After the war, Oleg Antonov developed a new aircraft whose motto could be: "do everything flying everywhere. Use of the simple and reliable construction with powerful mechanization which includes automatic leading-edge slats and flaperons, provides aircraft stability on big angles of attack and full impossibility to bring to stalling with extended flaps. Even with abandoned control the aircraft recovered from the spiral to the horizontal flight regime. The distinctive feature of the AN-2 aircraft is its simplicity, high reliability, unpretentiousness and capability to operate from the unprepared airfields of only 500 m length.
The world's largest single engine biplane, the 1000 hp radial engine and 60 foot wingspan allow short field take offs and landings. The AN-2 Colt provides combat support and combat service support to include reconnaissance, airborne or airland resupply as well as airborne insertion of detachments. The crew consists of two pilots and can accomodate eight passengers. The AN-2 is night capable but the cockpit is not adapted for NVG use.
An-2 was initially developed as an agricultural aircraft. Hence, the initial project name was SKh-1 (Selskoe Khozaistvo - Agriculture). The first prototype flew on August 31, 1947, and the aircraft went in production in 1949. Originally mocked as "obsolete at birth" because of its biplane construction, the aircaft surpassed all others in durability and reliablity, and served with more than forty nations. Regional and shorthaul Aeroflot routes received the new Antonov An-2 biplane, which contributed so much to linking and developing the rural communities across the Soviet Union. The ubiquitous biplane operated in every Aeroflot Directorate in every role a multi-purpose aircraft could possibly be designed for, and it stayed that way into the 21st century.
Operation of the AN-2 started rapidly, in several spheres of national economy of the USSR at that. The most mass use the aircraft initially called CX-1found performing aviation chemical works in agriculture and forestry. They included extranutrition by applying mineral fertilizers, struggle with plant pests by dispersion and spraying of pesticides, service of livestock sector by sowing forage herbs, extranutrition of pastures, extermination of carnivorous animals. The AN-2 used for sowing crops, defoliation cotton and to dessication of sun-flowers and paddy. Many machines of the zero and first series were passed to the Ministry of geology for servicing expeditions performed geological and prospecting works.
Range of use of the AN-2 widened every year. In Nenets national district when helping hunters it explored areas of animal and birds habitation. The AN-2 performed aerial photography to define speeds and directions of rivers flow; transported people, animals, mail, different cargoes; did aviation monitoring including flying around gas and oil pipelines, electricity networks as well as participated in liquidation of anthropogenic catastrophes. The AN-2-s were used very intensively when building of Baikal-Amur trunk road.
This Antonov biplane made a major contribution into maintenance of health of people. The AN-2-s transported sick men, delivered doctors and medicines, struggled with carriers of infectious diseases. In 1971 inUkraine only those machines performed 8993 sanitary flights, transported more than 860 seriously ill men. But what cannot be ignored is the role of “Annushka” (the AN-2) in development of aviation kinds of sports and pilots training. The AN-2-s were used for training flight crews and dropping of the parachutists and for towage of the gliders – up to 5 units simultaneously! Many record flights of the Soviet glider pilots were established with the help of the AN-2. Hundreds of thousand of sportsmen and future pilots made their first jumps from that machine namely.
The AN-2 multipurpose biplane is the world record-holder on duration of serial production. More than 15, 500 of the AN-2 aircraft have been produced by the plants of the former USSR, Poland and China. Production in the Soviet Union of the piston aircraft biplane An-2 was terminated in 1962 (their further production was under the Soviet license in Poland). The aircraft is still under production in China. More than six thousand of the AN-2 aircraft are being successfully operated in different geographic areas: in the mountains and deserts, in the savannah of Africa, South American selva, in the Arctic and Antarctic zones, over different water spaces: rivers, lakes, sea coasts and in many other difficult for access areas.
Due to its outstanding parameters the aircraft was used in more than 40 spheres and had many modifications. The most known of them were:
- AN-2T – transport aircraft (1.5 t of cargo)
- AN-2TP – transport-passenger (10 folded seats)
- AN-2TD– transport-landing
- AN-2P – passenger (10 soft seats)
- AN-2SX– agricultural (tank on 1.400 l)
- AN-2M – agricultural with increased volume (tank on 2.000 l)
- AN-2F – night reconnaissance and (AN-2HAKB) – fire spotter aircraft
- AN-2S – sanitary (to 6 stretchers)
- AN-2 – with ski landing gear
- AN-2G – for forest protection
- AN-2 – with aviation firefighting sprayer
- AN-2GP–forest fire aircraft (on a basis of AN-2B with filling the floats with water)
- AN-2V (AN-4) – hydroplane with float-type landing gear
- AN-2ZA (AN-6)) –sounder of atmosphere and the high-altitude one (AN-2V)
The AN-2 is still recognized as an outstanding in its class machine and has many sincere admirers on all continents. It is used as sports, transports, passenger one and is even in the Air Forces of many countries. On the information on 2007 more than 4.000 the AN-2-s are successfully operated. Many of them fly for 40 years and more and have perfect flying form.
When he was asked “Why had the AN-2 got such a wide use?” O.K.Antonov answered: “I think it is due to its flight parameters first of all: short take-off and landing distances, simplicity of piloting and operation. This machine is un-demanding to the airfields”.
The Y-5 is Chinese copy of the Antonov An-2. China began producing the AN-2 aircraft in the early 70s and it is still used by the North Korean military for troop transport.
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