A distinguished aircraft designer, founder of a design office, General Designer, member of the Academy of Science of the USSR, General colonel of Engineering and technical service, three times Hero of Socialist Labour, laureate of the Lenin Prize and of the eight State Prizes of the USSR.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin
S.V.Ilyushin’s life covers nearly all the history of Russian aviation fr om the first “Aviation week”, where he participated as a digger in the spring of 1910, to the first start of IL-86 wide body passenger aircraft, created by his followers.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin was born on the 18th of March (old calendar) 1894 in a large peasant family, in the village of Dylyalevo, Vologda Governorate. His childhood was as of ordinary peasant boy of that time. At the age of 15 Sergey Ilyushin had to leave his village for work, as many of his countrymen did. He worked as a digger, as a soldier of agricultural team, as a motor machinist’s mate, and finally as an air fitter, these were Sergey Ilyushin’s first steps in his aviation career. Air fitter Ilyusin gets sent to study aeronautics and in summer 1917 passes the exam for a grade title of a Pilot at the school of All-Russia Aviation Club.
In 1919 Ilyushin is drafted into the Red Army, but not as a pilot. At that time there was a shortage of aviation specialists, who was able to provide maintenance, repair and flight preparation of different-type totally exhausted aviation equipment, mostly of foreign origin. This work was being completed by moving technical divisions – aviation trains, crisscrossing through the front lines of the civil war. For Ilyushin it was a kind of the primary school of the aviation designer, where he obtained managerial skills, detailed knowledge of the aircraft structure of that time, peculiarities of their operation and combat use.
In September of 1921 Commander of the Kuban Army aviation train S.V.Ilyushin obtains a referral to the Institute of Engineers of the Red Air Fleet, which was renamed the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy in 1922. Among the students of the Academy Ilyushin stands out for his managerial and design skills. He heads one of the divisions of the Academy’s Military-Scientific foundations.
As many other students of the Academy, Ilyushin studied alongside the volunteer work on construction of training gliders of his own design: “Mastyazhart” (Heavy artillery workrooms), “Rabfakovets”, “Moskva”. Sergey Vladimirovich regularly takes part in the All-Soviet-Union glider competitions, held at that time in the Crimea. He heads the Technical committee, which approval needed for every glide to take off. His gliding hobby was an important step on his way to becoming Ilyushin-designer.
In 1927 after his graduation fr om Air Force Engineering Academy Ilyushin was appointed at one of the most significant positions of the young Soviet aviation. He becomes a chairman of the First (aircraft manufacturing) division of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Red Army Air Force Administration (NTK UVVS).
At that time NTK UVVS directed the program of foundation and equipping of the Soviet Air Force. It was responsible for the planning of experimental and serial manufacturing, working out of mission requirements to testing aircraft, engines, aircraft weapon and equipment, supervision of works on manufacturing and testing of aviation equipment. The beginning of S.V.Ilyushin career at the NTK UVVS concurred with the foundation of the national aviation industry. There was a focused work of experimental design bureaus and scientific institutions in the country, there was construction of new aviation plants, the training of engineers. This process was initiated by the plans of the national Air Force development, and S.V.Ilyushin took an active role in it. Technical specification to the aircraft of N.N.Polikarpov, A.N.Tupolev, D.P.Grigorovych were made under his guidance.
The work at NTK UVVS and at the Technical council of Aviatrust not only widened S.V.Ilyushin’s horizon, but also helped forward to the formation of such qualities of his further design style, as the ability to see the main trends in development of aviation engineering, the initiative in conducting of project researches and manufacturing of different-purpose aircraft, simple in manufacture, efficient in use and meeting the needs of the time.
In the early 1930 it was decided to extend the management of the aviation industry. It was headed by P.I.Baranov, the former chief of the Red Army Administration. N.M.Kharlamov, deputy chairman of NTK UVVS, military engineer, headed TsAGI (Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute). S.V.Ilyushin was appointed his Deputy and the head of the Central Design bureau of TsAGI, wh ere nearly all the leading teams operating in experimental aircraft manufacturing were focused.
