In spite of less than ideal weather, a respectable number of people visited the event.
Opening the Doors on a New Season
Certainly some of you will remember the entry I made from a visit to the Kunovice Air Museum in August of 2013. As the museum is an outdoor one, it does close through the winter months.
Spring has returned and the museum opened its doors for the 2014 season in fine style. In conjunction with the Slovácký Aeroklub which also calls Kunovice airport home and a variety of other supporting groups and sponsors, the day was much more than just the museum’s reopening.
Here is a link to my original blog post about the museum; it includes a link to the museum’s Facebook page, where you will most certainly see many more images of the event posted in the near future:
The museum had some of their aircraft opened up so one could examine cockpits, historical army vehicles as well as a number of re-enactors in military uniforms of various periods and services were also present.
In the Aeroklub area, which is adjacent to the museum, a small selection of aircraft both historical and modern was on display and sightseeing flights were available.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking for now, but you’ll be seeing more pictures from this event in future blog posts as it gave me a good bit of new material to make new blog posts and update older ones. The weather didn’t make picture taking easy, but these will give you a small taste of the day:
Early on, before the crowds arrive.
Working hard at the field kitchen.
Newly restored Zlín 381. Czech built Bucker Bestmann trainer.
A pre WWII built Piper Cub. The oldest aircraft on the Czech register.
Tatra T.101 replica
Let L-410 Turbolet
Pre flight checks for my sight seeing flight seemed to draw some interest.
Yours truly, along with my sight seeing ride, just after landing
Front office of an Avia Av-14 transport.
Museum’s Z-37 under restoration.
A Boeing 737 seen at Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2013
Ubiquity and Omnipresence
Boeing’s legendary 737 airliner series is so common worldwide that most of us barely take notice when one flies overhead, the truth is that we really should take more notice of it and respect its unique place in aviation.
The 737 is, after all, the world’s most produced and used airliner of any category. By some estimates there are more than 1,000 of the type airborne at any given time and the 737 series represents roughly 25% of all airliners currently in operation.
The 737 has been in production for nearly 50 years and has been built in three distinct generations with a fourth generation set to enter production in 2017. Chances are that if you’ve traveled on shorter airline routes then you’ve likely traveled on a 737.
Let’s start our look at the “Baby Boeing” with a few key events in it’s life to this point in time:
Boeing 737 Milestones
1964: Initial design work on 737 begins.
1965: Lufthansa announced as launch customer.
1967: First flight of 737-100 version.
1967: First flight of 737-200 version.
1967: First 737-100 delivered to Lufthansa.
1968: United Airlines becomes first user of the 737-200.
1973: First T-43, military version of 737-200, delivered to USAF.
1984: First flight of 737-300, the first major revision to the 737.
1988: First flight of 737-400 version.
1988: Last 737-200 delivered.
1989: First flight of 737-500 variant.
1993: Second major revision, the “Next Generation” series, announced.
1997: First flight of 737-700 model.
1997: 737-800 makes its first flight.
1998: First flight of 737-600 version.
1998: Boeing Business Jet, BBJ, version makes maiden flight.
2000: 737 becomes first airliner in history to achieve 100 million flight hours.
2001: C-40 Clipper, military version of 737-700, enters service.
2004: 737 “Wedgetail” Airborne Early Warning version first flown.
2006: 5,000th 737 built and delivered.
2009: Maiden flight of 737-800 based maritime patrol aircraft, P-8 Poseidon.
2011: Third major revision, 737 MAX series, announced.
2013: P-8 Poseidon enters service with US and Indian navies.
A 737-200 seen preserved at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton, Canada in 2012.
Boeing Plays Catch Up
It’s perhaps difficult to believe that with as prolific and successful as the 737 has been in its life, Boeing really was a bit late to the party with it.
