Maize Cutter and “Night Witches’ Aircraft”
History of the aircraft
The prototype of the U-2 biplane, which was later to become the legendary plane of the Soviet Air Force, was designed in the design office of Nikolai Nikolayevich Polikarpov in 1927. With over 40,000 PO-2s, it is probably the most produced aircraft in the world. The two seat biplane, which was produced from the beginning of 1928, was used in the civil aviation and the air force by the new generation of Soviet pilots. The plane was powered by The Shvetsov M-11 engine with power output of 100–115 hp.
In the World War II it served as the training, liaison, staff, transport, ambulance, bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Because of its quiet, rattling engine the Germans called it Sewing machine (Nähmaschine). Soviets called it Kukuriznik (Maize Cutter). Because of its quiet sounding engine the plane was used for various purposes such as air lifting supplies to partisan’s units in the night, transporting wounded soldiers, directing gun fire from the plane and night bombing raids. The plane was made most famous probably by the 46th Aviation Regiment composed by female pilots which took part in the night raids on the German army positions. Germans called this female units “Night Witches” (Nachthexen) which the female members of the regiment accepted and started using themselves. The plane was continuously improved and in 1944 it was renamed Po-2 in the memory of the designer Polikarpov who tragically died. After the war it was produced under licence in Poland. The production in the Soviet Union ended in 1953. The Kukuruznik was also used by the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps and after the war it was used with designation K-62 by the Czechoslovak Air Force. Several Po-2s were used by the Svazarm aero clubs until the late 1960s.
The flying specimen
The plane was produced in the Soviet Union in 1937 with the serial number 0076. During the World War II it was used by the Red Army and after the war in 1945 it was presented to the Yugoslav Army together with about 80 other aircrafts.
During the service in Yugoslav Army when the plane was flying with the registration mark YU-CWJ, the radial five-cylinder Shvetsov M-11 engine was replaced with the Czech inverted in-line six-cylinder Walter Minor 6-III engine with power output of 160 hp. In this configuration the Army handed over the plane in 1967 to the Koroški Aero Club Slovenj Gradec. There the plane continued flying with the registration mark YU-CMY until 1975 when as a non-operational plane it was stored in the hangar.
The full sensitive and careful reconstruction and the installation of the new Shvetsov M-11FR engine with power output of 160 hp was carried out in the Koroški Aero Club Slovenj Gradec in 2004 -2005. The aircraft was again given the mark of the Yugoslav Army, the registration mark S5-MAY and in May 2005 it was successfully trimmed in flight. Until May 2014 the plane was flying in airshows piloted by Alojz Tretjak who, as a sponsor, was taking great care of the aircraft.
In May 2014 we were able to acquire this aircrafts and flew it over the Slovenian and Austrian Alps to its new station in Mladá Boleslav. Here the plane was first presented at the 10th Traditional Airshow in June 2014 and was received with great acclaim. The installation of new original tyres, general renovation works after ten years of flying and restoration of the plane’s original Russian registration mark was carried out in winter 2014-2015 in the Metoděj Vlach’s Aircraft Museum which is now the permanent home for the aircraft.
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