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Monday, 01 July 2013 00:00

The Sukhois Part 2/3

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Los primeros Su-26

The Institute of Siberian Investigation (SibNIA), which is responsible for developing the first asymmetric adjustable nozzles for the Su-27UB-PS, has begun to work to improve the aerodynamics of the Su-26 in a significant way. They have managed to increase the controllability, thanks to the increase in the rudder deflection angle and equipping the wing with "Wing Fillets" (wing extensions in the wing root area).

They also extended the time of the first review to 500 hours, and after receiving the results of the intense investigation, decided to modify the "standards of maneuverability resistance," which notably extended the life span of Sukhois destined for aerobatic sport. The first official Su-26M prototype that came off the assembly line, the S42-5, was prepared with the objective of being able to participate in the European Championship celebrated that same year (1985). It made its first flight on July 27 at the hands of pilot Ye I. Frolov.    Unfortunately, because of the small amount of time spent by the factory on its preparation, the pilot of the URSS national team couldn't fly the Su-26M at the European Championship, since the plane would spend the majority of time on the ground due to mechanical problems.

In order to prepare and participate in the 1986 13th World Championship, held in the United Kingdom, Sukhoi Design Office had to roll up their sleeves and produce three Su-26M (S42-6, -7, -8), all within the first trimester of 1986. It was at this competition that all the artillery emerged, which had been generated inside the walls of the Sukhoi offices over the past years for the purpose of reaching the highest position on the podium at the aerobatic competitions.

The USSR team, appearing for the first time with the Su-26M as their official plane, faced off against 70 other top athletes from 16 different countries and won first place at the championship, earning the Nesterov Cup, and winning 16 of the 33 possible medals.  Lyubov Memkova became the first Russian woman proclaimed World Champion. Since that championship, pilots began to gain victories, one after another, at the controls of Sukhoi planes. The planes surprised the whole world with their unlimited performances, opening a new way in the development of aerobatic competition planes.

In June of 1987, the Sukhoi Design Office presented a Su-26M at the Paris Air Show for the first time (the S42-9), that being the first time it was exhibited statically and in flight before the general public. This same year, they decided to produce the Su-26M in mass at the request of the DOSAAF committee, it being the end of 1987 when the young engineers began to develop the production version. Two years later in 1989, the first 4 constructed models of the Sukhoi installations were produced with the name Su-26MX (the X of exportation).

Sukhoi 29

The engineers were able to reduce the weight of the Su-26 models in production by 30 kilos, compared to the initial prototype. They improved its aerodynamics and controllability, adjusting the fuselage and the airfoils, and significantly improving motor cooling.  These passed the official test between February and June 1989, and were handed over to the DOSAAF airclubs.

These solutions adopted in the configuration of the Su-26M and its advanced design contributed to the production of a truly unique machine and it being positioned competitively against its principal rivals, the Zin and Pitts of that time.

In May 1988, the Su-26M-02 was featured at the San Diego airshow in the United States, attracting American buyers in a big way. Aviaexport made first contact with the USSR for the distribution of the Su-26M in the US market, becoming its first official distributor. But it wasn't until the appearance of the plane at the August 1989 Oshkosh airshow that it made a huge impression on the American aeronautic community. As a result, a sales contract was made in 1990 for 25 planes. The first flight of one of the exported models, called Su-26MKh, happened on March 28, 1990. This version of the Sukhoi (26MKh) was different from others on the production line, as it incorporated combustible fuel tank in the wings which allowed for an increase in autonomy during "ferry" flights. Eleven Su-26MKh planes were sold to customers in the US, Switzerland, and other countries.

The experience gained by operating the Su-26 indicated that in order to take full advantage of all its potential, the pilot must undergo intense training in aerobatic maneuvers, which required great physical effort and time. As a result, in 1991 the Design Office began to develop an aerobatic two-seater version of the Sukhoi, the Su-29, with the goal of teaching, training, and competing in aerobatic competitions, as well as sharpening the flight skills of military and civilian pilots.

When the aerodynamic and design configuration of the Su-29 was developed, they took into consideration the experience in the creation of the Su-26.  For this reason, Sukhoi took less than a year in preparing documentation, design, and completing the first flight. Much of the technology and design of the Su-29 was utilized by its predecessor, the Su-26; the extensive use of shared elements was around 65%. The designers found that the best solution was to add a second seat in the fuselage, and they increased the breadth and longitude of the fuselage by 400mm each. Thanks to the extensive use of composite materials, which make up as much as 60% of the plane, the extra weight does not exceed 60 kilos. This made the production of an aerobatic two-seater possible, with the benefits and performance on par with its sibling two-seater plane, the Su-26.

 In June 1991, with its testing still ahead, the first prototype of Su-29-1 appeared publically at the Paris Le Bourget Air Show.  On August 9th of that same year, Ye I. Frolov made his first flight with the two-seater at the FRI airfield in Zhukovsky.


Cockpit Su-29
Cockpit Su-29

The final test flights produced three other protypes, which were satisfactorally completed in December 1991. In 1992, the Su-29 made its debut at the World Championship at Le Havre (France). The pilot representing Kazakhastan, S. Boryak, showed the greatest capacity of the two-seater, suprising the pilots as well as the industry.

In 1992, they got its certification in Russia, and signed the first contract for the aquisition of 12 Su-29 planes by the United States.  Of the more than 50 models produced, 20 years later, many of them are in full operation distributed across countries like England, Spain, the United States, South Africa, Argentina, among others.

In 1995 the Su-29 model plane was brought on as a military solution, particularly for the pilots on the front line of Russian aviation at the air force training centers, since they could utilize the characteristics of the plane to be able to adopt its techniques as well as prepare for the more difficult flight maneuvers they might encounter in air combat.

It all began when the commander in chief of the air force, seeing the unlimited possibility that the Su-29 offered, ordered a group of air force pilots to complete training excercises in the Drakino aerodrome in order to evaluate in detail the possible use of these planes as training machines in the Air Force. The experiment involved the participation of 8 pilots. The flight evaluation report said that the Su-29 was successful in take off, landing, doing aerobatics, and in doing spins. Without a doubt, it helped to prepare pilots for the most difficult air maneuvers a pilot might encounter during flight and helped pilots to maintain their skill and maneuverability while in formation with other planes.  Flying the plane in a normal manner helped develop the vestibular system, the spatial orientation capacity, and maintaining good physical form.

The pilots came to the conclusion that the plane provided great advantages when it was used as a training plane, for example the ability to maintain the necessary skills to perform stunts and spins of all kinds, to develop good visual perception for determining the position of the plane in space at any given moment, and to prepare psychologically and morally for combat missions.

The need to accelerate the training process of the aerobatic pilots of the Russian team, and to improve the flight skills of military as well as civil pilots, were the primary reasons that one of the best two-seater planes in aerobatic flight history was created. The Russians attained the unthinkable, which many tried but could not achieve: creating a two-seater plane that flown as a single pilot, had very similar performance to the Su-26 one-seater. And although it was only a matter of time before models appeared that reached the same level of competency and performance, the Sukhoi 29 continues being the choice of many aerobatic training centers and for pilots who desire to compete at an international level.  Its reliability, design, features, and strength impresses everyone, and it is not surprising that manufacturers like Xtreme Air have been inspired by many of these elements in creating their own models. Without going any further, the wing of the Sbach is practically modelled on the wing of the Sukhoi 29.

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