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Why Did Soviet Airliners Have Glass Nose?  
User currently offlineTaromA380 From Romania, joined Sep 2005, 334 posts, RR: 0
Posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 23969 times:

Hello everybody.

It's a fact. All medium & heavy soviet-made PAX aircrafts, from the '60s - '70s, till the Il-62, Tu-154 and later IL-86, had a glass nose with a special navigator seat, which reminds the nose of a bomber.

Tu-104:

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Photo © Jakob Dahlgaard Kristensen
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Photo © Palo



Tu-114:
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Photo © Joeri Turk
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Photo © Sergey Riabsev



Tu-124:
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Photo © YU Ming
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Photo © Maartenw



Tu-134:
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Photo © Marlene Leutgeb



Il-76:
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Photo © Roel van der Velpen
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Photo © Janis Bitenieks



An-12:
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Photo © Luc Van Belleghem
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Photo © Fyodor Borisov



Now I wonder what's the idea of this glass nose. Of course, the theory says that it's the navigator's place. Ok, ok, the man standing there could do some navigation, but remember we are already in the '60s and '70s and navigation is rather instrumental than visual. Plus, I don't see any western airliner to have glass nose for the navigator ! This is perplexing me.

I suspect the soviet glass nose's role was also the spying of the western territory inflight. And maybe the possibility to convert the frame to a bomber, in the case of war, but this is a little SF ; however, many russian airliners were derivate from homologous bombers.

So, what's truly hiding behind those glass nose ?

43 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineBackfire From Germany, joined Oct 2006, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 23994 times:

Quoting TaromA380 (Thread starter):
Of course, the theory says that it's the navigator's place.

It's not just a theory - it's a fact. Take a look at this photo, and you can clearly see the navigator in the nose of this Tu-134:

http://myaviation.net/search/photo_search.php?id=00415163&size=large

You point out yourself that Soviet commercial aircraft paralleled military designs. So it wasn't unexpected to find military-style features - such as a glass nose for the navigator - in Soviet commercial aircraft. As technology progressed the glass nose was eliminated in favour of systems such as weather radar.


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14130 posts, RR: 62
Reply 2, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 23945 times:

Up to recently,Estern Russia only had electronic NAV aids along the Transsiberian railway connecting the big cities. Navigation outside this corridor required a navigator to look at the ground to compare landmarks with a map.
Also all Russian commercial transports were designed to be used as military transports in case of war. The landing gear was much stronger than in the Western counterparts, so that they could e.g. land on unprepared runways.

Jan


User currently offlineTaromA380 From Romania, joined Sep 2005, 334 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 23945 times:

Yes, but why put the navigator there ? It's a cool view seat, but it makes non sense for a civil modern plane, even in the '60s. All navigation process was entirely instrumental since the '40s.

When the soviets adapted the bombers, to built the civil equivalent, they redesigned the entire fuselage, but kept the nose glass. I think there was something in their mind.


Edit: moreover, the soviet air space was full of radars, so I don't quiet believe the theory about visually searching the railways to find the way eastwards.

[Edited 2005-09-11 16:52:30]

User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 4, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 23901 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 2):
Navigation outside this corridor required a navigator to look at the ground to compare landmarks with a map.

One of my ex students had been an Aeroflot pilot. He said he even carried a navigator in the AN-2

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Photo © Michael Mantoudis


which would probably require a whole day just to fly out of sight of the departure airport.

Another gentleman I knew, who bought and sold Soviet aircraft for some years told me that many soviet airliners were not only capable of being militarized but could actually be converted to bombers without too much down time. Can't vouch for that but he was pretty familiar with them.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineBackfire From Germany, joined Oct 2006, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 23845 times:

Quoting TaromA380 (Reply 3):
moreover, the soviet air space was full of radars

You might be surprised to find how poorly covered by radar the Soviet Union was.


User currently offlineTaromA380 From Romania, joined Sep 2005, 334 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 23829 times:

Well, perhaps most of the radars were installed at frontiers. The internal air space, especially over Syberia, is *huge* and maybe not well covered by radars.

But c'mon, I want a testimony from an ex-soviet pilot, saying they were succeeding at finding their way due to the navigator, who was permanently looking through binoculars at terrain relief !

SlamClick reported two posts above about some possible conversion to (light?) bombers, that make more sense to me, thought I would like to know some details of such a tehnical challenge. But if it's true, it would be an amazing aspect of civil aviation's history.


User currently offlineDC8FriendShip From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 243 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 23806 times:

Its hard to believe that the Soviets were so far behind the west in terms of technology. I got to tour the flight deck of an AN-124 just a few years ago, and it was like a step back in time. Analog gauges, tube equipment and four flight crew, pilot, co-pilot engineer and navigator. It was also hot and cramped, despite being a large aircraft. Still cool, though!


Come fly the Friendly Skies of United
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14130 posts, RR: 62
Reply 8, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 23797 times:

One reason the Russians stuck so long to vacuum tube equipment is that this equipment is immune against the voltage spikes caused by an electromagnetic pulse caused by a nuclear explosion. The same pulse would fry any transistor equipment, if it wasn't especially hardened (very high effort!).

Jan


User currently offlineCaboclo From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 203 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 23709 times:

I really love this pic. They're definitely using modern navigation equipment here.  rotfl  See on the table?

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Photo © Sven De Bevere




Freight dogs have more fun
User currently offlineIL76TD From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 289 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days ago) and read 23543 times:

We operate IL-76. They still fly with a navigator today. All of them. In fact, most countries flight crew validation will only be approved if the crew has a navigator with a valid license. Yes, in our aircraft we have modern Garmin GPSmap units for both the pilot, copilot, and navigator, as well as laptop based FliteMap and Jeppview software for all three.

