I’ve posted about the giant Antonov An-22 Antei turboprop transport in the past, particularly an incident in Angola during the 1970’s that almost turned the Cold War hot. That caused a lot of consternation and monkeyhouse in certain circles at the time.
The An-22 has long since been retired from front-line military service in the Russian Air Force. However, Antonov Airlines, a heavy air transport division established by Antonov in the Ukraine, has restored one that was grounded for seven years, and returned it to service as a civilian freight aircraft. I find this absurdly pleasing for some reason. The sight of that lumbering propeller-driven giant has always made me smile. It’s like a monster that shouldn’t logically be able to fly . . . but it does. Also, the An-22 is still a very capable aircraft, particularly given its rough-field capabilities. It can deliver up to 70 tons into dirt airstrips if necessary, a capability matched only by the much more modern (and much more expensive) Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.
Courtesy of Wirecutter, here’s a video clip of the civilian An-22, landing and taking off at Ostende in Belgium. Watch it in full-screen mode to get an idea of the size of this giant plane.
Note the huge Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprop engines, the most powerful of their class ever developed, and the massive contra-rotating propellers. The same engines were fitted to the famous Tupolev Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber and its variants.
You’ll have noticed how the plane has to “feel” for the runway, easing down gently, because the pilot is a long way above and ahead of the landing gear. In the clip below, you can see over the pilot’s shoulder as he lands the same aircraft in Zurich, Switzerland, last year. Note how he has to almost wrestle the plane down, constantly making corrections to its flight path. That’s 1950’s-vintage control technology for you, very much more demanding than the computer-assisted controls of modern aircraft. Furthermore, the relatively small vertical stabilizer and rudder surfaces (in comparison to the overall size of the plane) make for sluggish directional response. It’s clearly a handful to fly.
And here’s the same landing in Zurich, filmed through the glass nose of the An-22. That’s a relic of its military design. The Soviet Union insisted that all its transport aircraft had to be able to drop parachutists and supplies to its army, if necessary; so they all had windows in the underside of the nose, to allow the navigator to take ground observations, and to make it easier to drop troops and supplies right on the mark. Some British transports of the 1950’s and 1960’s (e.g. the Blackburn Beverley, Armstrong-Whitworth Argosy, and Handley Page Hastings) also had a glass panel in the nose, for similar purposes.
An elephant of the skies! Warms the cockles of my heart, so to speak . . .