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Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin

Sergey Ilyushin [March 30, 1894 – February 9, 1977] was a Soviet aircraft designer. He designed the Il-2 strike aircraft and Il-4 bomber, the most used Soviet war planes of World War II. Ilyushin was born a peasant and died a three-time Hero of Socialist Labor.

One of the most well known Russian aircraft designers was born into a poor peasant family in the village of Dilialevo in the Vologda region. He was the youngest of eleven children, two of which died in early childhood. His parents were nearly illiterate, but owned a small and motley home library: a copy of the Bible, the prayer-book, several essays of The European Messenger magazine and a book about the exotic southern land of Abyssinia. Ilyushin learned to read, and at the age of eight continued his education in the local elementary school. Every day he had to walk two and a half kilometers to study Russian, geography, math, and religion. In his third year of classes he had to leave school to help his family in the field.

In 1909, Ilyushin left home in search of work. There were not many jobs available for a 15-year-old peasant: Ilyushin was a roustabout on a plant near the city of Kostroma, then later a digger in the city of Vologda. Being a janitor at a paint factory in St Petersburg, he met his some of his fellow-villagers, and they told him about a more profitable job opportunity. The All-Russian Aviation Weeks was scheduled to occur in the September of 1910, and it was necessary to turn the local hippodrome into an airfield and to help during the festival.

In September-October 1910, the first All-Russian aeronautical festival took place at the base of the airfield, where the achievements of national aviation were demonstrated. It is this episode that will play a key role in his fate. For weeks Ilyushin cleaned the field and helped to assemble and equip the aircraft. As he watched flying contests and worked in repair shops, Ilyushin grew to like planes. After work, he returned to the room he rented together with six other people. His neighbor, who was a student, taught him some mathematics and physics.

However, at this stage of his life S.V. Ilyushin continued the search for decent work. The festival concluded in October, and Ilyushin had to look for job again. At first he returned to his home village to work as a delivery boy for the creamery, but then left for Siberia to work on railroad construction. Eventually he headed to Revel (now Tallinn, Estonia) to work construction.

In 1914 Ilyushin was called up for military service. At first he served in the infantry, then, thanks to his literacy, he became a clerk at the local command headquarters. He got his lucky break when the authorities received an order to make aviators out of seven soldiers. Ilyushin volunteered and was sent to St Petersburg. There he worked at the airfield, and rose all the way from engine mechanic’s assistant to the post of chief mechanic.

In 1916 Russia was still involved in the Great Wa, and the situation on the front was critical. Because of this, the government agreed to accept lower-class citizens to aviation schools. Ilyushin applied, and 1917 received his pilot license. He had rarely used it, and his son Vladimir later admitted that Ilyushin was not very good at flying.

In 1917, the Bolsheviks came to power and the country was thrown into the fire of the civil war. The majority of factories stopped working. The airfield was closed: there were no newly produced aircraft to test. Ilyushin left St Petersburg and moved to Vologda, where he headed the industry department of the National Economy Council. This job had nothing to do with aviation: he was in charge of the local saw-mills, mills, and creameries.

“From the first days of the creation of Soviet power, I took its side” - Ilyushin supported the Soviet regime sincerely, and in 1918 joined the Communist party. The next year, he was called to serve in the Red Army and sent to the city of Serpukhov, to the Red Air Force headquarters. He was to participate in the Civil War as a pilot, but it appeared that the Bolsheviks did not have enough war planes. The young Red Army suffered from a perpetual shortage of everything, from armor and ammunition all the way to clothes.

Ilyushin became a mechanic, and spent three years repairing the Red Army planes while researching the enemy aircraft: the monarchists (or "Whites") had formed an alliance with the USA and Great Britain, so foreign aircraft were often delivered to Ilyushin's workshop. In 1921 he was the head of the aviation division of the 9th Kuban army on the Caucasus front. When the army gained enough victories in Georgia, this division was sent to Moscow.