The market for short haul, narrow body airliners was becoming increasingly lucrative in the early to mid 1960s and by the time Boeing began planning the 737 in 1964 the aircraft’s initial rivals for the market; the British Aircraft Corporation 1-11 and the Douglas DC-9 were well underway. The BAC 1-11 had its maiden flight prior to 1964 and the DC-9 flew for the first time in 1965.
To make up lost time, Boeing used the same fuselage for the 737 as they had for the 707 and 727 before it. As this common fuselage cross section was somewhat wider than those of its counterparts, the 737 could carry more passengers than either the BAC 1-11 or DC-9. Boeing further increased the aircraft’s passenger capacity by placing the engines under the wings rather than on either side of the rear fuselage as was done with the BAC and Douglas designs.
The Originals: 737-100 and 200 series
Distinctive in appearance by their stubby fuselage and long, narrow engine pods; the initial series of the 737 family very quickly established the aircraft’s reputation for ease of service, versatility, self-sufficiency and ability to operate from remote locations with rudimentary facilities.
When fitted with a system known as a gravel kit, the 737 could operate from semi prepared runways in Canada’s north as well as other spartan regions around the world. The gravel kit consisted primarily of a deflector device fitted around the nose landing gear and a metal pipe attached to the lower lip of each engine intake, air was blown downwards towards the runway through these pipes and prevented debris from being ingested by the engines while the aircraft was taxiing and taking off. This adaptation allowed the 737 to operate in areas that its competitors often could not.
While the -100 saw only modest production, the -200 was the first major variant of the family with over 1,000 built in total. While production of the -200 is long since finished, modifications to the remaining airworthy examples are still being produced and made available. Many of these modifications concern noise reduction and fuel efficiency issues.
A 737-500 seen at Brno, Czech Republic in 2014.
The Classics: 737-300, -400 and -500
Before the 1970s were out, Boeing was already examining ways to improve upon the great success of the 737-200 and keep demand high for the 737 family of aircraft.
The driving forces which led to the new generation of the aircraft were increased fuel efficiency, passenger carrying capacity and engine noise reduction. In the face of addressing these issues, Boeing also aimed for a significant degree of parts commonality between the 737-200 and the new generation variants.
To tackle the matters of fuel efficiency and noise reduction, a new engine was required. The General Electric CFM-56 turbofan was selected as the new engine, though incorporating it into the 737 required an adjustment in the position of the engines’ accessory devices to compensate for the 737′s low ground clearance.
The re-positioning of the engine accessory packages from directly under the engines to a spot on the side of them gave the required clearance between the engines and the ground; however, it also created distinctively shaped engine pods which were wider at the bottom and gave raise to the term “Hamster pouch” as a nickname for them when viewed directly from the front.
Fuel efficiency and general flight performance were also improved by refinements in the aerodynamics at various locations around the fuselage, wings and tail. Some aircraft of this generation were retrofitted with winglets on their wingtips to further increase fuel efficiency by reducing drag.
A 737-800 at Brno in 2014
The Next Generation: 737-600, -700, -800 and -900
The same forces which inspired the creation of the “Classic” series of the 737 family through the 1980s were again at play to inspire the development of the “Next Generation” or 737NG series in the 1990s.
An additional catalyst for the new developments was the Airbus A319 and A320 series of airliners from Europe. The A319 and A320 brought a great deal of new technology to the short haul sector which the 737 had become the dominant force in and Boeing would need to modernize it in order to stay competitive.
The 737NG received redesigned engine pods which further increased fuel efficiency and reduced noise. Several drag reducing refinements were also applied to the wings for fuel savings and performance increases.
With the 737-800, a significant increase in size was instituted in order for the aircraft to not only compete more directly with the A320 in passenger capacity, but also to replace Boeing’s own 727 narrow body liner in many airline fleets.
Outside of commercial interests, the 737NG has found users in the corporate and military sectors as well.
Based on a combination of the -700′s fuselage and the -800′s wings; the Boeing Business Jet, or BBJ, has found clients in the military as well as the corporate sector it was initially aimed at. In US military service, the BBJ is known as the C-40 Clipper.
