Military Review

Midshipmen, up!

Midshipmen, up!

Born in the era of sailing fleet, Alexander Mozhaisky opened the era of flying in the sky

In his youth, Alexander Fedorovich was a midshipman: the son of the admiral of the Russian fleet, he graduated from the Naval Cadet Corps in St. Petersburg. The future sailor and aeronaut was born 9 (21) in March 1825 of the year in Finland, and his childhood was spent traveling to the ports of the Baltic and the White Sea. At the age of ten, the parents brought the boy to the capital and sent him to the cadets. The director of the corps at that time was Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern. The famous traveler, he not only knew and loved the maritime business, but also had a broad outlook, unlike many government officials, knowing full well that the development of the fleet requires restructuring the training of naval officers. Having created an officer class under the Marine Corps, he selected 6 – 8 honors from each issue to study in it. Future officers were given lectures on higher mathematics, astronomy, and the theory of shipbuilding. The famous German naturalist Alexander Humboldt, who visited St. Petersburg in 1829, exclaimed, having familiarized himself with the training program in this educational institution: “How happy I would be if I could know everything that the Russian cadet knows!”

Thanks to the reform carried out by Kruzenshtern, Alexander learned not only to be the captain, but also to the ship designer. For two years the young man “did practical work” - he walked on frigates “Melpomene”, “Olga”, “Alexander Nevsky”. So began his naval service. Seven years later, during which he sailed the White, Barents, Norwegian, Northern and Baltic Seas, increased the knowledge and practical experience of the seaman. In the 1849 year, when Mozhaisky was not yet 25 years old, he was made lieutenant. His personal qualities - technical skills, discipline and ability to lead a team - commented: Alexander was included in the crew of one of the first Russian military steamers - “Hard”. Recall that the officer service of Alexander Fedorovich came in the last years of the military sailing fleet: the Crimean war, which will break out soon, will demonstrate the superiority of steam engines.

In 1853 – 1855, Mozhaisky took part in long-distance navigation Kronstadt-Japan on the frigate Diana. The prehistory of the voyage is as follows: in 1852, from the Kronstadt raid, the frigate “Pallada” went to the distant and practically unknown Russian “Nippon country” —the same one whose journey the Russian classic Ivan Goncharov described. Six months later, one of the officers returned to Russia, reporting that the frigate had become unusable due to a storm. To replace the "Pallada" hastily equipped the "Diana", which went to its destination through the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean (past Cape Horn). The frigate safely reached Japan, but could not return: during a tsunami in a bay near the island of Honshu, he received holes and sank. In the ship's log, the name of Mozhaysky is preserved as the name of the officer who last came down from the frigate to the ground.

To return to their homeland, the sailors under the leadership of Mozhaisky, with the help of the Japanese, built the schooner "Kheda", in which part of the navigators reached Russia. Mozhaysky himself went to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on an American merchant ship, from there to the Amursky Liman, then returned to Kronstadt through Siberia, thus making a round-the-world trip. He arrived at his homeland in the midst of the Crimean War and soon received an appointment to the brig Antenor, guarding the approaches to the Gulf of Finland and preventing sabotage by British and French ships. After the war, the tsarist government was engaged in fleet technical re-equipment: the steam engines with which most of the enemy ships were equipped clearly showed that their sails had outlived their own. Acquaintance with the steam engine played an important role in the further fate of Mozhaisky, because it was the only engine that made it possible to build an aircraft heavier than air in the 19th century.

However, while he did not think about it yet. There was no time: after the war, Mozhaisky was sent as part of a Russian expedition to the Khiva Khanate - the empire was going to join these lands, and the expedition needed an experienced sailor who could explore the Aral Sea basin and the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, assessing how suitable and important they are for navigation. And in 1863, his career as a naval sailor was interrupted for a long time: under the terms of the Paris Peace Treaty, Russia had to significantly reduce the fleet, and Mozhaisky, among many naval officers, went on forced leave. He went to Vologda, where he lived for several years. Here he became an official - a candidate of a mediator - and was engaged in the implementation of the "Provision on the peasant reform of the year 1861", which abolished serfdom.

