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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.

The crew is said to have been up to 23 people, although most of these were associated with the propaganda function. Between eight and 10 crew were involved in actually operating the aircraft.

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.

Take-off weight was 44,000 kg (97,004 lb). Wingspan was enormous - 64 m (210 ft 12 in).

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'.

A replacement aircraft, designated ANT-20bis had begun production the following year and first flew in 1938.

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.

Sources: Wikipedia, Virtual Aircraft Museum

Watch ANT-20 flying!

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Comment by Sean Driscoll on February 17, 2014 at 1:00am

It's like a fortress!

Comment by Andrew V. No on January 26, 2011 at 1:14pm
You are right. In 1941 the Soviet Union was only 79 Pe-8. In addition, the original Pe-8 was not 4 and 5 engines. The fifth engine M-100 might trigger the assembly of the central supercharging. With him Pe-8 was raised to a height of 10 - 11 kilometers without loss of power. Alas, the final version on the Pe-8 turbo diesel supplied (related to diesel in the tanks T-34 and KV), is very capricious and prone to fire.
Comment by Larry on January 25, 2011 at 9:26pm
Holy crap, that is one big plane!
Comment by lord_k on January 24, 2011 at 4:47pm
In 1941, Soviet Air Force had much better machine, the Pe-8, a dedicated heavy bomber. Too expensive for mass production.
Comment by Andrew V. No on January 24, 2011 at 4:42pm
f in 1941 we would have 1000 of these aircraft, we would have wiped out Germany in the powder, as a B-17 or B-24
Comment by Lawren H.B. on January 24, 2011 at 11:54am
Ah, Russians and their big planes.

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