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Valery Chkalov and I-180

February 02, 1904 - December 15, 1938

Valery Chkalov

Valery Pavlovich Chkalov

I-180 - in several versions it was designed and built to replace the I-16, as a mass fighter for one and a half thousand pilots, which were to be released in the coming years according to the slogan put forward. According to the scheme, he repeated the I-16, but with somewhat larger dimensions and power and significantly higher flight performance.

The I-180-1 aircraft was prepared for the first flight in a hurry. In the first flight on December 15, 1938, Chkalov died. The reason was that the engine stopped. That day there was a frost of 24 degrees. When the aircraft descended at low revs, the engine overcooled, and when trying to increase the mode, it stalled. Chkalov was just a little short of the runway.

There is a version about the political premeditated murder of Chkalov. They say that in the spring of 1938, Stalin invited Chkalov to his place and suggested that he combine two posts - the people's commissar of transport and the people's commissar of internal affairs. To which Chkalov responded with a diplomatic refusal, referring to the unfinished work on the new aircraft. Perhaps remembering this conversation, Chkalov deviated from the route of the flight mission, flying over Stalin's nearby dacha, wishing to make him a present. Probably they were preparing an attempt on Chkalov - for hunting, where he was going after the flight, cartridges were prepared that could lead to an "accident" when shooting.

For information: on November 25, 1938, by decree of the PVS of the USSR, Yezhov was removed from the post of People's Commissar of the Internal Affairs of the USSR. On the same day, Beria was appointed, but the decree on his appointment will be published only on December 8.

"The measures taken" affected Chkalov's inner circle. Polikarpov's deputy - leading designer D. Tomashevich, director of plant # 156 Usachev and others were arrested. Polikarpov himself was saved from arrest only by the fact that he refused to sign the aircraft readiness certificate for the first flight and Baidukov's petition. The general list of those repressed in the Chkalov case was 60 people. None of the participants in the I-180 project died a natural death. Some died under mysterious circumstances. The day after the disaster, the leading engineer for the I-180 project Lazarev was thrown off the train and died, and the arrested head of the aviation industry headquarters Belyaikin, after serving 5 years, was released and was killed the next day. During the mass arrests in the Aviation Industry, a certain department head V. Chkalov was arrested, who was then shot.
Georgy Baidukov in his book "Chkalov" describes the last flight of Chkalov:

"... So the engine has cooled down or its control has been interrupted ... There is no hope for it ... - the pilot evaluates the situation.

Chkalov determined that less than a kilometer remained to the landing site. "Retract the landing gear and I will hold out ..." - flashed through the head of an experienced tester. But he forgot that, at the behest of the designer, he could not do this rescue manipulation ...

my note: It turns out as if this very designer did not refuse to sign the aircraft readiness certificate.

... The impact on the pole was so strong that the seat and the electric battery connected to it fell off the mounts, as if from a catapult, thrown out together with the pilot tied to them.

The pilot lost consciousness from a terrible overload, and immediately, after a ballistic flight, he hit his head on the butt of a stack of inch metal reinforcing rods. This ended the tragic flight of the fearless Volga hero "

A rather strange description of the last "ballistic flight" ...

Mikhail Maslov in his monograph "I-180, I-185" indicates another reason in the tragic chain of circumstances that may have played a decisive role in the death of Chkalov. The reason is the wrong choice of the descent trajectory during the approach:

"As for possible attempts to eliminate Chkalov, it is, of course, impossible to completely deny them. An outspoken and straightforward pilot has approached the very top of power too close. One might say, at a dangerous distance. And, nevertheless, on the day of the catastrophe, none of the participants in the events noted signs of sabotage or outside interference, and the events of that fateful day were mostly tragic and accidental.

The following can be said about the flight outside the boundaries of the aerodrome. Indeed, the adopted rules for the first flight of a prototype aircraft provide for the possibility of any malfunctions in the air, including stopping the engine. That is why the flight had to be carried out only in the airfield area, which made it possible to complete it safely in almost any situation. What was the reason that prompted Chkalov to commit such an indisputable violation of the instructions? According to one of the versions explaining the haste of the first flight of the I-180, Chkalov's flight was a kind of gift for Stalin's birthday, and he (either by agreement, or on his own initiative) left the airfield to fly over the leader's nearby dacha. So or not it was in fact, now there is no one to ask. In any case, this off-airfield flight was not a direct cause of the disaster.

An unexpected thing happened in the final part of the flight, during the landing approach. The day of December 15 turned out to be very frosty, the air cooled down to -25 °. The M-87 engine, which did not have frontal louvers, cooled down during gliding and, when trying to change its operating mode, suddenly stopped. On the one hand, this is a consequence of the flawed design, on the other, the pilot's error. Perhaps this trouble could have been dealt with, because Chkalov, as an experienced pilot, cleaned up the gas, having a sufficient height reserve. But still there was not enough height. Why? It seems that Chkalov built the calculation for landing as on the I-16, which had a constant-pitch propeller. But on the I-180 they installed a variable pitch propeller VISH-ZE, which had two fixed positions: a small step for takeoff and landing and a large one for the maximum speed mode. And since the mechanism for turning the blades had not yet been completed (one of the many imperfections that had not been eliminated by the time of the first flight), the propeller was fixed in the takeoff and landing position, that is, at a small step. If the engine stalls at a small step, the propeller blades, turned by their frontal plane towards the flow, turn into rather effective air brakes. Chkalov might not have known this. It is unlikely that he had previously encountered something similar, because variable pitch propellers were then a novelty in our aviation. As a result, his calculation for landing turned out to be erroneous, the plane did not reach the airfield and roughly landed on the wasteland, having demolished the landing gear. The pilot was thrown out of the cockpit on impact with the ground. Falling, he hit his head on a protruding rail. An ambulance immediately rushed in, Chkalov was taken to the Botkin hospital, where he died two hours later without regaining consciousness. Assessing what happened, it can be argued that from that moment on, the further course of the history of the I-180 aircraft changed radically. The catastrophe had dire consequences for many participants in the events. The head of the 1st Main Directorate of the NKOP Belyaikin, the leading designer of the I-180 Tomashevich, the director of the plant No. 156 Usachev and the head of the flight test station, Colonel Porai, were immediately arrested. Among the perpetrators of the misfortune, Polikarpov was also indicated. The death of Valery Chkalov and the first experimental I-180 had a negative impact on the continuation of work on the development and improvement of the aircraft. The worst was that Polikarpov lost the support of Stalin, and therefore of other leaders capable of influencing events. This was not openly expressed, but one more failure was enough to make the mistrust of the designer and his planes quite palpable. "

Chkalov tested over 70 types of aircraft (I-15, -16, -180, VIT-2, NV-1), developed and introduced new aerobatics: an ascending spin and a slowed-down "barrel". Together with G.F.Baidukov and A.V.Belyakov made flights: Moscow - about. Udd (now Chkalov Island), 1936 (for the performance of this flight on July 24, 1936, Chkalov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union); Moscow - North Pole - Vancouver (USA), 1937.



  • Chkalov / G.F. Baidukov /
  • Fighter I-16. / Mikhail Maslov /; supplement to the magazine "M-HOBBY", No. 2 1997
  • I-180 I-185 / Mikhail Maslov /; supplement to the magazine "Technics for Youth", 2003
  • Valery Chkalov. Aviation legend. / Chkalova Valeria Valerievna. /