14 August 1931: The Tupolev ANT-14 made its first flight, piloted by famed Russian aviator Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov (Михаил Михайлович Громов). It was the largest aircraft of its time, and was capable of carrying up to 32 passengers on long-distance flights.
The ANT-14 was designed by a team led by Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev. It was an all-metal high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. The wings and fuselage were covered in corrugated duralumin. The design of the aircraft took three months. This was possible as components of earlier Tupolev aircraft were included in the new aircraft. Tupolev paid special attention to the safety and comfort of the passengers, using features from railroad passenger cars.
The flight crew consisted of two pilots and a navigator. Two flight attendants were in the passenger cabin. Seating was arranged in nine rows of four seats, with a central aisle.
The ANT-14 was 26.49 meters (86.91 feet) long with a wingspan of 40.40 meters (132.55 feet and height of 5.02 meters (16.47 feet). The total wing area was 240.00 square meters (2,583.34 square feet). The transport’s empty weight was 10,828 kilograms (23,872 pounds) and its gross weight was 17,530 kilograms (38,647 pounds). The wings contained four fuel tanks with a capacity of 2,000 kilograms of gasoline (about 2,650 liters, or 700 gallons).
The ANT-14 was powered by five engines, with one mounted at the nose, and two on each wing. They were air-cooled, supercharged 28.628 liter (1,746.991 cubic inch displacement) Établissements Gnome et Rhône Jupiter 9 Akx nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 5.15:1, a licensed version of the British Bristol Aeroplane Company’s Jupiter VI engine. The Gnome-Rhône 9 Akx produced 476 chaval vapeur (470 horsepower) at 1,870 r.p.m., and drove two-bladed fixed-pitch propellers through gear reduction. The direct-drive Gnome-Rhône 9 Ak variant weighed 301 kilograms (664 pounds).
(Gnome-Rhône had a production facility in St. Petersburg. In 1928, Wladimir Klimov purchased 200 Jupiter 9 engines, and a license to produce them. The Soviet version of the Jupiter 9 was designated Shvetsov M-22. It is not known whether the ANT-14’s engines were built by Gnome-Rhône or Shvetsov.)
The ANT-14 had a maximum speed of 195 kilometers per hour (121 miles per hour) at low altitude, and 236 kilometers per hour (147 miles per hour) at high altitude. Its cruising speed was 204 kilometers per hour (127 miles per hour). The airplane’s service ceiling was 4,220 meters (13.845 feet), and its range was 400 kilometers (249 miles).
Designer Tupolev was pleased with the new airplane, saying, “Look, he is handsome, and in the plane the external form is the most important part.”
Aeroflot (Аэрофлот), the Soviet airline, tested the aircraft in 1932 but as they had no need for an airplane so big, none were ordered. The single ANT-14 was then named Pravda (Правда—”Truth”) and used as a propaganda tool for the Communist government. It was flown for ten years and during that time, carried more than 40,000 passengers.
Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov was born 24 February 1899, at Tver, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) northwest of Moscow. He was the son of Mikhail Konstantinovich Gromov, an “intellectual” who had studied medicine at Moscow University, and Lyubov Ignayevna Gromov, a midwife. The family were of the nobility, but poor.
The younger Gromov attended the Resurrection Real School, and then the Moscow Higher Technical School for Aviation. He graduated in 1917. Gromov was taught to fly by Boris Konstantinovich Welling, a pioneer in Russian long-distance flights. After working as a flight instructor, Gromov began test flying. He became the chief test pilot for the Tupolev Design Bureau. By the outbreak of World War II, he had test flown twenty-five different airplanes.
In 1926, Gromov made a non-stop long-distance flight in a Tupolev ANT-3, from Moscow via Berlin, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw and back to Moscow. The flight took 34 hours. In 1934, he flew a Tupolev ANT-25 12,411 kilometers (7,712 miles) in a closed circuit over 75 hours. For this accomplishment, he was named a Hero of the Soviet Union.
From 12–14 July 1937, Gromov set a world record for distance in a straight line, flying an ANT-25 from Moscow to San Jacinto, California, a distance of 10,148 kilometers (6,306 miles).¹ The duration of this flight was 62 hours, 17 minutes.
In March 1941, Gromov became the first director of the Flight Research Institute at Zhukovsky, southeast of Moscow. The Institute was later named the M.M. Gromov Flight Research Institute, in his honor.
In 1942, during The Great Patriotic War, Gromov commanded the Soviet long range air forces on the Kalinin Front. He next commanded the 3rd Air Army, 1942–1943, and the 1st Air Army, 1943–1944. In 1945, he returned to test flying.
Following the War, Gromov continued to work in the aviation industry, but following a disagreement with the Minister of Aviation, Pyotr Vasilyevich Dementiev, over the issue of quality vs. quantity and the safety of the test pilots, he retired. Later, he entered politics and was twice elected to the Supreme Soviet.
During his military career, in addition to the Gold Star Medal of Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel General Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov was awarded the Order of Lenin four times, the Order of the Red Banner (four), and the Order of the Red Star (three). He died 22 January 1985.
¹ FAI Record File Number 9300
© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes