The U-2/Po-2 was designed by N N Polikarpov, head of the OSS (Dept for experimental landplane construction) in response to a wish to establish a single Soviet type for a uniform training syllabus, with the emphasis on a reliable engine coupled with simplicity and cheapness. The original 1927 design was very simple and cheap but flew like a brick, so the requirement for simplicity was relaxed and on 7th January 1928 the aerodynamically cleaned up U-2 flew to critical acclaim, especially for its positive longitudinal stability and lack of vices (even though these are not universally desirable qualities in a trainer).
However, the U-2 (which was, somewhat ironically, redesignated Po-2 after Polikarpov’s death in 1944) was certainly not used just as a trainer. The prototype of the first main variant, a crop duster, appeared as early as October 1927 and there followed many variations on the basic theme, such as floatplanes, cabin versions (seating up to seven in overload conditions!), ambulances, some with stretcher accommodation in pods on each lower wing, one luxury cabin version with exhaust muff heating and wicker passenger chairs and even a prone-position pilot version to test an interceptor fighter concept (in 1939).
During WWII the U-2/Po-2 (nicknamed ‘Kukuruznik’, corn-cutter), in addition to its basic training, liaison and ambulance roles, was used on night missions to deprive German troops of sleep, by women pilots on night bombing raids and as a light attack and close support aircraft After the war it continued as a Soviet Jack of all trades with production ceasing in 1951 (1955 in Poland), but there were enough spares to allow the last aircraft of the approximately 33,000 total to be built in 1959.
|Type of machine||All wood, single engine, two seat biplane|
|Wing Span||37 ft 0 in|
|Overall length||26 ft 7 in|
|Engine||115 hp Shvetsov M-11D 5 cylinder radial|
|Weight empty||1,653 lbs|
|Weight loaded||2,255 lbs|
|Speed (max)||93 mph|
This aeroplane was built in 1944 in the Soviet Union and its operational history is unknown until it was included in a group of 30 given to Yugoslavia in 1946. It flew first at the Military Air Force Academy at Pancevo before being transferred, in 1952, to the Yugoslav Air club where it was used for glider towing and parachute training.
On 1st March 1958 the aircraft was registered YU-CLJ and flew at the Federal Aircraft Centre at URSAC until April 1961, then being transferred to Murska Subota in Slovenia. Its working life ended in 1979 when it was donated to the Yugoslav National Museum who evidently didn’t regard it as a national treasure as it was later sold to Jim Pearce who brought it to the UK and registered it as G-BSSY in July 1990.
The aircraft was sold on to Pat Donovan in 1996 and shipped to Seattle where restoration began but was then taken to New Zealand in December 2000.
Interesting features demonstrating the simplicity of the design are that both fuel and oil systems are gravity fed. The fuel tank holds 200L but there is no fuel gauge and no fuel pump. The oil system - no filter, just a mesh screen - is turned on by a tap behind the starboard cowl panel, out of reach of the pilot.
It was purchased for The Shuttleworth Collection in 2004 following restoration the aircraft flew for the first time with the Collection on January 10th 2011, piloted by ‘Dodge’ Bailey
Picture courtesy of Rory Cook