The 737-700 serves as the basis for the E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft which entered service in 2009 with the Royal Australian Air Force and has since been taken on charge by the Turkish and South Korean air forces as well.
Developed from the 737-800, the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft entered service with the US and Indian navies in late 2013.
The 737′s Future and Useful Links
As it stands, the 737 family would certainly seem to have another 50 years of practical service guaranteed to it across commercial, corporate and military sectors.
In 2011, Boeing announced the 737 MAX series as the forthcoming new generation to the aircraft family. The MAX series is planned not only to compete with the upcoming Airbus A320neo variant, but also supplement Boeing’s own 787 Dreamliner long haul liner.
As of December 2013, Boeing had nearly 2,000 firm orders for 737 MAX aircraft and the first of them are expected to enter production in 2017.
This is a link to the History page of a quite thorough site about the 737, History on all the variants plus much, much more can be found here:
A very good article chronicling a participant of “The Great Escape”.
Originally posted on Free Czechoslovak Air Force:
The early years.
Arnošt Valenta was born on 25 October 1912 in the small mountain village of Svébohov, near Zábřeh, which was about 50 km north of Olomouc in the Moravia region of Czechoslovakia. His parents, Adolf and mother Františka were farmers. Arnošt was the 3rd of their three children. On the outbreak of WW1, Adolf enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army but was killed in 1915. Some time after Františka married František Večer, also a farmer, and the family remained in Svébohov.
Arnošt Valenta se narodil 25. října 1912 v malé horské vesničce Svébohov, u Zábřehu, který se nachází na Moravě, asi 50 kilometrů severně města Olomouc v bývalém Československu. Jeho rodiče, Adolf a matka Františka byli zemědělci. Arnošt byl posledním z jejich tří dětí. Po vypuknutí první světové války, otec Adolf narukoval do rakousko-uherské armády a v roce 1915 přišel o život. Později po jeho smrti se…
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A Z-37A-3 seen at Pardubice in 2010
Agrarian from the Outset
The Z-37 Čmelák (Bumblebee) prototype first flew in 1963 and was the first specifically agricultural aircraft designed in Czechoslovakia.
The result of a 1960 competition for a completely new, purpose designed agricultural aircraft. The Z-37 was a combined effort of the Zlín and Let aircraft companies. As both companies were based in the heavily agricultural Moravian region of the country, it was not at all difficult for them to consult directly with those who would be using the end product and tailor it very closely to the needs of projected customers.
Aerial spraying and seeding had been practiced in the former Czechoslovakia since the mid 1920s, but until the arrival of the Z-37 it had been an exercise in improvisation with aircraft not specifically designed for the task. Accordingly, the success of such improvisation was mixed.
The Z-37 put agriculture first in every aspect of its design from the rugged fixed landing gear which allowed operations from rural grass airstrips to wings designed for optimal low speed performance only a few meters above the ground.
The baseline Z-37 features full metal wing construction and a fuselage built of fabric on steel tube. The aircraft’s cockpit provides excellent outward visibility for the pilot; immediately behind the pilot is a hopper which can be filled with liquid, powdered or granulated chemicals for spraying. Directly behind the hopper is a rearward facing passenger compartment which was typically used for transporting farm mechanics to rural areas.
A Z-37A-3 seen at Čáslav in 2013.
An Able Hand
As the prototype XZ-37 had taken several awards at international exhibitions, export success came with relative ease to the production standard Z-37 and it found use in roughly a dozen countries. While the largest export customer by a wide margin was the former East Germany, the Bumblebee also found users in Bulgaria, Finland, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Iraq, New Zealand, USA and the former Yugoslavia.
The aircraft’s usefulness was not limited to farm work, it also found use in forestry, advertising, research, light transport, aerial survey work and as a glider tug.
