February 2013

February 2013Russian Helicopter Pioneers

As a student in Moscow, Boris N. Yuriev (1889–1957) constructed one of the first single main rotor/tail rotor helicopters in 1912; during ground tests, however, the main rotor shaft failed due to flexure. He later became revered as one of the greatest Russian scientists in helicopter aerodynamics and the founder of Soviet helicopter production.

In 1925, Yuriev was put in charge of helicopter research at the Central Aero-Hydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI). The first flying Soviet helicopter was the 1-EA – it reached an altitude of 610 m (2,000 ft) and had an endurance of 14 minutes.

Ivan Bratukhin (1903–1985) worked on early autogyro and helicopter research under Yuriev, including the 11-EA PV, an improved version that demonstrated nearly 1 hour of endurance with two crew members. After the War, Bratukhin continued development, resulting in the G-3, G-4, B-5, and B-11 lateral twin helicopters. However, performance was hampered by vibration.

Alexander S. Yakovlev (1906-1989) was a famed fighter aircraft designer during the War. His first helicopter was the coaxial Yak-M11FR-1, the name coming from the 140 hp M-11FR-1 engine. It was also referred to as the Yak-EG (Eksperimentalnyi Gelikopter). The helicopter was tested in 1947-48, but it was decided that the coaxial rotor layout should be developed by the Kamov bureau. Yakovlev built a single-main helicopter (Yak-100) and a tandem (Yak-24), with as many as 100 built.

The first successful Soviet rotary wing aircraft, the KaSkr-1 autogyro, was designed by Nikolai Kamov (1902–1973) and Nikolai Skrzhinskii, and made its first flight in September 1929. Mikhail Mil (1909-1970) also worked on the project. The three designers were assigned to TsAGI in 1931. After the war, Kamov and Mil became the heads of the two preeminent Soviet helicopter design bureaus that still thrive today.

Mil developed the Mi-1, the first Soviet helicopter to go into quantity production. First flight was in September 1948 and the first of some 2,600 deliveries began in 1951. Meanwhile, Kamov developed the Ka-10 coaxial helicopter first flew on August 30, 1949 and paved the way for the Soviet Navy’s first production helicopter, the Ka-15.

By Mike Hirschberg

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