+++ DISCLAIMER +++Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
Aeroflot is one of the oldest airlines in the world, tracing its history back to 1923. During the Soviet era, Aeroflot was the Soviet national airline and the largest airline in the world. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the carrier has been transformed from a state-run enterprise into a semi-privatized company which ranked 19th most profitable airline in the world in 2007. Aeroflot is still considered to be the de facto national airline of Russia, being 51%-owned by the Russian Government.
After WWII, Aeroflot’s route network had extended to 295,400 kilometers (183,600 mi), and by 1950 it carried 1,603,700 passengers, 151,070 tonnes (333,050,000 lb) of freight and 30,580 tonnes (67,420,000 lb) of mail during the same year. The 20th Communist Party Congress, held in 1956, saw plans for Aeroflot services to be dramatically increased. The airline would see its overall activities increased from its then current levels by 3.8 times, and it was set the target of the carriage of 16,000,000 passengers by 1960. In order to meet these goals, Aeroflot introduced higher capacity turbojet and turbine-prop aircraft on key domestic routes, and on services to Aeroflot destinations abroad.
A major step for Aeroflot occurred on 15 September 1956 when the Tupolev Tu-104 jet airliner entered service on the Moscow-Omsk-Irkutsk route, marking the world’s first sustained jet airline service. The airline began international flights with the type on 12 October 1956 with flights from Moscow to Prague. The aircraft placed Aeroflot in an envious position, as airlines in the West had operated throughout the 1950s with large piston-engine aircraft. By 1958 the route network covered 349,200 kilometers (217,000 mi), and the airline carried 8,231,500 passengers, and 445,600 tons of mail and freight, with fifteen percent of all-Union services being operated by jet aircraft.
Aeroflot introduced the Antonov An-10 and Ilyushin Il-18 in 1959, and together with its existing jet aircraft, the airline was able to extend services on modern aircraft to some twenty cities during 1960. The Tupolev Tu-114, then the world’s largest airliner, entered service with the Soviet carrier on 24 April 1961 on the Moscow-Khabarovsk route; covering a distance of 6,980 kilometers (4,340 mi) in 8 hours 20 minutes. The expansion of the Aeroflot fleet saw services with modern aircraft being extended to more than forty cities in 1961, with fifty percent of all-Union services being operated by these aircraft. This fleet expansion also saw the number of passengers carried in 1961 skyrocketing to 21,800,000.
Further expansion came in 1962 when various medium and short-haul routes were started and respective aircraft types such as the Tupolev Tu-124, Ilyushin Il-60 and Antonov An-24 entered regular service with Aeroflot. The Tu-124 was a jet airliner, technically an 75% type of the Tu-104, while the An-24 was a lighter twin turboprop aircraft in the class of the Fokker F.27. The Il-60 was the latest addition to the domestic services, falling in between both other types.
Development of the Ilyushin Il-60 dated back to 12 October 1951, when the Soviet Council of Ministers published a specification for a medium-range aircraft carrying 50 to 70 passengers and 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) of cargo on routes up to 2,000 km (1,100 nmi; 1,200 mi) with a cruising speed of about 600 km/h (320 kn; 370 mph). The type was to replace the piston engine Ilyushin Il-14 on domestic routes. The number and type of engines were not specified, but jet or turboprop engines were expected and emphasis was put on ruggedness and ease of operations for operations on rural airstrips with a minimum of infrastructure.
Ilyushin’s OKB-240 responded at first with a scaled-down Il-18 turboprop airliner, somewhat inspired by an idea of Czech manufacturer Avia for a smaller, short-range airliner for the CSA’s Central European routes. This machine had only two engines and overall reduced dimensions, but used many components of the original airliner. But it soon became clear that the Tu-104 with its jet engines had already set higher standards, so that a completely brand new and more innovative design was started.