Flushed with success

The idea of ​​building a device heavier than air, capable of flying, was born to Alexander Fedorovich in 1856 year. Subsequently, his son said that the possibility of such a flight Mozhaisky thought, watching the birds. It is not excluded that the inventor suggested the effect of the air flow on the sail on the idea of ​​a wing supported by air. In addition, Mozhaisky, of course, has repeatedly seen how sailors on ships launched a snake, throwing a tench — a rope — onto the shore with its help. It was from the snake that his experiments on the construction of aircraft began: in 1876, he designed a glider-kite, on which he made a series of flights on the estate of his late brother, located on the shores of the Southern Bug. The glider took off thanks to the vigorous running of three horses, dragging him on the rope. Flying a snake showed that a fixed-wing aircraft could be stable in the air. Mozhaisky was not the first to fly a glider: back in 1856, a Frenchman, Jean-Marie Le Brie, made an 200-meter flight on his “Artificial Albatross” glider over the sea beach. However, further experiments of the Russian inventor have become truly revolutionary.

Kite Alexander Mozhaisky, 1876 year. Image: Archive / ITAR-TASS

Success inspired the inventor, but his thought was immediately at a dead end: you can’t use horses as an engine for aircraft. Mozhaisky began to build miniature models of vehicles that could fly on an autonomous engine. One of them was shown to the public in the Petersburg arena in 1876 - a small boat with two large rectangular wings, equipped with one nose screw and two screws on the wings, as well as four wheels. The screws actuated the crown spring. After Mozhaisky turned the key several times, the machine accelerated on the table and took off. When the spring plant was over, the boat smoothly sat on the sand, which was covered with the arena of the arena. The audience applauded, however, Mozhaisky did not know how to turn a toy into a real flying machine. The Letuchka (as he called his brainchild) showed the correctness of the aerodynamic calculations he carried out, and the thought of using a steam engine had already occurred to him, but for the construction of a serious apparatus several thousand rubles were needed, and he did not have that amount.

The most difficult part began - tacking thresholds of various departments and visits to influential dignitaries. At first, Mozhaisky asked the chairman of the aeronautical commission of the Military Ministry, Count Totleben, to allocate funds “for further research and experimentation both on the movement of the projected projectile and to determine the various data necessary for the rational and correct construction of all the components of such a shell”. To resolve the issue of allocating the required amount, a whole commission was gathered. It was composed of Dmitry Mendeleev, who was interested in aeronautics, who from the very beginning took the side of Mozhaisky. The Commission agreed to allocate the inventor 3 thousands of rubles. True, this amount was enough only to build a slightly larger model of the airplane. To build a full-fledged aircraft, Mozhaisky turned to the Main Engineering Department, asking for 18 895 rubles.

Note Mozhaisky contained detailed drawings of the aircraft, its description and mathematical calculations. The aircraft consisted of a cockpit in the form of a boat, which housed the engine and pilot, two fixed wings, a birdlike tail that served to change the direction of flight up and down, three screws and a cart on wheels, which played the role of the chassis. The engine was to consist of two steam engines with a total horsepower 30. Mozhaisky suggested that such an aircraft could be used for reconnaissance and bombing.

New commission project rejected. It is believed that this happened not without the influence of the agents of foreign intelligence services operating at the imperial court. However, the inventor did not give up, turning to the naval minister, Admiral Stepan Lesovsky, who was once his commander on the "Diana". Lesovsky petitioned the Minister of Finance about the release of Mozhaisk 5 thousand rubles, but managed to get only half the amount. For the money received, the inventor ordered two steam engines (20 and 10 horsepower) in England, which used kerosene as fuel, and brought them to St. Petersburg. The money ran out again, and Mozhaisky asked for help from the minister of the Imperial court of Count Hilarion Vorontsov-Dashkova, a personal friend of Alexander III. He directly appealed to the sovereign, but even his petition did not help - the emperor was frightened by the arguments of his surroundings: “It is dangerous, Your Majesty, to build an air-flying apparatus in Russia with public funds. Suddenly, some revolutionary will take advantage of them, they will encroach on your person from the sky? ”

As a result, the plane was built on the personal funds of Alexander Fedorovich: he had to sell or mortgage everything he owned, right down to the wedding rings and the dinner service. Relatives, comrades and enthusiasts helped - most of the amount, for example, was sent by 1877 – 1878, the hero of the Russian-Turkish war, Mikhail Skobelev.

