Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

If you're going to design a very unusual aircraft for your Dieselpunk setting, read this entry.

Maybe your dreamplane has been already designed and flown eighty years ago. Or probably you'll see something well beyond the borders of your imagination. So give your inventive spirit a little rest and let me introduce you to the designs of Boris Ivanovich Cheranovsky (1896-1960), a flying wing pioneer. His early 'parabolas' were world's first full-size flying (and flyable!) wings.

His first design was presented at the Central Institute of Aero- and Hydrodynamics (TsAGI) as early as in 1921 - and met a cold response, to say the least. Most of the experts were sure that Cheranovsky's 'parabola' is just another crazy idea. But wind tunnel test of several models proved that 'flying wing' should fly.

In 1924, Cheranovsky built two gliders, designated BICh-1 and -2. The first was little more than a full-scale model but the second performed 27 successful flights on the Koktebel Glider Contest the same year. Pilot was almost hidden inside of the thick 'inhabited' wing. Whole trailing edge was formed by ailerons and elevators. The rudder was rather tradition than a necessity, because ailerons alone provided sufficient direction control.

The next step was the engine installation in the glider. The only available Blackburn Tomtit 18hp motor was fitted on the newly built BICh-3.

This unusual experimental plane made its maiden flight in Februry 1926 with the well known Soviet test pilot B.N. Kudrin at the controls. Despite its unorthodox layout the plane handled very well in the air and performed several successful flights. The BICh-3 has a distinction of being the first flyable powered flying wing in history.

Several Cheranovsky designs didn't go beyond test model stage, among them BICh-5, a concept of a large twin-engine military plane. But in 1929, the BICh-7 was built (above), a development of the BICh-3 design powered by a 100hp Bristol Lucifer engine. It turned out as a bitter disappointment, unable to take off the ground.

Boris Cheranovsky didn't give up and by 1932, modified it into the 7A, with thicker wing profile and enclosed cabin. Tested by N.P. Vlagin, the mixed-construction aircraft showed remarkable dependability. It was slow, top speed not exceeding 165 km/h, but very maneuverable.

In the meanwhile, the BICh-8 'Triangle' glider was tested. In the picture above, we see the designer together with Sergey Pavlovich Korolev, future chief of the Soviet space program.

The next noteworthy design was the BICh-11, a glider later fitted with a 27hp ABC Scorpion engine. There were plans to fit it with an OR-2 experimental rocket engine but after the premature death of F.A. Zander, the rocket propulsion pioneer, these plans were scrapped.

In 1934, the BICh-14 was built, a light twin-engine transport designed to carry four passengers. It was tested until 1937 and was deemed a failure - too slow (top speed 190 km/h) and not too dependable. But the looks...

The BICh-17, also built in 1934, was an experimental single-engine fighter, one of numerous designs specially developed to carry Kurchevsky recoilless guns (the guns are another story, and I know a couple of people here who are able to tell it much better than yours truly).

Two 80mm (sic!) guns were installed in the wing. Just like other 'super-interceptors' with similar armament, the BICh-17 was doomed from the start. If you think the design is weird, just look at the next Cheranovsky brainchild:

It's the BICh-18 (1937), a glider supposed to use muscle power! And it was flown, only as a 'pure' glider, the painstaking wing movements adding nothing to its performance.

Now, something a bit more conventional - the BICh-20 Pioneer, a super-mini sports aircraft built in 1938. It was powered by a Blackburn Tomtit (remember the BICh-3?).

Despite all its weirdness, this 'little flying trapeze" was rather liked by test pilots, namely V.L. Rastorguyev who pointed out that the Pioneer was dependable no less than any other aircraft, excelling them in terms of visibility (field of view from the cockpit).

By 1940, Cheranovsky created a really outstanding aeroplane, the BICh-21 aka SG-1 (SG for Skorostnoy Gonochnyi, rapid racer). It was an enlarged version of the Pioneer, more sophisticated and much more powerful.

A supercharged 220hp MV-6 engine allowed for speeds up to 417 km/h. Empty weight was only 526kg.

After WWII, Cheranovsky proposed a number of innovative designs, ranging from gliders to supersonic jet fighters. Only gliders were built. Meet the Che-22 (no connection to Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, just a coincidence):

Quite a design for 1948! His BICh-26 fighter concept was even more striking. It was a very slick flying wing of low aspect ration and compound sweep of both leading and trailing edges. Elevones and ailerons consumed 11% of the wing area. Obviously, this aircraft could be easily fitted with radar, thick wing roots provided enough room for capacious fuel tanks and enough strength for substantial weapon load.Blueprints were ready, essential parts and full-size mock-up were under construction when the project was cancelled. One of the possible reasons is slow and bumpy development of the RD-5 (later AM-5) engine.

Now, wake up your imagination. Try to invent something new. Or find a good use for these all but unbelievable designs.

Sources: airwar.ru, pandia.ru, Alexandre Savine website. Primary source for all three is History of Aircraft Construction in the USSR by V.B. Shavrov

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Comment by Cap'n Tony on October 1, 2012 at 11:24am

Che looks a lot like a recent Boeing UAV.  Always amazing to see today's "wonderful new designs" in a diesel-era photograph!

Comment by Timothy W. Nieberding on September 30, 2012 at 7:40pm

If the Republican used the Bl Ch-17 in Spain the Nationalists would have called it the "Moth" instead of the Mosca or "fly"  (Il-16). 

Comment by lord_k on September 29, 2012 at 12:57pm

Let's say he was more lucky than Kalinin or Grokhovsky.

Comment by Pablo J. Alvarez on September 29, 2012 at 12:42pm

This is one of those times when reality is stranger than fiction, really cheranovsky always comply with the technical specifications for which his designs were required, was never arrested for it, even though their designs were not adopted by the government.

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