From August 1918 to the call in the Red Army in May 1919 - Head of the Industry Department of the Vologda Council of Municipal Economy. From May 1919 - aircraft mechanic, senior aircraft mechanic, military commissar of the 6th aviation train-workshop of the 6th Army of the Northern Front, 2nd Aviation Park of the Caucasian Front. In February 1921 - October 1921 - head of the 15th train of the 9th Kuban Army of the Caucasian Front and the Separate Caucasian Army.

While in Moscow, Ilyushin learned about the Red Air Force Engineering Institute and decided to get a higher education. The commandant approved his request, and on September 21, 1921 he attended his first lecture. Ilyushin entered the Institute of Engineers of the Red Air Fleet (from August 8, 1922 - the Academy of Air Fleet, from April 1925 - the Air Force Academy) named after Professor N.Ye. Zhukovsky. In spite of having great professional experience, Ilyushin mostly received "C" grades during his entrance exams: he had been barely acquainted with the necessary theoretical subjects.

In 1923, the student Sergey Ilyushin designed his first aircraft. This glider was far from perfect and did not pass its first flying test: because of poor balance it could fly only with a heavy hammer attached to its head. Ilyushin did not give up, and soon one of his gliders took part in the international glider pilot contest in Germany.

In 1926, Ilyushin graduated and filled the chairman’s post at the research and technology committee of the Air Force. There he studied global aircraft design technologies and developed the mission requirements for Soviet aircraft. Ilyushin liked this job, but always desired to be a designer.

In 1931, his request was fulfilled and he headed the construction department of the Central Aero-hydrodynamics Institute. In 1933 he was transferred to the Menzhinsky Aircraft Factory, where he led the central construction bureau.

During the work on new types of aircraft the specialization of design teams was growing, it was getting complicated to manage the team. At the instance of S.V.Ilyushin, on the 13th of January 1933 P.I.Baranov signed an order on division of the Central Design bureau of TsAGI and establishment of the Central Design bureau of the experimental manufacturing of light aircraft. Manufacturing of heavy aircraft of different purpose was charged to Design division of the Sector of Experimental Aircraft Engineering of TsAGI under A.N.Tupolev management.

Ilyshin’s subordinates remember him as a demanding, but fair chief. The Soviet aviation industry was young, and so were the majority of the factory workers and engineers: the average age for a worker was 22. Many of them lost their parents during the civil war, so Ilyushin seemed like a father for them, while the collective functioned as their second family.

The design bureau, founded by Ilyushin, was few in numbers at the beginning. Sergey Vladimirovich considered that even major work can be made by small force, and he aimed for the minimum cost of the experimental engineering. One of the principles of Ilyushin’s management system was his personal participation in solving vital and other issues. S.V.Ilyushin organized a simple system of subordination in his team – every senior employee coordinates the work of minor employees, with the absolutely clear assignment of work. He could manage to organize the working process in such a manner, that everybody could feel their significance and work as the equal right participant of the common cause. And this was one of the secrets of such successful management. The other one is in the system of other aspects organization – from the enterprise structure to the system of relationship.

One of S.V.Ilyushin’s basic principles as a manager was the one that the growth of every designer implies not the social ladder promotion, but the skills mastering and the knowledge accumulation. He did not only stated this principle, but also confirmed it by his actions, providing actual (not formal) conditions in the team, encouraged and recognized the workers (morally and in terms of money) according to this principle. For him it was knowledge and creative effort what was important, but not the official position of employees. Such approach to the growth and conditions of the stuff resulted in the steadiness of the main part of the team. Ilyushin’s employees didn’t leave the company even if they received rather attractive offers from other companies.

The General designer could inspire people with his enthusiasm without any agitation, get obsessed with his idea. Without speaking a lot he generously shared his knowledge, giving all his time and efforts and perfectly combining solving of engineering issues with training specialists. Being quiet and at the same time rather easy-going he could get young engineers interested with particular tasks and helped with their solving. For young specialists Ilyushin worked out “A short designer’s manual”, wh ere he described the main points of design of aircraft parts and joints. There is not only the full list of all the terms important for design in the manual, but there is also a focus on the necessity of the system approach to projecting and the significance of complex analysis of all factors.

