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Flying with Antonov

New exhibit explores Ukrainian aerospace history

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2016 (2316 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada’s (958 Ferry Rd.) latest exhibit takes visitors across the Atlantic and back in time to explore Ukraine’s aerospace industry as far back as the ’40s.

Exhibits co-ordinator and designer Paul Balcaen said Zoom to Zenith was inspired by the number of people asking about the massive Oleg Antonov-designed Antonov AN-124 plane — the second heaviest in the world — that lands in Winnipeg a few times a year.

“I thought it would be great to talk about that, and about Antonov, who designed this aircraft,” Balcaen said. “Antonov came up with some very original ideas on how to make an airplane that you can use for multiple purposes — cargo, people, and landing, being able to land anywhere and a lot of places around the world don’t have beautiful runways like we do.”

Alana Trachenko Zoom to Zenith is on now at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.

Antonov’s work as an aerospace designer sparked the creation of Antonov State Company (formerly the Antonov Aeronautical Scientific-Technical Complex), which is headquartered in Kyiv, Ukraine. Founded in 1946, the company has led the way in many aerospace advances.

Balcaen said that like Ukraine, we have had to transport people and cargo to remote, northern locations and as a result have designed similar planes.

“Ukraine, Russia and us, we’re all in the same boat and we need aircraft to go to remote regions, so I thought this exhibit would be great in making a connection in showing what other countries are doing and because we have a large population of Ukrainian people here in Manitoba, I thought this is nice, it’ll be something different.”

In the exhibit, Balcaen is even able to compare two bush planes — one from Ukraine, and one from Canada — that are almost identical.

“Antonov designed this little bush plane, a biplane called the An-2, it looks a lot like our de Havilland (Canada DHC-3) Otter,” he said. “What (Antonov) did was during the Cold War and during that, up until the ‘90s, there was no sharing of technology or ideas across that iron curtain, as they would call it.

Alana Trachenko

“Great minds in different countries were thinking of the same thing and very similar solutions.”
The designer said although there is more communication between the countries now, Canada has advanced enough in its own design that we don’t borrow much from Ukraine. In fact, they use some Canadian avionics (electronic equipment fitted in an aircraft).

Balcaen said the country’s ability to move forward technologically while dealing with the fall of the Soviet Union is an impressive feat.

“For a little country that’s had a really tough time, they were able to pick up the pieces and were able to find a market for this stuff. It’s a very resourceful country.”

Alana Trachenko
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