The Tupolev ANT-20 Maxim Gorky was a Soviet eight-engine aircraft, the largest in the 1930s.
The ANT-20 was designed by Andrei Tupolev and constructed between July 4, 1933 and April 3, 1934. It was one of two aircraft of its kind ever built by the Soviets. The aircraft was named after Maxim Gorky and dedicated to the 40th anniversary of his literary and public activities.
t was intended for propaganda purposes and, therefore, equipped with a powerful radio set called "Voice from the sky", printing machinery, radiostations, photographic laboratory, film projector with sound for showing movies in flight, library etc. For the first time in aviation history, this aircraft was equipped with a ladder, which would fold itself and become a part of the floor. Also, for the first time in aviation history, the aircraft used not only direct current, but alternating current of 120 volts, as well. The aircraft could be disassembled and transported by railroad if needed.
There were different proposals for the ANT-20 employment; as a cargo carrier, passenger plane and even a flying war room for the political and military leadership.
Six 900 HP AM-34FRN engines were mounted on the leading edge and the other two in a pusher-puller pod located above the rear fuselage. With cruising speed set at 275 km|h, the plane had a 1000 km range.
The giant wheel spats were probably the largest ever fitted to an aircraft.
The giant aircraft set a number of carrying capacity world records.
On May 18, 1935, the Maxim Gorky (pilots - I. V. Mikheyev and I. S. Zhurov) and three more planes (Tupolev ANT-14, R-5 and I-5) took off for a demonstration flight over Moscow. As a result of a poorly executed loop maneuver (a third such stunt on this flight) around the plane performed by an accompanying I-5 fighter (pilot - Nikolai Blagin), both planes collided and the Maxim Gorky crashed into a low-rise residential neighborhood west of present-day Sokol station. Forty-five people were killed in the crash, including crew members and 33 family members of some of those who had built the aircraft. (While authorities announced that the fatal maneuver was impromptu and reckless, it has been recently suggested that it might have been a planned part of the show.) Also killed was the fighter pilot, Blagin, who was made a scapegoat in the crash and subsequently had his name used eponymously (Blaginism) to mean, roughly, a "cocky disregard of authority." However, Blagin was given a state funeral together with ANT-20 victims. That same year, a Warsaw newspaper published an alleged suicide letter by Blagin, with clear anti-communist messages, which modern authors consider to be a fake. The day before the crash, French pilot and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, visiting the Soviet Union for the French newspaper Paris-Soir, was the only foreign pilot authorized to board the plane. After the crash Saint-Exupéry mourned the loss of this giant with its 'gangways, the salon, the cabins, the on-board telephone'.
It was largely identical in design but with only six, more powerful engines (1200 HP AM-34FRNV). This plane, renumbered PS-124, served with Aeroflot on transport routes in Russia and Uzbekistan. On December 14, 1942, it too crashed after the pilot allowed a passenger to take his seat momentarily and the passenger apparently disengaged the automatic pilot, sending the ship into a nosedive from an altitude of 500 m (1,500 ft) and killing all 36 on board.