Eventually, owing primarily to increased fuel costs, aerial spraying lost popularity to land based spraying methods in many places where the Z-37 operated. Many examples of the aircraft were simply left to deteriorate while others found their way into the hands of flying clubs where their powerful engines made them popular as glider tugs capable of taking more than one glider aloft at a time.
A Z-37A seen preserved at Vyškov in 2012
A Look Inside the Beehive
Initial production of the original piston engine Z-37 ran uninterrupted from 1963 to 1977 and was briefly resumed in 1983 and 1984. Between 1985 and 1987 some piston engine aircraft were converted to turbo prop power.
Approximately 700 examples of the Z-37 were built in seven variations:
This was the initial production version, built from 1963 to 1971.
A strengthened version of the Z-73 introduced in 1971. It was built between 1971 and 1975 and was briefly put back in production between 1983 and 1984.
A two seat training version converted from the Z-73A.
A light transport conversion of the Z-73A with accommodation for three passengers in rearward facing seats behind the pilot.
Z-37T Agro Turbo:
Turbo prop conversion of Z-37A, introduced in 1985.
Turbo prop conversion of Z-37A-2 training aircraft.
Slightly improved version of the Z-37T
A Z-37A seen at Brno in 2014
The Z-37 Today
By most indications, the bulk of airworthy Z-37s at the time of writing is split between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The type does still see some use in its original agricultural roles, particularly in Slovakia.
Some examples of the type have found their way into museums while those that have not are either very well cared for by their owners and remain airworthy or have been left derelict and deteriorating in the elements at the peripheries of airports.
As the Z-37 is neither glamorous or common, your chances of seeing one may be quite limited.
While there is no dedicated internet resource for the Z-37, these two articles from Czech online publications contain some good information. The translation to English is not ideal, but workable:
The MiG-29 “Fulcrum” an aircraft for which Belyakov served as chief designer.
The Master of MiGs
Rostislav Belyakov, former chief designer at the Mikoyan aircraft bureau, passed away on February 28, 2014 at the age of 94.
Belyakov joined Mikoyan in 1941 and served on the design teams of several of the bureau’s legendary Cold War aircraft. He was promoted to the position of deputy chief designer in 1957 and chief designer in 1969.
In the position of chief designer, he oversaw design and development of the MiG-23 “Flogger”; the Soviet Union’s first variable geometry fighter as well as the mach 3 capable MiG-25 “Foxbat” interceptor and the MiG-29 “Fulcrum” fighter.
While the MiG-23 is an increasingly rare aircraft in the skies and the MiG-25 is all but completely retired from service; the MiG-29 is still going strong as the main fighter type in several air forces today.
A brief synopsis of Belyakov and his work for Mikoyan can be found at the BBC website:
A Mil Mi-4 seen at the Kunovice air museum in 2013.
Late to the Party
In the immediate post war years the helicopter was coming into its own and being embraced by militaries on both sides of the Cold War. Both east and west fielded light utility types though it was the United States which introduced the first true transport helicopter into service in the form of the Sikorsky S-55 which first flew in 1949.
The Soviet army lacked such a dedicated transport helicopter at the time; however, the versatility and flexibility the S-55 provided American and allied forces with in the Korean War would change that very quickly.
In 1951, on the direct orders of Stalin himself, Soviet helicopter manufacturers were given 12 months to develop a machine which would give their army the same mobility and flexibility that the S-55 was giving to the west. Ultimately, only the Mil bureau rose to the challenge and the prototype for the Mi-4 flew for the first time in 1952.
The Mi-4 entered service with the Soviet and Polish air forces in 1953. It would be the beginning of a long and varied life for an aircraft which would form the backbone of Warsaw Pact rotary wing transport until the 1970s. In the full scope of its career, the Mi-4 would do much, much more than simply move equipment and personnel from one place to another.
The helicopter existed in both military and civilian variants. Inside a production run totalling roughly 4000 airframes from both Soviet and Chinese assembly lines, the aircraft family comprised at least 30 different versions. Throughout its lifetime, the Mi-4 was subject to constant development and upgrading.
