The Kharkiv KhAI-1 was an aircraft designed by students in the Soviet Union, powered by a single PD M-22 engine. It featured seating for six passengers and had a range of 1,130 kilometres or 700 miles. KhAI stands for the Kharkiv Aviation Institute, a university founded in 1930 in Ukraine which specialises in aviation and space engineering.

First flight took place on 8 October 1932 and it was the first European aircraft with retractable landing gear. Made primarily of wood and fabric it also proved to be very fast for the time. Top speed was 292km/h (181mph or 157 knots) which may sound slow but was actually faster than many fighter planes of the era.

Kharkiv KhAI-1

Following on from the last article about the French Lioré et Olivier LeO H-246 flying boat, we stay in Europe this week for a look at the Kharkiv KhAI-1. Chief designer Iosif Grigorievich Nyeman separated students into two teams, each with the responsibility to produce an aircraft design.

Once the KhAI-1 was selected as the preferred option, the teams were broken into groups to work on the detailed design specifications. The prototype was then put together by the students at the Kharkiv Aviation Factory, under supervision of the workers there.

After its first flights, the KhAI-1 was sent to Moscow for more in depth testing. Test pilots found it to be stable as well as half as fast again as the main airliner in service at the time, so they recommended it for Aeroflot. Service trials then commenced in April 1935.

Regular passenger airline services began in 1936 between Moscow and Sevastopol. There were a couple of early accidents, but eventually other routes were served. These included Moscow to Kharkiv, Moscow to Minvody, and Rostov to Krasnodar. Final flights took place in 1940.

Overall Thoughts

It is a remarkable story, that of the Kharkiv KhAI-1. Imagine being a student designer and seeing your idea come to fruition. Not only that, seeing it enter regular passenger service with your countries airline. It must have been an amazing experience!

There were 45 aircraft produced, primarily in Kiev. Today none seem to survive, though you can visit the Kharkiv Aviation Plant Museum in Ukraine where there is at least a scale model and photos on display. Put it on your list for when the invasion is over.

Had you ever heard of the Kharkiv KhAI-1? What do you think of it and its interesting design method? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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