Unflown Wings Book Review

Unflown Wings

Soviet/Russian Unrealised Aircraft Projects 1925-2010

Authors: Yefim Gordon and Sergey Komissarov

Wow! I thought I’d seen it all, but boy did I get that wrong! As a somewhat enthusiastic ‘What If?’ fan, I thought I’d seen all the unusual, unconventional and even bizarre aircraft projects, especially from the late nineteen thirties through to the late forties from British, German, French and US stables, but this title opens up such a huge Pandora’s box of the most ‘way out in left field’ designs and projects that I have to wonder what they (the designers) were smoking!

This letter size book with laminated covers from Classic Publications has an incredible 640 pages of project aircraft from the design bureaux (OKBs) of Tupolev, Polikarpov, Ilyushin, Mikoyan, Sukhoi, Yakovlev, Myasishchev, Antonov and Beriyev. Top that off with projects from various smaller design bureaux and individuals and you have an extraordinary reference book on Soviet/Russian ‘what ifs’. It contains an unbelievable number of colour photos (many of models obviously), colour illustrations, b&w photos, b&w drawings (including dozens of cutaways), two- and three-views as well as heaps of other sketches, artists impressions and provisional drawings. I tried to count them all but gave it away as a far too time consuming exercise.

But where do I start? Well, this is the book that goes extremely well with any of the Classic Publications’ books on the various Soviet OKBs. The text is well researched and so extensive that I found it almost overwhelming in the depth and scope provided. As it comes from the prodigious stable of Yefim Gordon and Sergey Komissarov, that shouldn’t be a surprise. It covers military and civil projects, helicopters and other rotary winged types, amphibians and seaplanes (including the ultimate in bizarre, the Ushakov LPL ‘flying submarine’), gliders, parasites, zwillings, super jumbos, tactical airborne command posts, private and corporate types, VTOL and V/STOL. There are nuclear and cryogenic fuelled aircraft; motorjet and shrouded propfan engined (pusher and tractor), supersonic bizjets, hypersonic and aerospace system aircraft, super heavy airliners and cargo types, and so much more.

This is not a book that you can sit down and read from cover to cover in a single go. It’s far too big, yet it’s technical in just the right amount but still because of the wealth of info, it does become a bit overwhelming. It’s best dipped into regularly and often. I thoroughly enjoyed it. While its appeal might be a bit limiting, it’s well worth reading through – like the old ‘Observers Book of Aircraft’ only on an immense scale. Wait til you see the asymmetric compound helicopter with anti-torque, tractor propeller. Or perhaps the M52B ‘flying hatchet’.

How do I describe it? Well - how about amazing, incredible, spectacular, superb!

This is a wonderfully entertaining and useful resource for any aviation enthusiast especially the ‘what ifers’ and anyone interested in Soviet and Russian aircraft in general at a very competitive price. It is available from Hyland’s Bookshop in Melbourne www.hylandsbookshop.com.au or 03 9654 7448 for about $95. It’s heavy too, weighing in at just over two and three quarter kilos!

Many thanks to Ms Orietta Colussi of DLS Australia for the review copy.

John Baxter

Back to Aviation Books from Unflown Wings Book Review

Your first paragraph ...