However, the idea of forming the Central Design bureau of TsAGI appeared non applicable. During the work on new types of aircraft the specialization of design teams was growing, it was getting complicated to manage the team. At the instance of S.V.Ilyushin, on the 13th of January 1933 P.I.Baranov signed an order on division of the Central Design bureau of TsAGI and establishment of the Central Design bureau of the experimental manufacturing of light aircraft. Manufacturing of heavy aircraft of different purpose was charged to Design division of the Sector of Experimental Aircraft Engineering of TsAGI under A.N.Tupolev management.
Having headed the Central Design bureau, S.V.Ilyushin closely approached the general mission of his life – the organization of the design team for creating two-engine long-range bomber aircraft.
At the plant №39 S.V.Ilyushin not only saved the old name of the Design Bureau – TsKB (Tsentralnoe Konstruktorskoe Buro), the Central Design Bureau, but at the Central Design bureau of TsAGI he also settled a system of independent design teams, specialized on the aircraft types, armament, technology, etc. The work of the OKB (Opytno Konstruktorskoe Buro), Experimental Design Bureau, was developed in three main divisions: the manufacturing of bomber aircraft, attack aircraft and passenger aircraft.
The design bureau, founded by Ilyushin, was few in numbers at the beginning. Sergey Vladimirovich considered that even major work can be made by small force, and he aimed for the minimum cost of the experimental engineering. One of the principles of Ilyushin’s management system was his personal participation in solving vital and other issues. S.V.Ilyushin organized a simple system of subordination in his team – every senior employee coordinates the work of minor employees, with the absolutely clear assignment of work. He could manage to organize the working process in such a manner, that everybody could feel their significance and work as the equal right participant of the common cause. And this was one of the secrets of such successful management. The other one is in the system of other aspects organization – from the enterprise structure to the system of relationship.
One of S.V.Ilyushin’s basic principles as a manager was the one that the growth of every designer implies not the social ladder promotion, but the skills mastering and the knowledge accumulation. He did not only stated this principle, but also confirmed it by his actions, providing actual (not formal) conditions in the team, encouraged and recognized the workers (morally and in terms of money) according to this principle. For him it was knowledge and creative effort what was important, but not the official position of employees. Such approach to the growth and conditions of the stuff resulted in the steadiness of the main part of the team. Ilyushin’s employees didn’t leave the company even if they received rather attractive offers from other companies.
The General designer could inspire people with his enthusiasm without any agitation, get obsessed with his idea. Without speaking a lot he generously shared his knowledge, giving all his time and efforts and perfectly combining solving of engineering issues with training specialists. Being quiet and at the same time rather easy-going he could get young engineers interested with particular tasks and helped with their solving. For young specialists Ilyushin worked out “A short designer’s manual”, wh ere he described the main points of design of aircraft parts and joints. There is not only the full list of all the terms important for design in the manual, but there is also a focus on the necessity of the system approach to projecting and the significance of complex analysis of all factors.
Sergey Vladimirovich brought up foremost specialists of high qualification and perfect ability to work, who have their own style of work. It is widely known in the aviation ranks, and Ilyushin’s designers have authority. His great merit is in forming and training a team of mates and enthusiasts, the team of masters who are known for their perfect professionalism.
Academician Ilyushin belongs to that series of outstanding designers, whose creative work is beyond the scope of engineering and becomes the activity of a scientist. As a true engineer and scientist, he supported every creative idea, helped authors and inventors who looked for new decisions. As a result the members of the OKB published over a several hundreds of scientific-technical works. The designers have a lot of Author’s certificates and patents of different kinds.
Everything what was said about the system of relationship perfectly matches Sergey Vladimirovich’s character. He was exceptionally modest and diplomatic, soft and attentive, communicable and charming man, easy and equal to everyone. He had a native sense of diplomacy and a deep noble – a rather rear quality. He new well and always followed the rules of work and general ethic. This and professional character features, such as sense of purpose, good organization, high working efficiency, adherence to principles helped the his team create outstanding aircraft.