Firebird burnt in flames

In the summer of 1882, the unit weighing 57 pounds (about 934 kg), called the Mozhaisk "Firebird", was ready. For him, even built a "runway" - a long inclined wooden flooring on the Military Field in the Red Selo. Tests were conducted in the presence of representatives of the military department and the Russian Technical Society. The plane was tested by a mechanic who helped the inventor (the Mozhaisk himself was not allowed to fly because of his age - he was already 57 years old).

What happened next? Surprisingly, this cannot be said for sure: the fact is that the military department required complete secrecy from test organizers, therefore no documents with fixed results were preserved. In later sources (late XIX century), the test picture was described as follows: the plane took off and, flying a dozen meters in a straight line, began to land, damaging the wing (the pilot also suffered). However, the tests were considered successful, because the unit really flew.

Model aircraft designed by Alexander Mozhaisky in the museum at the military-air, Red Banner Order of Kutuzov, the Academy named after Yuri Gagarin. Photo: Runov / RIA News

No reliable sources have been preserved that could certify that Mozhaisky’s plane really took off. If so, then we can be proud that the world's first plane to fly with a person on board was created by a Russian. In Soviet times, engineers have repeatedly tried to solve this historical the problem is experimental - they built various models of Mozhaisky aircraft. However, a fundamental difficulty also arises here: the surviving drawings do not allow us to recreate an exact copy of the aircraft and to establish whether its technical characteristics were sufficient for it to take off. The most ambitious studies were conducted in 1979-1981 at TsAGI. Engineers built the model at a scale of 1:20, taking into account all the most important technical details. The model was purged in a wind tunnel. It was found that takeoff and horizontal flight would require more than two times more engine power - 75 “horses”. And yet, the engineers could not finally solve the problem. It was noted that the oncoming gust of wind at a speed of about 6-7 m / s was quite sufficient so that the apparatus could rise into the air and then plan. It was hardly possible to control it, but if so, it was indeed the first device in history to be heavier than air, which was able, although for a short time, to leave the sinful earth.

Immediately after the tests, Mozhaisky began to improve the design of the aircraft, again requesting the necessary amount from the Military Ministry. However, the officials gave him a surprisingly illiterate answer: referring to the statement of the American mathematician and astronomer Simon Newcomb, who allegedly proved that the device was heavier than air and could not fly, they spoke in favor of stopping funding for such studies. In spite of everything, Mozhaisky was going to continue his experiments - he planned to sell his estates in the Vologda province and in Ukraine, but he did not have time to finish the work - he died in extreme need on the night of March 20 of 1 of April.

The brainchild of Mozhaysky was waiting for a sad fate: after the death of the designer, his plane for many years stood in the open air in Krasnoye Selo, gradually collapsing. Then it was disassembled and transported to the Mozhaisky estate near Vologda, where it burned down in 1895 during a fire. Aircraft created by Western pioneers aviation, are still kept in museums, and the creation of the domestic pioneer has been lost forever - the bogeyman officials still maintained "strict secrecy" around the first aircraft in Russia, which ultimately lost both its models and most of the drawings.

