Hard times of Russian light aviation

© Alexander Markin / russianplanes.net / The SP-30 short take-off and landing aircraft. Archive photo

How many domestic types of light aircrafts – up to nine passengers – can you name? And which of them can be involved in aviation chemical operations? The first in this list will be, of course, An-2. Then, probably, LMS-901 Baikal. Someone will name the T-500 aircraft (MVEN). And then?

Further with a high degree of probability there will be a deadlock, because after 1949 in our country for light aviation was not created a plane similar to An-2: as simple in manufacturing, reliable and in demand both in DOSAAF (Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation and Navy), and in passenger intra-regional transportations, and in agriculture. This machine is unique at least by the fact that it has absolutely archaic canvas wing cladding. But in practice it gives An-2 a huge advantage: it can be easily removed and the whole power pack can be revised, which is impossible to do on any modern aircraft of this class. Besides, today percale is replaced by synthetic fabric, which has completely different service life. Aircraft with such cladding have been in operation for more than 12 years. Besides, the fabric cladding allows An-2 to have excellent weight capacity, which can be compared with no other aircraft.

For many decades An-2 has undergone several modifications, of which the most “working” was the version of the Siberian Aviation Research Institute named after Chaplygin – TVS-2MS. Chaplygin – TVS-2MS. RUSAVIAPROM performs works on modification of An-2 into TVS-2MS. However, this aircraft has one significant disadvantage – it is fitted with an American turboprop engine.

In the summer of 2018, a round-the-world Arctic flight by La-8 and Borey aircraft took place. In 42 days, the amphibious aircraft flew 20 thousand 960 kilometres. A significant part of the route lay in the regions of the far north over the territory of Russia, the USA, and Canada, with a stopover on the island of Greenland. These aircraft were designed and built by Samara-based NPO AeroVolga.

Borey is a single-engine, 2-seat aircraft designed for both wide private use and any other general aviation tasks. The flight speed is 180 km/h. Altitude – up to 4 thousand metres. Flight range – up to 1 thousand kilometres.

La-8 is an all-composite amphibious aircraft designed for 8 people. It is capable of overcoming up to 2 thousand km without landing at a speed of 220 km/h at altitudes from 150 to 4 thousand metres, landing on airfields, ground and water.

Undoubtedly, such aeroplanes are very necessary for our light aviation. However, the problem of these developments is that all the equipment on them is imported, including engines. “Borey” is equipped with Austrian Rotax 912, and La-8 – either Czech or American engines. In the realities of the current moment, these aircraft have no future.

In 2017, a lightweight all-composite specialised aircraft for aerial chemical operations, the T-500, was demonstrated at the MAKS air show. This project, called the Agricultural Field Aviation Complex (AFAC), began in 2016, when Kazan-based MVEN and ONPP Technologiya signed a memorandum of co-operation. MVEN’s development of the T-500 aircraft was taken as a prototype.

In September 2018, the aircraft received a type certificate from Rosaviatsia, and in 2019, construction of T-500 aircraft assembly production and an experimental aviation aerodrome began in the Innopolis special economic zone near Kazan. However, after the first ten T-500 aircraft worth about 165 million rubles went missing in 2021, the project fell out of the attention of the heads of the subjects of the Federation, enterprises, responsible officials and the media.

One more aircraft stands apart in the range of light-engine aviation aircraft. It is the SP-30 developed by the design bureau Spektr-Aero on the basis of JAR-VLA airworthiness standards. This two-seater has been in the history since the beginning of 2000 and belongs to the class of very light aircraft with take-off weight up to 500 kg. Now its production is carried out by the enterprise First Experimental Design Bureau, located in Taganrog. More than 250 aeroplanes have been produced. The chief designer of the aircraft is Anatoly Vodolazsky.

The SP-30 is an all-metal multipurpose short take-off and landing (STOL) ultralight aircraft. The maximum take-off weight is 495kg. The fuselage is of semi-monocoque construction. The wing is of the double-longitudinal girder type, the spar is riveted. All-metal springs of the main landing gear supports are made of duralumin, equipped with hydraulic brakes. The front strut is equipped with spring shock absorber, steerable. The control system is mechanical, mixed type. Aileron and elevation rudder are controlled by thrusters. For control of the rudder – cable rods. Plumage is made according to the classical normal scheme with an upper slope.

The maximum flight speed of the SP-30 does not exceed 150 km/h, the minimum safe speed is 58 km/h, and the cruising speed is 120 km/h. The recommended payload is 150 kg, the maximum payload is 220 kg. Fuel consumption depending on the flight mode and altitude is 17-22 litres. According to the airworthiness certificate, the aircraft is prohibited to perform complex aerobatics, and flights are allowed only during daytime in simple weather conditions at ambient air temperature from -10 to +30 degrees Celsius.

The First Design Bureau claims that under the conditions of sanctions, the production of the SP-30 aircraft is minimally dependent on imported components. At the moment, these are tyres, engines and instruments, which are manufactured in China according to the specifications of the First Design Bureau. Four-stroke four-cylinder engine C-100 (China) with an output of 100 hp with air-cooled cylinders and liquid cooling system of cylinder heads is supplied by Zongshen and is an analogue of Austrian Rotax 912. The powerplant drives a three-bladed sabre-shaped propeller with a diameter of 1850 mm. The instruments are supplied by Suzhou Changfend.

“In the future, the aircraft will be fully converted to domestic components. For example, at the beginning of summer we received a patent for the design of a rotary piston internal combustion engine with adjustable compression ratio and we are developing elements of integrated modular avionics. The assembled prototypes of altimeter, airspeed indicator, EFIS, vertical speed indicator arrow devices are being tested. Now the main application of the SP-30 is in agriculture. The aircraft can also be used for territory monitoring and reconnaissance missions, photo and video surveillance, for training flights, sightseeing and tourist flights, travelling distances of up to 720 km between unequipped sites”, – told the site Aviation of Russia in the First Design Bureau.

In response to our editorial’s question “Why doesn’t the aircraft have a type certificate?” the company explained that now, due to sanctions, the First Design Bureau is working on localisation of imported components in Russia, and due to the small series it is not always possible to use the same suppliers. “When production is fully localised at our place, we will file documents. But the aeroplanes receive an airworthiness certificate. Besides, we hand over the aircraft to the buyer with an already available airworthiness certificate and a full set of documents,” the representative of the enterprise added.

He explained that the price of the aircraft is fixed nationwide, including registration and delivery to the nearest dealer or transfer airfield, and depending on the modification, it starts from ₽9,597,000 or 98,500 USD.

And of course, we cannot fail to mention the state-funded aircraft being developed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation. This is a light multipurpose aircraft LMS-901 Baikal. Like all the projects discussed above, the LMS-901 was initially designed for an imported engine – General Electric H80-200. In the future, the American propulsion system will be replaced by VK-800SM. The work on import substitution is underway, but the cost of the aircraft for the end-user is growing. If the Ministry of Industry and Trade stipulated that its price should not exceed 120 million rubles, now it has grown to 178 million.

So, our light aviation is going through hard times primarily due to the lack of domestic inexpensive and accessible piston and turboprop engines. They’re being worked on. Among those that are in everyone’s ears except for the VK-800SM are the VK-650, as well as the developments of Central Institute of Aviation Motor engineering (CIAM): APD-500 and rotary-piston engines RPD-100T and RPD-150T with power of 500, 100 and 150 hp respectively.

Only after the start of serial production of this range of engines will Russian light aviation get rid of dependence on foreign propulsion systems and it will be possible to say that the difficult times are behind us.