The first aircraft, designed by Ilyushin’s design bureau was TsKB-26 long-range bomber aircraft. It received good flight characteristics after testing equal to foreign bomber aircraft of the same time. Working on upgrade of this model Ilyushin worked out several modifications: DB-3, DB-3F, the latter was named IL-4.
DB-3 aircraft was built in the beginning of 1936. It underwent long flight testing and full war load far non-stop flight Moscow-Baku-Moscow piloted by research pilot V.K. Kokkinaki. As a result DB-3 aircraft got the solid reputation of an excellent long-range bomber aircraft and was put into mass production.
Continuing the development of the successful design in 1938 the OKB team launched a new modification of the aircraft – DB-3F. Equipped with more powerful engines and better armament, this aircraft named IL-4 replaced DB-3 in mass production in 1940.
But it was his another combat aircraft – attack plane IL-2 – which made Ilyushin famous.
Until that unsuccessful efforts to create a combat aircraft were made repeatedly during the pre-war years in Russia as well as abroad. Ilyushin managed to complete this task. Actually, all the attack aviation as a new kind of aviation, closely interacting with ground forces, was made on the base of Ilyushin’s aircraft design.
At first Ilyushin developed an experimental TsKB-55 aircraft in a double-seat version. The aircraft crew consisted of a pilot and radio-operator gunner, which seated behind the pilot, operating with the radio and defending the aircraft from the attack behind with a machine-gun mounting. For direct firing a powerful machine-gun was mounted at TsKB-55.
Butt the military considered the speed of TsKB-55 low. In their opinion it was possible to lighten the aircraft, improve its aerodynamics and receive the higher speed and flight height, removing the second cabin with radio-operator gunner and the machine-gun mounting. So TsKB-55 aircraft underwent State testing and was put to mass production in a single-seat option with enhanced armament. The serial aircraft got the name IL-2.
However, from the first days of war IL-2 in a single-cabin option without rear machine-gun mounting was defenceless against enemy fighter aircraft. The Germans noticed this weak spot of the attack aircraft. Storm parties suffered great losses during the first months of the war.
And then in the beginning of 1942 it was decided to get back to the double-seat version of the attack aircraft. Sergey Vladimirovich asked for three days to think it over, after which he brought up a drawing and reported that he had found a rather successful solution: the second cabin of the radio-operator gunner and the machine-gun for firing enemy aircrafts behind can be mounted on the aircraft almost without any reconstruction and losses for the serial manufacturing at the plants. He promised to prepare the first plane of such kind by the 1st of March, and the second one – by the 10th of March. The version of IL-2 double-seat attack aircraft was approved and at once, before testing, it was decided to put it to serial manufacturing.
From that time and till the end of the war the attack planes were produced in the double-seat version. Their losses in air-fights dropped.
Creating IL-2 Ilyushin managed to solve a lot of research and technology issues, including the use of armour as the aircraft substructure, the technology of manufacturing of the armoured body with the high-cumbered lines, etc.
The history of creating IL-2 clearly shows Sergey Vladimirovich’s distinguished personal characteristics: the designer’s talent, conviction and persistence in pursuing a goal, extraordinary foresight.
It was the most high-volume aircraft in history. Total over 36 thousand of IL-2 attack aircraft were produced.
During the war the OKB focused on the attack aircraft upgrade, but Ilyushin continued the work on design of new bomber, attack and passenger aircraft. The first Soviet jet tactical bomber which entered the Air Force service was IL-28. It was a high-performance aircraft with the technology well adapted to the mass serial manufacturing.
The third division of Ilyushin’s design activity was production of passenger aircraft.
By the end of 1943 when the frontlines did well and our aviation totally commanded the air Ilyushin was working on design of IL-12 two-engine transport passenger aircraft. there was a need to design an aircraft which was able to flight faster and farer than LI-2 passenger aircraft – the main Civil Air Fleet aircraft. As a result, in the first post-war years, starting from 1947, two-engine piston IL-12 aircraft and further IL-14 and its modifications cruised the USSR civil airways. Those were perfect aircraft for that time, economising and save enough.