Internally known as “Aircraft 60”, the machine introduced some innovations while still being a conservative design. The aircraft was a two turboprop-engine low-wing monoplane with slightly swept (20° at quarter chord) wings, a circular pressurized fuselage and a conventional, yet markedly swept tail (both fin and stabilizer at 45°). The aircraft had two entry doors on the port-side before and after the wing, two overwing emergency exits on each side, and featured a retractable stairway under the rear fuselage so that passengers could directly enter the aircraft from the airfield. An APU was integrated in the rear fuselage, under the fin, for independent operation of the air condition system and starting the engines without external support.
The tricycle landing gear had four wheels fitted on the main leg bogies, which retracted inwards to lie under the fuselage instead of into the engine nacelles. The front wheel also had twin wheels, retracting forward in a well under the cockpit floor, and the aircraft’s low-pressure tires allowed operations even from grass airfields or snowy ground. Another novel feature at the time was the fitting of a weather radar in the nose, a civilian RPSN-2 "Emblema" system, doing away with the typical glazed navigator position of other former Soviet airliner designs. In order to support all-weather operations and ease the pilots’ work, “Aircraft 60” was also outfitted with an automatic approach system, supported by the radar which allowed blind navigation.
Despite vibration and noise problems, experienced with the earlier Il-18 airliner, Ilyushin insisted on turboprop propulsion because it was the more fuel-efficient option. He furthermore expected that no another jet-driven airliner would be politically “allowed” along the Tu-124 short haul airliner, at that time under parallel development.
“Aircraft 60” was powered by a pair of Kuznetsow NK-6K turboprops. This engine was one of several developments after World War II by a team of Russian scientists and deported German engineers under Ferdinand Brandner, which had worked for Junkers previously, evolving from late war German turboprop studies. This the post-war development was based on the wartime Jumo 022 turboprop design that developed 6000 eshp in a 3000 kg engine. The efforts continued with a 5000 ehp engine that weighed in at 1700 kg, completed by 1947, and with further weight savings and more modern materials, the NK-6, one of several development directions, became a large single-spool engine that was optimized for use on board of commercial aircraft like “Aircraft 60”.
For security reasons, the engines were mounted in front and above of the wings’ leading edge. In order to keep the wing structure as clean and simple and possible and not risk collateral damage to the landing gear in case of an engine fire, the landing gear was retracted into wells under the wing roots. This measure also kept the engine nacelle’s dimensions in very compact limits.
In order to minimize noise and vibrations, 2×4-bladed contraprops with an automatic feathering system were mounted, resulting in a characteristic humming noise when the engines were running. Due to the lower speed of these propellers, compared to a standard four- or five-blade propeller, the internal and external noise level could be significantly reduced (compared to the Il-18, which could drone at 110db in the cabin above the wings!), even though the lower frequency caused other problems, mainly vibrations at certain speeds that shook the whole airframe.
The standard seating of the initial type, the Il-60A, was 52 seats at a 90cm distance between the five-seat rows (two seats on port side and three on starboard). Alternatively, a maximum of 72 could be mounted in a cramped “tourist class” configuration with only 78cm distance between the seat rows, which became the late production standard configuration as Il-60B.
The first of two prototypes made its first flight from Zhukovsky airfield on 24 March 1960. The second prototype followed in June 1960. Two other airframes served as a static test cells. Testing was successful, and the aircraft entered production at Machinery Plant No. 30 located at Khodynka, near Moscow, replacing the Il-18 in production. Deliveries to Aeroflot began in August 1962, with the type operating its first scheduled passenger service, between Moscow and Tallinn in Estonia, on 2 October 1962.
The Il-60’s production remained only on a smaller scale, though: being a pure jet, the Tu-124 was preferred by the Aeroflot for short haul duties, as well as by the Powers That Be. Despite the type’s merits esp. in harsh climate conditions (most Il-60 were allocated to Aeroflot’s feederline services in the Soviet Union’s northern regions), the type was not popular among its crews. While the two turboprops gave sufficient power, had not bad handling across the whole speed envelope and the aircraft had no trouble remaining airborne with one engine shut down, the asymmetrical drag/thrust in this emergency condition was considerable and navigating the Il-60, and even more landing the aircraft, with only one engine was a challenging task.