Sergey Vladimirovich brought up foremost specialists of high qualification and perfect ability to work, who have their own style of work. It is widely known in the aviation ranks, and Ilyushin’s designers have authority. His great merit is in forming and training a team of mates and enthusiasts, the team of masters who are known for their perfect professionalism.

In 1935, Ilyushin's bureau built its first plane: an experimental bomber with a wooden body, the CKB-26. The next year, a pilot named Vladimir Kokkinaki set the first Soviet aviation records with this plane: he lifted 500 kilos of cargo to a height of 12,816 km, and 2 tons to a height of 11, 005 km. This record was broken in 1946 by USA aviators on a Boeing B-29.

Sergey Ilyushin On the eve of the war, Soviet attack aircraft had vulnerable R-zet, I-153 and I-15 bis aircraft at their disposal. Ilyushin was given the task of armoring the Soviet attack aircraft to the maximum. To make the aircraft lighter, Ilyushin refused hinged armor and invented an armored box, which was made of steel sheets up to eight millimeters thick. On October 2 1939, the prototype of the Il-2 attack plane performed its maiden flight. In February 1941, mass production of this aircraft began, and in same year on June 22, World War II reached the Soviet Union.

During the fighting, the need to increase the crew of the IL-2 to two people became apparent. In February 1942, Ilyushin set out to Stalin all his demands, and the Supreme Commander ordered: “Do what you want, but immediately give the front two-seater aircraft.

“We worked as obsessed,” recalled Sergei Vladimirovich. - They slept, ate right in the design bureau. They racked their brains: how, without changing technology, switch to the manufacture of machines with a double cab. " In record time, without stopping the conveyor, a new technology was developed for the manufacture of two-seater aircraft, which were successfully applied on the Central Front in October 1942. And on the Kursk Bulge already in sufficient quantities there were new, even more terrible for the enemy double attack aircraft with two thirty-seven-millimeter guns.

Hitler, choking with anger, demanded from his aircraft designers: “Give me German IL-2!” But during the whole war the Germans were not able to do this. Neither the Junkers 87, nor the Focke-Wulf 190, nor the Heinkel 129 were able to approach the “black death” neither in speed, nor in range, nor in their amazing survivability. On the Kursk Bulge, the “panthers” and “tigers” roared with a death roar when the Ilyushin attack aircraft from heaven rained down the fire of their guns, piercing the upper armor. Then our pilots first used cumulative bombs.

The Il-2, often called “The Hunchback” for the shape of its fuselage, went down in history as the most used Soviet plane of World War II. The USSR war pilots considered it not very mobile, but hard to destroy. Its other nickname, “The Flying Tank", proves this point. The enemy was generous with nicknames for the design, too: the Nazis called it "The Butcher", "The Chopper”, and even “The Black Death”.

When creating the Il-2 aircraft, Ilyushin was able to solve for the first time many scientific and technical problems, including using armor as the power structure of the aircraft, finding technology for manufacturing an armored hull with a large curvature of contours, etc. The history of the creation of the IL-2 aircraft clearly shows the exceptional personal qualities of Sergey Vladimirovich: the designer’s talent, conviction and tenacity in achieving the goal, an extraordinary gift of foresight. It was the most massive combat aircraft in history. In total, more than 36 thousand Il-2 attack aircraft were produced.

Il-2’s "brother”, a long-range bomber called the Il-4, participated in the shelling of Berlin in August of 1941. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, had sworn that no bomb would fall on the German capital, and the Il-4 was the first plane to disprove his words and signal the end of the Third Reich.

During the war years, the main forces of the OKB were thrown to improve the attack aircraft, but Ilyushin continued to work on the creation of new bombers, attack aircraft and passenger aircraft. The first Soviet front-line jet bomber to enter the Air Force was the IL-28. It was distinguished by high flight tactical data and technology, well adapted to mass serial production.

