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Aeroflot Early Developments 1917-1945

Civil aviation in the Soviet Union began with the Russian Revolution in 1917, when the new Bolshevik government saw aviation as one way to modernize a backward country where most of the population were rural peasants. The new communist leaders believed that aviation would be the most efficient way to transport both people and supplies across the 12 time zones of the vast country. In April 1918, the new government decided to study the problem of civilian air transport, but that effort faltered for two more years as a civil war raged across the country. Only in 1921 did the government's Main Administration of the Aerial Fleet begin a few modest routes across the country. Like many other European countries, Soviet pilots used surplus military planes from World War I. Pilots flew aviation designer Igor Sikorsky's Ilya Muromets bombers converted to civilian use. These planes carried passengers and mail between cities such as Kharkov in Ukraine to Moscow, stopping at least three times on each trip. Lack of money forced the government to end these flights, and it took help from Germany to jumpstart regularly scheduled passenger service.

Three undertakings in 1923 were Dobrolet, Ukrovdukhput, and Zakavia. In March 1923, the Soviet government created a joint stock company named the Volunteer Association of the Aerial Fleet, or Dobrolet. It was the nation's first major civil air organization. Four months later, Dobrolet opened a regular air service using German Junkers F-13s along a 250-mile route between the cities of Moscow and Nizhnii Novgorod (later known as Gorky). Services on these flights were poor, and the passengers had to suffer many indignities such as loud noise, late flights, cold temperatures, and poor in-flight service. Despite these problems, Dobrolet expanded through the decade, as it extended its service to far off places into Siberia and even Outer Mongolia.

By the late 1920s the Bolshevik government began to view corporations like Dobrolet with great suspicion. The communist leaders were intent on wiping out private corporate ownership. Subsequently, the three became merged as in 1930. As a result, on October 29, 1930, the government combined Dobrolet, Ukrovdukhput, and Zakavia with the government's Main Administration of the Civil Air Fleet into one state-owned organization - Dobroflot. On March 26, 1932, the Civil Air Fleet was renamed Aeroflot, a word created by combining "Aero" with "flot," the Russian word for fleet. By this time, Aeroflot had about 200 aircraft.

In November 1921, a joint German-Russian company named Deruluft formally began service between Konigsberg in Germany and Moscow using Dutch Fokker F.III planes. Deruluft enjoyed remarkable success, boosted by the strong cooperation between the two countries through the 1920s. By 1932-1933, the company was flying more than 700 flights a year and carrying more than 5,000 passengers. Dereluft was the first Soviet passenger service company, but it did not have a long history. As relations between Germany and Russia began to deteriorate when the Nazis came to power, Deruluft no longer proved economically viable. On March 31, 1937, the company was dissolved. Deruluft used a mix of German and Soviet aircraft such as the Dornier Merkur, the Rohrbach Roland, the Junkers Ju-52, and the ANT-9. The latter was a nine-passenger, three-engine plane developed by perhaps the most famous of all Soviet aviation designers, Andrey Tupolev. A towering figure in Russian aviation history, Tupolev established one of the main traditions of Soviet aviation, that of designing aircraft suitable for both military and civil uses.

In order to reduce its reliance on foreign aircraft, the Soviet government decided in 1935 to use only domestically designed transport aircraft for air service. By the mid-1930s, such Soviet workhorses as Kalinin's K-5, Tupolev's ANT-9, and Bartini's Steel-7 began wide use as part of Aeroflot. One of the most spectacular Russian aircraft of the period was Tupolev's ANT-20, a giant six-engine airplane that could carry more than 70 passengers. One foreign aircraft that remained popular, despite the government order, was the American DC-3, license-built in Russia under the name Li-2.

Aeroflot had three main goals: to operate an air transport system; to provide different types of services such as aerial surveying, forest-fire fighting, and agricultural spraying; and to promote educational, recreational, and athletic activities for the public. Aeroflot, in fact, represented all aviation activities in the country that were not military. Civil aviation in Russian in the 1930s remained, however, closely tied to the military. For example, Aeroflot was considered to be a reserve for the Air Force's Military Transport Aviation. Through most of its existence, a military officer was the chief of Aeroflot.

For Aeroflot in the 1930s, the most important service was as a freight and mail carrier. In 1939, in fact, Aeroflot surpassed the United States in terms of its volume of air freight, which made up 85 percent of all Aeroflot services. For the most part, passengers were not paying "private" individuals, but rather government or military officials. In one sense, civil aviation in the USSR served a very different purpose than in almost all other countries in the world. In the Soviet Union, civil aviation was less a travel service than a way for the central government to economically develop the remote areas of the vast country. Aeroflot's service by the end of the 1930s spread to almost all of the Soviet Union, from Ukraine all the way to Siberia and desolate Central Asia.

Service throughout the 1930s continued to be poor. There were very few flights during the winter to remote places, mostly because of the poor weather. Although the country had as many as 150 airports, many were simply primitive fields with unsurfaced runways. The aircraft were often obsolete, and the Soviet government rarely showed any interest in improving service. Passenger fares were also rather steep for the average Soviet person. For example, a flight from Khabarovsk to Okha could cost as much as 350 rubles in the 1930s-half of an average worker's monthly salary. International routes were not a priority for Aeroflot, partly because of the xenophobia of the Stalinist regime. It was only in 1936 that the Soviets opened a Moscow-Prague route, and then eventually one to Stockholm in Sweden. These flights were only a small fraction of Aeroflot's overall service. By the beginning of World War II, Aeroflot was mainly a domestic freight career.

In WWII, Aeroflot was placed under the State Defense Committee, and its whole organization was devoted principally to war objectives. Not only were Aeroflot aircraft and personnel organized into large military formations, but even before the war, SAAF took over much of the Civil Air Fleet and its training system for combat training of SAAF personnel. Some Aeroflot planes were used for critical supply of defense plants. Much of civil aviation was under SAAF operational control and was used as needed for airborne troop lift, search and rescue work, troop air resupply and bombardment missions. They even refueled Soviet armor on some deep penetrations by the latter. Aerofiot pilots "flew four-and-one-half million hours, transported more that 2.3 million people, among theni 330,000 wounded," flew 40,000 partisan support missions and dropped 37,000 paratroopers behind enemy lines; 15000 pilots, crewmen, and political workers of the Civil Air Fleet were decorated and six Aerofiot units were awarded the "Guards" title. In WWII, the Soviets squeezed just about all that was possible out of their civil transport. Its close integration with the rest of the Red Army made the job of the Soviet strategist and commander much easier."

During World War II, Soviet civil aviation was infused with new technology, consisting of transport airplanes, such as the American DC-3 and DC-4, supplied under the lend-lease agreement. As a result, Aeroflot experienced rapid growth in the postwar years. Between 1950 and 1955, a major route expansion occurred when the capitals of the constituent republics and major administrative centers were interconnected by air service. By 1955 the Soviet Union had established air links with neighboring communist countries in Europe and Asia.

The postwar period is characterized by the rapid development of jet aircraft. Scientific and technical progress has permitted to create aircraft flying at supersonic speeds, a few hours to fly from the 1st of the continent to the other. A huge development in the world have passenger air transport. Were created huge traffic and passenger aircraft. Our country is in this construction is always at the forefront. There are whole families of Anova, IL's, Too. Among them, for example, the An-22. "Antey" one of the largest aircraft in the world, handsome IL-62, a highly reliable Tu-154.

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Page last modified: 29-05-2016 19:39:30 ZULU