Antarktida is conquered!

On the 17th of January a solemn meeting concerning the expedition termination of AN-3T return from the South Pole took place at the conference hall of the plant management department. The representatives of the subdivisions, superintendents of shops and divisions gathered in the hall. In the presidium there were the members of a polar expedition – seventeen specialists of “Polyot”, OJSC Omsk Engine Design Bureau and Aeronautical Scientific and Technical Complex named after Î.Ê. Antonov thanks to whom this unique flight was made.

And, of course, AN-3T that was fanned by the winds of the ice continent, took part in the celebrations in an invisible manner. The plane that had stayed in the South Pole for three years, on which many gave up and considered it to be “the pile of scrap”, after the replacement of engine and several components turned out to be not only operable but carried out a non-stop flight of the unprecedented distance for AN-3T – 1358 km.

And now some facts from the history. In 2001 our AN-3T arrived to Moscow under own power, then the plane with unjointed wings was loaded in IL-76, after that – the heading for Antarctica. And at last – the landing at Patriot Hills glacier. Here AN-3T was assembled, tested and on the 7th of January, 2002 the plane flew to the South Pole with the group of foreign tourists who financed the project. For the first time a single-engine plane covered such a distance. Head of the expedition is Artur Chilingarov, the vice-speaker the State Duma, Hero of the Soviet Union, Doctor of Geography.

Having covered 1075 km without the intermediate flight stop, the plane landed near the American station of Amundsen-Scott that is located in the South Pole. Due to several reasons including the weather it wasn’t possible to restart the engine after it had been stopped, AN-3T was left for “the wintering”.

The prestige of Russia, “Polyot”, Aeronautical Scientific and Technical Complex named after Î.Ê. Antonov required to return AN-3T home. At first they discussed the possibility to transport the plane from the South Pole using American S-130. In Russia there is no certified plane with a ski landing gear for this purpose, and the landing at the South Pole is possible only with a ski. After that there was an idea, which for many seemed to be a complete adventurism: to replace the engine in field (more precisely – ice conditions) and return home with “own wings”.

The project was realized brilliantly, and I can say it without the exaggeration. The equipment acted safely, and our people always were able to work in the most extreme conditions.

“Zavodskaya Zhizn” will always recall the polar expedition that is unique for our plant, country and for world single-engine aviation. In the given report we will give only a brief review.

“During the first examination the plane produced a very good impression” – told L.M. Girnyak, Head of Test-flight Station of “Polyot”, - our presentiments turned out to be unfounded. Electrical wiring and casing were in an excellent condition. The absence of temperature drop had a positive influence. We were afraid of the influence of ultraviolet and low temperatures on the plane’s structure, for it could destroy the casing, wires and glazing. Nothing of this happened. Having assessed the technical state of the plane, we eliminated the discovered defects. A high qualification level of our specialists allowed us to make all the things in a very short period of time. If we talk about terms, on the 27th of December in the evening just after the arrival to the South Pole we started our work, and on the 31st of December there was an engine run-up operation. A successful start was carried out. And the fact that the engine operated for the appropriate period of time according to the documentation was the biggest New Year present for us”.

It should be mentioned that it is summer in the South Pole now, at that time the temperature was minus 22-25 degrees, plus the wind, in sum it was equal to approximately minus 35. But as Girnyak said: “These conditions are similar to those under which we work at the aerodrome in winter”.

January 1-2 the Americans from Amundsen-Scott station did not work. They supplied our team with an engine heater, that is why the engine run-up operation was delayed. January 3 they made the operational check and engine run-up. The examination results confirmed a normal operation of all systems of the plane in surface conditions. On the 3rd of January in the evening the crew has arrived. The next day there was a trial flight of AN-3T for 1 hour 20 minutes.

The flight tests have revealed several malfunctions. After the malfunction repair the plane was completely ready for the flight on the 5th of January. But then there was bad weather.

It is time to mention the names of those who worked in the South Pole. “Polyot”: Ì.L. Girnyak, Head of Testflight Station, V.V. Prikhodkin, deputy chief engineer, À.G. Larkov, principal engineer, S.V. Arkhipov, aircraft mechanic, À.L. Antipov, equipment operation engineer, G.V. Bidyuk, V.Ya. Volkov, K.V. Nosov (electricians), O.N. Datsyk, chief foreman, D.A. Plyako, O.G. Solonini (machine fitters). From OJSC Omsk Engine Design Bureau - À.À. Grishin, principal engineer. From Aeronautical Scientific and Technical Complex named after Antonov: S.M. Tarasyuk, 1 class test-pilot, commander of the crew, V.V. Yepachintsev, 2 class test-pilot, V.I. Soroka, navigator, V.I. Dzyuba, principal engineer, Ye.Yu. Ivanov, principal design engineer.

It was on January, 11 when the weather has given an OK. The return was according to another route. This time the heading was for New Zealand, Mac-Merdo antarctic station. The distance was more than the distance to Patriot Hills. By the way it was a record long distance for AN-3T. The heating system was switched off to save the fuel, and the crew had been working with hoarfrost in the flight compartment for seven hours.

As S.M.Tarasyuk, commander of the crew, said at the meeting: “This route was not an ordinary one, because we had to fly above the mountains up to 4,5 kilometers high. So we have checked the plane with such an altitude. The district is unfamiliar, without any land marks, compasses do not work, but as for the communication everything was all right. All flight was in cloudy conditions …”

“There is always some risk in any test flight, - as V.V. Yepanchintsev, the second pilot, told later to your correspondent in a private interview. - But when in autumn we started to prepare for the expedition in Omsk, we had been inspired by your principal engineer G.M. Murakhovsky and his enthusiasm so much that we had a 100-percent confidence of success, one could say. Of course, a great deal of work was done by “Polyot” and by Georgy Moiseyevich both in a technical and organizational sense. It was possible to join “Polyot”, our Aeronautical Scientific and Technical Complex and the members of the polar expedition, also to overcome so many obstacles… As for Aeronautical Scientific and Technical Complex, there were some sceptics, but P.V. Balabuyev, our principal designer, was sure both of the plane and of the crew, otherwise they had not sent us there”.

At the solemn meeting the Diplomas of “Polyot” were given to the participants of the expedition to the applause of a hall and those who those was in the South Pole for the first time have got the appropriate international certificates.

I’ll say one more time: we will return to this unique expedition in “Zavodskaya Zhizn”, and I would like to finish this article with the words of S.M. Tarasyuk, commander of the crew: “It was the AN-3T that we flew with Sergey Tsivak in 1998. And now the plane has flown over Antarctica. And I wish the plane would get the further life. The plane is dear both to us and you. And the plane is excellent! I have checked its state. It was fine. After the first trial flight in the Pole there were practically no remarks. It cannot be compared to the machine that came just from a shop”.