Few airplanes in the world history of aviation have remained operational for so long as Polikarpov PO-2. Designed and built by the renowned Russian engineer Nikolai Polikarpov in 1926, completed its first flight in 1927 and was used by the Soviet Air Force in 1928, as one of its core training aircrafts.
Design and production
Built primarily of wood, and fabric covered, the PO-2 was originally designed and built in the late 1920’s as a training and light utility aircraft. To the Russian people, World War II was known as the “Great Patriotic War”. By the time the Russians became involved, 13,000 had been built. They went on to be used for liaison, light attack, nuisance reader and propaganda aircraft complete with microphone and loudspeaker. The plane holds the record for the longest production run in history. Almost 40,000 were built between 1928 and 1959. After the war, Poland built PO-2’s in large quantities. Used for training, agriculture, mail delivery and limited service with Aeroflot, PO-2’s were known as a safe and reliable aircraft. During the 'Great Patriotic War' (World War II), PO-2’s were used for close air support, bombing and night harassment raids.
The PO-2 also inspired the design of the equally famous British Tiger Moth training biplane by De Havilland. The Polikarpov PO-2 with the Antonov An-2, are the most famous Russian biplanes with the longest production runs in history. After the end of World War 2 and the "Warsaw Pact", the U.S.S.R. gave permissions for the production of this aircraft to other countries allies such as Poland. The production of the PO-2 ended in 1956, lasting 28 years.
The Night Witches
During World War II there was a Russian squadron (588 Bombardment Regiment) completely composed of Russian women; pilots, officers, mechanics and ground personnel. The women pilots that flew these aircraft performed various duties, including night harassment raids on the German Army. Imagine flying one of these at night, during a Russian winter, open-cockpit, low over enemy territory. On top of that, they would temporarily shut the engine down to avoid being heard, glide over enemy troops and drop bombs and grenades out of the cockpit. Later, under-wing bomb racks and rockets were installed. The Germans named them the “Nachcthexen”, which in translation made them famous as the “Night Witches”.
These raids were emulated a decade later in the Korean War when North Koreans would fly low at night and drop hand-grenades on Αmerican troops - again in PO-2’s
The plane of the collection is made by the Polish aerospace company Wick Okecie. The aircraft was built in 1946 and was rebuilt in 1952 in the Krosno factory in Poland. There it was used as a training aircraft by the Aircraft Operator Training School. From 1962 to 1995 it was also used for training purposes by LOT Polish Airlines.
After the purchase by the Athenian Aviators Collection, three months of repairs were required to return to flight status, in order to receive the Certificate of Airworthiness.
The colours, in which it is painted, are the same colours as one of the aircrafts of the “Night Witches”.
The plane has logged 4,300 hours since production.