By the end of 1943, when things were going well on the fronts and Soviet aviation completely dominated the air, Ilyushin was already working on the creation of the IL-12 twin-engine transport and passenger aircraft. There was a need to create an aircraft as soon as possible, capable of flying faster and over long distances compared with the passenger Li-2 - then the main aircraft of the Civil Air Fleet. As a result, in the first post-war years, starting in 1947, twin-engine piston IL-12 cruised on the civilian airlines of the USSR, and subsequently, IL-14 aircraft and its modifications. For their time they were great cars, economical and quite safe in flight.

Following IL-12, a new large passenger aircraft, IL-18, with four piston engines, was created in the Ilyushin Design Bureau. The aircraft successfully passed all tests and became the main, most massive Aeroflot aircraft. Right up to the 1970’s, the Il-18 was the most commonly used airliner in the USSR, even seeing flight time in the 1980’s, but only in emergency cases. Several Il-18’s evacuated people from Chernobyl and from the Armenian city of Spitak, which was destroyed by an earthquake.

The next stage in Ilyushin’s creative activity is the Il-62 passenger transcontinental airliner, which appeared on the air lines in 1967 and its Il-62M modification, which became Aeroflot's flagship. It is noteworthy that even such a very large aircraft retained the simplicity and ease of control inherent in all "silts." This is one of the manifestations of S.V. Ilyushin’s creative style, a style which is characterized by a desire for optimal design, persistence in achieving maximum reliability and safety of the aircraft, combined with high economy or combat efficiency.

The distinguish feature of Ilyushin creative activity was the simplicity of project solutions. In his memories General designer, academician A.S.Yakovlev, emphasises this feature, calling Ilyushin “master of simple solutions”. Of course, this “simplicity” demanded great creative effort and absolutely clear vision of the service life of the aircraft designed. Every aircraft created in the design bureau under guidance of Ilyushin embodies the general designer’s creative features. The skill of finding technically simple solution of difficult and sometimes controversial problems is a talent, the style of S.V.Ilyushin, the designer and the scientist, the engineer and creator of the aviation technology. With this skill he could produce the aircraft which played significant role in development of the USSR Air Force and provided execution of the large part of the civil air transport work. They took the rightful place in the history of national aviation.

S.V.Ilyushin succeeded due to solving technical tasks in terms of novel scientific achievements, by brave implementation of the new and due to his exceptional vision. Sergey Vladimirovich developed many design principles and methods and created his own design style, his school in aircraft construction. Each constructor usually has its own specialization. In aviation, the creation of each type of machine has its own specifics. The collective, which was created and raised by S.V. Ilyushin, can rightfully be called a collective of a wide aviation profile. Attack aircraft, bombers, passenger aircraft, their numerous modifications - that is what Academician S.V. Ilyushin and his team worked on for many years.

Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin had lots of followers who were and who are the fundamental core of the design bureau. Primarily, his follower, Genrikh Vasilyevich Novozhilov, General Designer in 1970-2005. He keeps and develops the main traditions of Ilyushin School. Forming his company Sergey Vladimirovich tried to employ beginners rather than experienced specialists. These trainees and mates, who worked with Ilyushin for several decades, are often called “Ilyushin’s Guard”. Indeed, these are the specialists he relied upon in any situation, with whom he created.

Nearly 40 years passed from the light 100 kg planer to a 160 tons intercontinental airliner. Dozens of aircraft were designed, built and flight tested under the guidance of S.V.Ilyushin. Many of these appeared unequalled in their flight performance, simplicity of design.

In 1970, Ilyushin retired, dying seven years later. He lived a difficult and interesting life, but did not leave any memoirs: he was sure that nobody would read them. For his achievements, he received seven Stalin Prizes – more than anyone else in the USSR. His son Vladimir did not follow in his father's footsteps, but walked a nearby path: he was a test-pilot, and eventually also given the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

Sergey Ilyushin is buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2019 16:40:11 ZULU