Furthermore, the stalky landing gear, which prompted the crews’ inofficial nickname "косино́жки" (kosinozhki = daddy longlegs), could start to vibrate under certain conditions and wobble, making a start or landing run a shaky if not dangerous affair, esp. on snow-packed and non-permanent runways. Furthermore, two Il-60 crashed on runways or airfields after hitting obstacles ubnder snow – the long front landing gear collapsed. Nobody on board was seriosuly hurt in both cases, but these accidents did not improve the type’s reputation among both pilots and passengers alike.
Only a total of 44 machines were built: 18 Il-60As for selected connections abroad (e. g. to Scandinavia and Poland), plus 26 Il-60Bs with higher seat capacity for purely domestic service. Both machines were identical from the outside, though, and all production aircraft featured a characteristic spinal fin root extension that covered several radio and navigation antennae.
Ilyushin had plans for a stretched type (with two plugs inserted into the fuselage in front of and behind the wings) with a 2.2m longer fuselage and a maximum capacity of 85 passengers, and also worked on a jet-powered update with engine nacelles on pylons under and in front of the wings. But none of these improvements was turned into hardware, since not only the Tu-124 had become the preferred short/medium haul airliner for Aeroflot, the following Tu-134 had also become the political favorite, and OKB-240 focused on its long-range airliner Il-62.
Il-60 production already ended after only two years in 1964, and Aeroflot decommissioned its last twelve Il-60s on 21 January 1980, after more and more structural problems (wing spar cracks, caused by the NK-6’s vibrations) had become apparent and several aircraft had to be grounded.
Crew: 3 (captain, first officer and a flight engineer),
plus another seat for an optional navigator or a radio officer,
plus a three- or four-person cabin crew
Capacity: 52 – 72
Payload: 8.4 t (9.3 short tons)
Length: 32,54 m (106 ft 7 in)
Wingspan: 34.3 m (112 ft 6 in)
Height: 11,74 m (38 ft 5 1/2 in)
Wing area: 146.7 m² (1,579 sq ft)
Empty weight: 22.2 t (24.5 sT)
Max. takeoff weight: 46 t (50.7 sT)
2× Kusnetzow NK-6K turboprop engines, rated at 3,318 kW (4,612 ehp) each
Maximum speed: 805 km/h (500 mph/435 knots)
Cruise speed: 665 km/h (424 mph/370 knots)
Range (Typical payload, 2 hr reserve): 2,400 km (1,300 nmi/1,490 mi)
Rate of climb: 2,750 ft/min (14.0 m/s)
Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
The kit and its assembly:
“In Soviet Union, Aeroflot flies you!” And in order to prove this theory, this whiffy airliner is contribution #3 to the “Soviet Group Build” at whatifmodelers.com in early 2017.
It’s been a very long time that I had built a smaller-scale airliner, but then I found a (crappy!) 1:144 Mistercraft Caravelle III in my stash (actually, a re-boxed kit from a company called “Ruch” from the Sixties!), that I had originally bought just for the wings as a pure donor kit. This appears to be a blunt copy of the also rather vintage Airfix kit, but the latter has much more crisp details. O.K., the Mistercraft kit was cheap – but you have to pay otherwise…
Anyway, anything Soviet without an elegant Aeroflot airliner would not be complete, so I tackled this idea on short notice. The project had also been fueled by another project idea: a modern short-haul airliner like the Tu-204, but outfitted with turboprops instead of turbofan engines. For this idea (and other uses), I also had a conversion set from a Russian company called “Kompakt Mir” stashed away, with four resin 1:144 NK-14 engines. It’s actually as an aftermarket upgrade set for the Trumpeter Tu-95 type kit, but came in handy – and it is excellent stuff, by the way, with crisp detail, almost no flash or sinkholes.
With these ingredients, work went on quickly and straightforward, and wings and fuselage were started separately. The wings (a combined piece with a mutual underside) received fairings for engine nacelles, made basically from drop tank halves glued to the upper wing surface. Then the resin engines were mounted to the fairings’ front ends the gaps and the nacelles’ underside sculpted with 2C putty, plus some later fine-tuning with NC putty. The Caravelle’s inward-retracting landing gear was retained, keeping the engine fairings rather short and compact.