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  1. ovod84
    ovod84 4 August 2015 06: 46
    sorry, very sorry. Man is a legend, the land of Russia is full of inventors with its nuggets.
    1. War and Peace
      War and Peace 4 August 2015 08: 22
      we are the first in the air, Mozhaisky’s plane took off from a height downward and flew a hundred meters, which means that the planes were heavier than air able to fly, so no Americans are Wright brothers, and Mozhaisky is the inventor of an operating plane ...
      1. Vasek Trubachev
        Vasek Trubachev 4 August 2015 10: 27
        "What we have we do not keep, having lost we crying"
        But the Americans in their popular science publications and TV, actively promote their Marconi (Popov), Tesla (Yablochkov), the notorious Wright brothers, etc., as real examples of the triumph of the spirit of the American dream.
        Russia has always been rich in talents and will be, but entrepreneurialism among Westerners, regrettably, remains to be learned.
        1. War and Peace
          War and Peace 4 August 2015 11: 40
          for example, the story about an incandescent lamp, a lamp with an incandescent filament was invented by Lodygin, but Edison spurred the base, and now it is believed that it was Edison who invented the incandescent lamp, these are such impudent "stories of world discoveries" are the so-called "official history" ...
      2. Aleksandr72
        Aleksandr72 4 August 2015 17: 34
        But why do you say that Mozhaisky’s plane flew this very hundred meters. Even in Soviet times, when always and in everything (and rightly so!) They tried to find and prove Russia's priority, nowhere was it claimed that Mozhaisky’s plane really flew. They tried to make the maximum, but with such a design, taking into account the fact that steam engines (!) Were installed on the device as a propulsion system, there were no others — the Mozhaisky plane could not take off.
        The archives preserved the reports of the inventor from 1881 to 1886 with a request to allow him to test the apparatus in flight. But there are no complete descriptions of these tests. True, there are clear references to the fact that they were carried out. In the journal "Notes of the Engineering Technical Russian Society" for 1893, one of the engineers proposed measures to prevent "from dangerous swinging, very possible in airplanes," and gave an example: "... it can be seen from the experience of Captain First Rank A.F. Mozhaisky with his airplane, and the matter almost came to a catastrophe, as I know from one of our honorable leaders in aeronautics present here. " The same journal about Mozhaisky's experiments says: "The test of the device ended in failure and the mechanic operating the machine was injured." The 1909 magazine "Aeronautical" says: "In 1884-1885, an airplane was built on a military field in Krasnoe Selo. During takeoff, the airplane tilted sideways and broke the supporting surfaces."
        And where is the mention of a 100 m flight.
        Mozhaisky’s merit is different - for the first time in the world he proved the existence of an aircraft heavier than air and even tried to put his idea into practice - but alas. The level of technical development of that time did not allow in practice to prove the possibility of flight.
        After the plane crashed, Mozhaisky did not have the opportunity to continue his experiments, since he did not have the means. But the military department refused him further assistance. Despite this, in 1886, Alexander Fedorovich achieved the construction of two engines of 20 liters at the Obukhov plant. with. with a steam boiler, one of which was ready by 1887. Death interrupted the research activities of the world's first aircraft manufacturer. However, it is customary for us to lose priorities out of the blue due to the inert reluctance to finance promising developments, even if they do not give an immediate result.
        Here is a canonical drawing of Mozhaisky’s apparatus:
  2. V.ic
    V.ic 4 August 2015 07: 37
    "We learn a lot from books,
    And truths are transmitted orally:
    "There are no prophets in their own country" -
    And in other countries - not a lot. "
    V.S. Vysotsky
  3. parusnik
    parusnik 4 August 2015 07: 50
    Mdaaa .. roughly speaking, Mozhaisky’s plane was nanotechnology of the 80s of the 19th century .. Neither the institute nor money was given .. that the device is not capable of flying heavier than air, Simon Newcomb, authority, - the USA .. you don’t ask your own .. that Mendeleev ... Mendeleev was engaged in similar matters, a certain genius from the Russian hinterland came to him, and showed models of gliders, with different wing configurations and placement, and they flew ..
  4. Alexashka964
    Alexashka964 4 August 2015 09: 21
    Sad story! How insulting that in Russia, the genius people are ruled by equally inept rulers! Just think, the pioneers of many technical and scientific discoveries come from Russia. Just offhand; Yablochkov, Mozhaysky, Zander, Popov, Korolev, Sikorsky, Mendeleev ... This is only a small part of famous names, but how many geniuses, whose designs were simply stolen and appropriated by Western intelligence, remained simply unknown? Even now, in an era of not very bright life in Russia, in some ways we are ahead of the rest! We fly into space ONLY !!! The Chinese do not count, they fly on the clones of Russian taxiways, and the Americans, with their ambitions, still buy engines for their rockets in Russia!
  5. fomkin
    fomkin 4 August 2015 09: 26
    It is a pity that such a unique person is not promoted in our country. I am very grateful to the author for raising this issue. And then these brothers Wright already sickened.
  6. RoTTor
    RoTTor 4 August 2015 15: 48
    The fact that Mozhaisky designed and built the plane is yes.
    But he was simply not able to take off, and even with a steam engine. Even a first-year student at an aviation technical school can easily confirm this with elementary calculations.
    Slide down from the acceleration ramp and plan 10 meters - yes.
    This does not detract from respect for Mozhaisk. In vain, the LKVVIA (Leningrad Red Banner Air Force Academy), now space, rightfully received its name.

    It is symbolic that the founder of our aviation was a naval officer: it is impossible to overestimate the importance of aviation for the Navy.