I recently got a chance to fly our Polikarpov Po-2! It was a Russian training plane designed as a primary trainer and has the distinction of having the longest production run in history from 1928 to 1959 with over 40,000 being built! During the Great Patriotic War (WWII) the Russians employed a squadron of women operating these at night to harass the enemy by dropping bombs and grenades to keep them from sleeping. They earned the nickname by their enemy as the “Nachthexen” or the “Night Witches.”
The Aircraft Department had been working on it for some time and the weather was nice a couple of days ago so I decided to take it out and taxi around to get used to it. It has no brakes and uses a steerable tail skid to slow it down and steer it somewhat on our grass runways. It has an unusual feature of soloing from the front cockpit, which is different from most biplanes of the period.
It is powered by a five-cylinder Shvetsov engine with 115hp and has a very distinctive sound while flying. I hope to put some time on the airplane in the near future as we have a five-hour FAA restriction to fly off locally before I can take up any passengers. This is one of the aircraft featured in the Audio Tour we offer as part of the Fantasy of Flight attraction price, although we only have twenty Audio Wands so it’s first come, first serve. We also sell the Audio Experience CD in the gift shop as well as at http://www.audioexperiencecd.com.
It’s amazing how something sitting in a static museum can take on a completely different life and energy when you get the engine running and take it to the skies. Fantasy of Flight is the only aviation facility in the world that currently flies something every day, weather permitting! While the Po-2 requires a bit of manpower to get it out to the grass, get it started, and then put away, I hope to have the opportunity to fly it during special events and let everyone see and hear this amazing piece of history putt-putt-putting around the sky!