Tupolev ANT-20 Maxim Gorki
Russia - 1934


The Tupolev ANT-20 (also known as the Maxim Gorky) (Туполев АНТ-20 "Максим Горький" in Russian) was a Soviet 8-engine airplane, the largest in the 1930s.

The ANT-20 was designed by Andrei Tupolev and constructed between July 4, 1933 and April 3, 1934. It was the only airplane of its kind ever built by the Soviets. The airplane was named after Maxim Gorky and dedicated to the 40th anniversary of his literary and public activities. It was intended for Stalinist propaganda purposes and, therefore, equipped with a powerful radio set called "Voice from the sky" ("Голос с неба", golos s neba), printing machinery, radio stations, photographic laboratory, film projector with sound for showing movies in flight, library etc. For the first time in aviation history, this airplane was equipped with a ladder, which would fold itself and become a part of the floor. Also, for the first time in aviation history, the airplane used not only direct current, but alternating current of 120 volts, as well. The airplane could be disassembled and transported by railroad if needed. The giant aircraft set a number of carrying capacity world records.

On May 18, 1935 the Maxim Gorky (pilots - I.V.Mikheyev and I.S.Zhurov) and three more planes (Tupolev ANT-14, R-5 and I-5) took off for a demonstration flight over Moscow. As a result of a loop maneuver around its wing performed by an accompanying I-5 fighter (pilot - Nikolai Blagin) which crashed into the wing, the Maxim Gorky crashed into a residential neighborhood. 45 people were killed in the crash, including crew members and 33 family members of some of those who had built the airplane. Authorities announced that the maneuver was an unplanned loop by a reckless pilot, however it has been recently suggested that it might have been a planned part of the show. Blagin was made a scapegoat afterwards. Blagin died as well, though his name lived on in the term Blaginism, roughly meaning "cocky disregard of authority."

A replacement aircraft, designated ANT-20bis was constructed the following year, similar in configuration but with "only" six engines.

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Data for ANT-20

Crew: 8, passengers: 64, engine: 6 x AM-34FRNV,, wingspan: 64.0 m, length: 34.1 m, height: 7.0 m, wing area: 486.0 m2, start mass: 44,000 kg, max speed: 275 km/h, cruise speed: 225 km/h, ceiling: 5,500 m, range: 900 km