After IL-12 Ilyushin’s design bureau created a new big passenger IL-18 aircraft with four piston engines. The aircraft was successfully tested and became the main and the most numerous aircraft of Aeroflot.
The distinguish feature of Ilyushin creative activity was the simplicity of project solutions. In his memories General designer, academician A.S.Yakovlev, emphasises this feature, calling Ilyushin “master of simple solutions”. Of course, this “simplicity” demanded great creative effort and absolutely clear vision of the service life of the aircraft designed. Every aircraft created in the design bureau under guidance of Ilyushin embodies the general designer’s creative features. The skill of finding technically simple solution of difficult and sometimes controversial problems is a talent, the style of S.V.Ilyushin, the designer and the scientist, the engineer and creator of the aviation technology. With this skill he could produce the aircraft which played significant role in development of the USSR Air Force and provided execution of the large part of the civil air transport work. They took the rightful place in the history of national aviation.
S.V.Ilyushin succeeded due to solving technical tasks in terms of novel scientific achievements, by brave implementation of the new and due to his exceptional vision.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin has lots of followers who were and who are the fundamental core of the design bureau. Primarily, his follower, Genrikh Vasilyevich Novozhilov, General Designer in 1970-2005. He keeps and develops the main traditions of Ilyushin School. Forming his company Sergey Vladimirovich tried to employ beginners rather than experienced specialists. These trainees and mates, who worked with Ilyushin for several decades, are often called “Ilyushin’s Guard”. Indeed, these are the specialists he relied upon in any situation, with whom he created.
Nearly 40 years passed from the light 100 kg planer to a 160 tons intercontinental airliner. Dozens of aircraft were designed, built and flight tested under the guidance of S.V.Ilyushin. Many of these appeared unequalled in their flight performance, simplicity of design, technology and reliability.
Sergey Vladimirovich developed various principles and methods of design, established his own design style, his school in aircraft engineering. Each designer usually has his specialization. In the aviation each type of aircraft has its own specificity. The team formed and brought up by Ilyushin can be rightfully called the team of multi aviation task. Attack, bomber and passenger aircraft, their numerous modifications – this is what the academician Ilyushin and his team worked at for many years.
In 1970, after S.V.Ilyushin retired, the OKB team continued manufacturing IL-62M, IL-76, IL-86, IL-96-300, IL-114, IL-96M.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin died on the 9th of February 1977 in Moscow. He was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin is an outstanding aircraft designer and scientist and he takes the rightful place in the aviation history. His attack, bomber and passenger aircraft are the novelties in the industry at each stage of the aviation development. His contribution into the national defence and development of the air transportation, into the progress of engineering sciences and technology of aviation industry is priceless.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin’s activity was marked with the State rewards:
1941, 1957, 1974 – Hero of Socialist Labour three times
1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1952 – seven times Laureate of Stalin Prize
1960 – Laureate of Lenin Prize
1971 – Laureate of USSR State Prize
1937, 1941, two Orders of Lenin
1945, 1954, 1964, 1971, 1974 - eight Orders of Lenin
1969 – Order of the October Revolution
1944, 1950 – two Orders of the Red Banner
1939 - Order of the Red Banner of Labour
1933, 1967 – two Orders of the Red Star
1944 – Order of Suvorov 2nd rank
1945 – Order of Suvorov 1st rank
1969 - Polish Knight’s Cross 2nd rank of the Commander Order
1943 for Defence of Moscow
1945 for the Victory over Germany
1946 for the Valorous Labour in the Great Patriotic War
1948 in memory of the 800th anniversary of Moscow
1945 for the Victory over Japan
1938 20th anniversary of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army
1948 30th anniversary of the Soviet Army
1958 40th anniversary of the Soviet Army
1968 50th anniversary of the Soviet Army
1965 20th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War
1975 30th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War
1970 for the Valorous Labour - in commemoration of 100th anniversary of Lenin’s Birth
1976 Veteran of the USSR Armed Forces