one more opportunity for the aviation industry to make An-2
replacement offers to Russian regional aircraft operators.
The Siberian Fair's major attraction was the first
commercial An-3 airplane. The plane was brought on display
by NPO Polyet, a large aviation and space corporation from Omsk famous for its Kosmos-series launch vehicles
and military satellites. In frame of conversion from military to civilian products, the enterprise teamed up with
Antonov design house on the An-3 and An-74 projects. The An-3 is produced from a low-hour An-2 airframe by
replacing Shvetsov ASh-62IR radial piston of 1000 hp with the OMKB TVD-20 turboprop of 1375 hp. Other
changes are a revised cockpit and a modern avionics set, as well as an insertion in the nose section to cater
for a notable difference in weight between the ancient ASh-62 and modern TVD-20. The latter engine acquired
certification earlier this year and is being mastered in production at Omsk-based NPO Baranov. NPO Polyet says
it has 19 firm orders for this year and requests for 50 more for 2001. The first aircraft is finishing its flight trials
before delivery to Evenkia air detachment. Next in the line are regional airlines from Norilsk and Tuva. NPO
Polyet is considering setting An-3 production in the case the market demand proves substantial. Prices for
An-2 conversion into An-3 fall in somewhere between $0.4 and 0.45 million.
Ukraine has offered China cooperation in the effort to upgrade Chinese aircraft Y-5, a modification of An-2,
Xinhua news agency has quoted Andriy Savenko, chief public relations officer for the Antonov Design Bureau,
as saying. Savenko says the upgraded version of An-2 - AN-3 - is 50 percent more efficient. Besides,
its flying range and capacity have been increased by 20 percent.
Antonov An-2, Ubiquitous, most versatile and important plane in postwar
Soviet Union, the most amazing
example of soviet air transport, most constructed airplane in the wolrd
From a 1996 Smithsonian Air Space Magazine......
Airplanes whose years in production qualify them for the all-time top 10 list.
Number 3: Antonov An-2
47 years (1949-ongoing)
If ever an airplane was born struggling for survival, it was the
Antonov An-2. Even in 1949, this tail-dragging, single-engine
biplane was an anachronism in a world of increasingly sleek,
tricycle-gear monoplanes. Survive it did, however, to become
possibly the biggest selling, longest-lived transport in the world.
Manufacture began in Russia in 1949, but the 14-seat
mini-airliner continued in production in Poland as the PZL Mielec
An-2 Antek. Production continues today in China, where the An-2
became the SAMC Y-5B, an agricultural model. More than
36,000 of these aeronautical oddities have been built, and
they've been used for just about everything. Military and
commercial passenger transport, cargo hauling, marine biology
research, paratrooper operations, ag-plane, airshow
attraction--the An-2 has done it all, on land and on water. In
recent years a few have even come to the United States, mostly
as curiosities. With its bruising 1,000-hp radial engine, wide
body (almost the same width as a DC-3), and STOL
characteristics, the An-2/Y-5B is an airplane for all seasons, from
Mongolia to North America.
Over its more than 60 years in aviation business,
the Mielec Factory has been engaged in
production of worldwide popular aircraft, such as the Antonov-design An-2 utility plane, a
record-breaker with the figure of over 12 thousand units produced. Even though its production
was terminated back in 1991, the type invariably enjoys affection of its fans, as proved by
annual fly-in jamborees of its operators. In 1997 an An-2 successfully completed a
round-the-world flight, quite an exploit for this vigorous "oldie".
Note: Pilot was Waldemar Misczkurka
By T.A. BADGER
Associated Press Writer
ANCHORAGE (AP) -- When last we left the North Pole, five adventurers
were waving goodbye to their airplane, which was mired wing-deep in soft ice
and slowly sinking to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
But then last week's hard-luck tale took an unexpected turn -- the plane
refused to succumb to an all-but-certain fate.
Anchorage pilot Ron Sheardown, who owns the Antonov-2 biplane, said his
property is firmly frozen into drifting ice at the top of the world. He's trying to
put together a rescue.
''We think it's in there good enough that we can make a run up there and get it
out,'' he said Tuesday.
Obstacles are many, with time and money leading the list.
Sheardown said any effort to liberate the Russian-designed, Polish-built
aircraft would have to be wrapped up within a couple of weeks because the
ice is moving away from the pole.
And, he said, salvation won't come cheap.
''The plane is worth $150,000,'' he said. ''That's probably what it would
(to recover it).''
Sheardown and his companions had to be rescued from the North Pole on
May 16 after the Antonov-2 dropped through unexpectedly weak ice while
landing to do some sightseeing.
The men -- among them Dick Rutan, who co-piloted the first flight around the
world without stopping or refueling -- were stranded at the pole for about 12
hours before being picked up by a plane dispatched from northern Canada.
As they flew away, the 10,000-pound plane was steadily sinking through the
ice under its own weight. They were sure it was heading to its final resting
place under 13,000 feet of ocean.
But in the remote Canadian outpost of Resolute, the men met a pair of British
marines who'd finished a 10-week marathon hike to the pole only hours after
the Sheardown group was airlifted out.
The bedraggled marines said they were shocked to see the Antonov lying
there, according to Rutan.
''They said, 'My God, the plane sent to get us crashed!''' Rutan said from his
home in Mojave, Calif. Reddish flare residue on the ice looked like blood to
their exhausted eyes.
The marines' plane soon arrived and its pilot checked out the Antonov. He
noticed some sea water had flowed up on top of the ice and covered the
biplane's lower wings before freezing, Sheardown said. The plane had been
fused to the ice.
When he heard that his plane wasn't a goner, Sheardown started thinking
''We need to get a plane capable of getting there, and it has to have skis,'' he
said. ''We need planking, airbags and a tripod for lifting. We probably need a
couple of tons of gear.''
The idea is to erect the tripod over the Antonov, hitch the plane to it with
cables and gradually free the ice-locked wings. Then they would slowly inflate
the airbags under the plane, lifting it inch by inch until it was clear of the ice.
Sheardown said he's talking to Russian and Canadian outfits experienced in
polar operations, but hasn't lined up anything yet. Rutan says he's using his
connections to try to shake loose some sponsorship money.
''I'm beating the bushes to find a documentary-film crew to help fund it and
have kind of an exclusive,'' he said.
Another big problem for any rescue effort is keeping track of the plane's
location. The polar ice can move several miles in a day.
Sheardown said the plane's position could be monitored by polar-orbiting
satellites. But that view is not shared by a leading scientist in the field.
''I'd tell him 'Your chances are remote,''' said Roger DeAbreu, science
projects manager at the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa. ''It's fair to call it a
needle in a haystack.''
Most of the satellites can't see through the clouds that cover the North Pole
nearly all of the time, DeAbreu said. There are two satellites aloft that use
cloud-penetrating technology, but at least one of them doesn't fly directly over
the pole, he said.
If Sheardown could calculate the circulation pattern for that particular chunk of
ice since the crash, DeAbreau said, he might be able to make a rough guess at
That assumes, he said, that the plane-bearing ice doesn't break apart and
dump its cargo into the sea or that the plane isn't crushed in a collision between
Sheardown understands he's undertaking an expensive gamble, but rates his
chances higher than does DeAbreu.
''I'd say it's 50-50,'' he said. ''But it's worth a shot.''
Note: Ron was unable to obtain backing for the recovery but
did make unsuccessful attempts
to locate the ice flow carrying his AN-2
Note: This led the U.S. Armed Forces to contract a couple of
AN-2 owner's in the U.S. to fly test flights so that they could obtain
IR and Radar
signatures of the AN-2..... I was fortunate to participate in one of these test flights.