Mil Mi-4 at Kunovice in 2013
The Sincerest Form of Flattery?
From a western perspective, the Mi-4 spent its life being derided as nothing more than a copy of the Sikorsky S-55. This could be attributed as much to the dominating point of view in the west that the bulk of Soviet produced military hardware was simply copies of, presumably, superior western designs as it could be to any physical resemblance the two aircraft shared.
The similarity between the two aircraft is quite understandable as long as one keeps in mind that Stalin only gave one year to develop a helicopter and the S-55 had already proven itself as a design formula that worked in battle. For any of the Soviet aircraft manufacturers to try to create a clean sheet design and take it to flying status in the space of a year would have been, frankly, idiotic and wasteful. Drawing inspiration from the Sikorsky design was perfectly sensible given the time available and the projected role of the finished product.
On even brief examination, the two aircraft have more differences than similarities:
The Mil helicopter was a significantly larger and stronger machine than the S-55 and more flexible in what it could transport. It was possible to open the entire rear fuselage and load vehicles, artillery pieces and other larger loads which were completely outside the S-55′s ability to lift internally.
From a strictly weight lifting standpoint, the Mi-4 was much more comparable to Sikorsky’s S-58 which superseded the S-55. However, the S-58 still did not have the same internal carrying abilities the Mi-4 did. To carry such loads as vehicles and artillery, the S-58 would need to carry them externally in a sling under the aircraft.
While attempts were made to adapt the S-55 to the armed gunship role, all but the most modest of gun armaments proved too heavy for it and left it under powered for the task. The Mil, by contrast, adapted very well to the attack helicopter role and was able to carry a variety of guns, rockets, mines and even torpedoes in a specialized anti ship variation. The Mil’s armament also included a gondola in the underside of the fuselage which could be fitted with a forward firing machine gun.
The above are the larger differences between the two, certainly more could be uncovered on closer scrutiny. Suffice it to say, the Mil designers most certainly took inspiration from the Sikorsky design but in no way created an imitation of it.
Generally speaking; if one is to look at western helicopter designs that could be considered contemporary to the Mi-4, there really wasn’t any direct and complete counterpart for it.
Mi-4 with rocket launchers seen at Vyškov in 2012.
Working Like a Dog
The Mil-4, which was known as “Hound” under the NATO code naming system for Soviet aircraft, was a very busy aircraft in both military and civilian circles.
In military service, it fulfilled roles as diverse as transport, electronic warfare, maritime patrol, reconnaissance, VIP transport, medical evacuation and rescue work among others.
Notable military actions the Mi-4 played a role in include the Hungarian uprising of 1956, the Indo Pakistani War of 1971 and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.
The Hound’s military life spanned a little over 50 years; the last military variants, Chines built Harbin Z-5 versions, were retired by Albania in 2005.
In the civilian world, it was every bit as busy operating in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, geology and infrastructure fields as well as bush flying in Siberia, Antarctic exploration, air taxi, air ambulance and fire fighting.
Outside of regular duties, a modified version of the Mi-4 was used to set a number of speed and altitude records in the late 1950s. Additionally, the Mi-4 won a gold medal at the World’s Fair in Brussels in 1958.
Hounds at Vyškov in 2012
The Mi-4 Today
By all appearances, it would seem that there are no remaining airworthy examples of either the Mil Mi-4 or Harbin Z-5 at the time of writing.
Several seem to be either restored or in storage at museums in several locations around the world while others look to be abandoned and corroding into oblivion in other places. As such, there are certainly opportunities to see these aircraft though the quality may be highly variable depending on where you see them.
Following this link will take you to the Polish Aviation Museum’s information page about the Mi-4:
This link will take you to an entry at the Travel for Aircraft blog featuring the Mi-4 used as Ho Chi Minh’s personal transport: