I’m fascinated to learn that a carbon fiber version of the 70-year-old Antonov An-2 biplane has been developed in Russia. It made its first flight just last week, and is now being exhibited in Moscow.
The Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute (SibNIA) plans to certificate the new model … within two years, then promote the aircraft to passenger and cargo operators, says Oleg Parfentyev, adviser to the chairman of SibNIA for aviation projects … Parfentyev describes how Russian carriers now fly four-engined Antonov An-12s from Moscow to Novosibirsk, where the payload is redistributed to smaller cities. A fleet of TVS-2DTS aircraft would allow the same operators to fly direct to the secondary cities, bypassing the hub stop at Novosibirsk, he says.
In addition to newly-composite structure, the TVS-2DTS features Honeywell TPE331-12 turboprop engines and new interiors.
There’s more at the link.
The original An-2 first flew in 1947. It used the forward fuselage of a Douglas C-47 transport (license-built in the Soviet Union as the Lisunov Li-2), shortened, with a single radial engine in the nose, and biplane wings covered in cloth. It could carry up to 12 passengers, or up to about 2¼ tons of payload.
A turboprop version was developed in the 1980’s as the Antonov An-3, but didn’t attract much customer interest. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of the original An-2 model are still flying in Russia and China, particularly in regions with rough-and-ready airstrips (or no airfields at all). It’s a quintessential “bush aircraft”. North Korean special forces use it as a raiding platform, because its wood and canvas construction doesn’t show up very well on modern radar, and it flies so slowly (cruising speed is about 100 mph) that modern fighter aircraft can’t fly slow enough to keep station on it, and shoot it down.
SibNIA began developing its ‘Westernized’ version of the An-2 a few years ago. In 2012 it flew an aircraft with a Honeywell turboprop engine and a 5-bladed modern propeller. This proved successful in flight tests, and the Institute decided to modernize it further, in the hope of attracting interest from the owners of hundreds of An-2’s still operating. They first developed a fully composite wing, made of carbon fiber, which they flew attached to an original fuselage fitted with the Honeywell engine and new propeller. Here’s a 2015 video showing it in flight.
The latest version, now on display in Moscow, adds a carbon fiber fuselage to the wing, meaning that the entire aircraft is now of composite construction.
Whether or not this ultra-modern edition of a 70-year-old biplane can achieve commercial success remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I have a feeling that, somewhere up there, the shade of Oleg Antonov is smiling.