On the fuselage, the Caravelle’s original engines and their attachment points disappeared. The triangular windows were drilled open into circular shape, later, as a final finishing step, filled with Humbrol ClearFix for shiny window panes – this improves the overall look a lot.
Lead was added in the nose, the retractable stairway under the rear fuselage kept (a very Soviet design detail!) and the Caravelle’s characteristic round fin tip was cut away, to be replaced with a square scratch transplant. The stabilizers were moved down and their round tips clipped, too.
On the nose, a scratched thimble radome was added and blended into the fuselage, for an Il-18-ish look. While these were rather simple, cosmetic measures on the fuselage, the look of the whole aircraft was changed into a much more modern design!? This was even more emphasized when the wings and stabilizers were added – the Il-60 looks very contemporary, nothing of the Caravelle’s Fifties flavor remains.
The landing gear is brand new, bashed from the bogies of the recently slashed Dragon 1:144 B-1B bomber I abused for my Fastback build, and leftover struts from an Acedemy 1:144 Tu-22M. The latter also donated a pair of main wheels for the front leg, which is, again, from the B-1B.
The brand new arrangement is considerably taller than the Caravelle’s, but with the large propellers this is a convenient and plausible arrangement, despite a rather stalky appearance due to the relatively short wheelbase. The eight main wheels were taken from the RUCH kit, even though the attachment point would not fit the B-1 struts at all…
Painting and markings:
One can argue about Soviet aircraft design or reliability – but I must admit that I liked the Aeroflot aircraft liveries since I can remember them as a child, sometimes even witnessing Tupolev or Yak jets at the local airport. The white-and-blue outfit with almost baroque trim and details was and is IMHO a very elegant design, worthy of a state airline (which had a menacing, if not mysterious Big Brother image during the Cold War times in which I grew up).
Another interesting fact is that, despite the basic colors were set, each Aeroflot type bore a typical and different paint scheme, plus some exotic designs like the polar service machines with lots of red added.
Consequently, I had a lot of freedom, and work was made even more easy through the Mistercraft Caravelle kit: it actually contains markings for a Caravelle in Aeroflot markings! “Nonsense!”, you might say – but this aircraft actually existed: it was a movie prop (actually Air France’s F-BJTR) for filming “Enigma” at Le Bourget Airport in 1981 (check this for reference: www.airliners.net/photo/Aeroflot-%28Air-France%29/Sud-SE-…). As a side note, there was another Caravelle in fictional Interflug or ČSA colors, too, as well as a camouflaged SMB2 Super Mystère and a NMF Mystère IV with red stars on white discs, both playing the role of Soviet MiG-19s!
Anyway, the OOB decal sheet offered enough material for my plans, even though the blue trim was created from generic decal sheet. But door decals and most Aeroflot markings came from the movie aircraft.
Painting was also a pretty straightforward affair: the fuselage was painted white with acrylic paint from the rattle can, the lower fuselage by brush with Polished Aluminum Metallizer from Humbrol (which creates a very bright and clean finish) on top of a Revell Acrylics Aluminum primer coat.
For some contrast to the white and blue I painted the fixed wing parts with light grey, the rudders in Aluminum and Steel, and orange wing and stabilizer tips were added as smaller, additional contrasts, later even highlighted with dayglow orange.
In order to add some weirdness to the look, the propeller blades were painted bright blue with yellow tips. Unusual, but a common Soviet/Russian/Chinese practice.
A rather simple conversion, but highly effective. The Caravelle’s traces are almost not to be identified anymore, even though fuselage and wings consist of OOB material with only superficial modifications or re-locations. The engines on the wings change the look, too, and despite being massive NK-12’s they are a not bad match for the compact airliner – I am very happy with the outcome, even though the overall lines look much more modern than late Fifties design – even though no more modern parts were actually integrated? Weird, but entertaining. J