The main reason for the glass nose was locating runways and/or drop zones (paratroopers and airdrops).

You have to remember that russia has some pretty crappy weather, and during the winter some places are whiteout conditions pretty non-stop. The nose windows allow a navigator to easily scan for a runway, landmark, or other item while the captain and copilot focus on flying. The IL-76 does have weather radar. For instance, IL-76 aircraft are regularly allowed to land at Kabul airfield during winter storms while western types are advised that the airport is closed and diverted. As Kabul has until recently been a VFR only airport the ability to land there in winter has been a key facet of IL-76 traffic there.

Remember, the IL-76 and antonov-12 were both designed to be the front line supply aircraft (airdrop) as well as a firebomber. Being able to locate drop zones easily was a key element in their development.

I can easily tell you that the nose glass was never developed with 'spying on western territory' in mind.


User currently offlineTaromA380 From Romania, joined Sep 2005, 334 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 23515 times:

Okay for the Il-76 and An-12, but what about the others ? How would you make paradrop from a Tu-104, Tu-114, Tu-124, Tu-134 ?

And about spying, maybe this wasn't the first objective, but it was a nice opportunity during that cold war time. Why shouldn't it be ?


User currently offlineTripleDelta From Croatia, joined Jul 2004, 1124 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 23473 times:
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As previous posters have mentioned, it's simply there to provide excellent ground visibility, i.e. for navigation. Despite, as you said, most navigation in the 60s being instrumental, it had one mayor point evident in its name - it had to have instruments. When you fly from New York to LA, you'll pass over I'd bet a minimum of 20 VORs. Going from Moscow to Vladivostok, you'd encounter 2. And that's a trip of 11 time zones.

Visual navigation has always been the backbone of all navigation and most of us GA loonies who think GPS is not fun, fly visually. If I can eyeball my way around from 9,000 ft with just a road map, compass and a stopwatch, a navigator with binoculars, detailed maps and a host of visual navigation instruments (as well as professional knowledge of dead reckoning) can surely find his way in the upper flight levels. There were instances where an experienced navigator in the Tu-134 guided the plane more accurately than a 727 with all of its INS, Doppler and VOR thingies.

In itself, radar vectoring would be impractical at best. Russia is a big big country and covering it all with dozens upon dozens of radars would be a bit pointless for the few aircraft that would fly transcontinental. Due to the radio horizon phenomenon, a primary radar setup has an effective operational radius of about 200 NM, giving it an operational diameter of about 400 NM. And take in the width of the former USSR and see how many radars you'd need to cover just one line of flight.



No plane, no gain.
User currently offlineSovietjet From Bulgaria, joined Mar 2003, 2642 posts, RR: 17
Reply 13, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 23461 times:
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Tupolev was a very old fashioned and stubborn designer. He often didn't like to explore the newest technology and would rather stick with the old and proven. The Tu-134 was effectively the first passenger aircraft of his to eliminate the glass nose(not the -154). Some interesting facts: the Tu-134 is the world's only remaining airliner still using DC power instead of AC, also the first Tu-134s up until the Tu-134A had no APU. They also had no thrust reversers and used a parachute on landing. Why all this? Because Tupolev likes to use what already works on previous airplanes. You will notice this old fashioned trend only with Tupolev's aircraft. It was hard to convince him to remove the glass nose on the -134 and when they finally did, crews still flew with a navigator anyways. Until the Tu-134B came out did they finally remove the navigator. Also since the Tu-134 came from the Tu-124 which came from the Tu-104 which came from the Tu-16 bomber the roots of the glass nose go far back. Same with Tu-114 because it came from the Tu-95.
Now comes the time when someone would say "well then what about the An-12 and Il-76?" Remember that both the An-12 and Il-76 were military aircraft from the beginning later made as civilian (the An-10 for example is a passenger version of the An-12 and retains the glass nose). Of course they would have the glass nose. Notice that all Soviet "brand new"(that is, not derived from military planes) civil aircraft don't have the glass nose. Example: Il-18, Il-62, An-24, An-14, Yak-40, Yak-42. The Il-18 and Il-62 are older than the Tu-134 but started without the glass nose. On the other hand planes like the An-22(military) have the glass nose again.


User currently offlineSovietjet From Bulgaria, joined Mar 2003, 2642 posts, RR: 17
Reply 14, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 23450 times:
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Forgot to add, Aviogenex ordered a first generation Tu-134(short) without glass nose I think in 1970. When the Tu-134A came out customers had the option of glass nose or not. Many still ordered the glass nose because navigators needed to keep their jobs.

User currently offlineTripleDelta From Croatia, joined Jul 2004, 1124 posts, RR: 7
Reply 15, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 23435 times:
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Quoting Sovietjet (Reply 14):
Aviogenex ordered a first generation Tu-134(short) without glass nose I think in 1970. When the Tu-134A

Correct, though they also operated a glass-nose example (YU-AHH, the only one I think).

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The metal nose looks almost like an aftermarket addon.



No plane, no gain.
User currently offlineSovietjet From Bulgaria, joined Mar 2003, 2642 posts, RR: 17
Reply 16, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 23398 times:
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TripleDelta, actually it was YU-AHS not YU-AHX that was the short Tu-134. Here:


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Notice it's shorter, engines have no reversers, no APU. The one you posted(YU-AHX) is a Tu-134A.


User currently offlineTripleDelta From Croatia, joined Jul 2004, 1124 posts, RR: 7
Reply 17, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 23352 times:
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I stand corrected. It must have been fun flying those early versions into tighter airports... especially packing the chute afterward? I gather that that was the responsibility of the flight engineer(s).


No plane, no gain.
User currently offlineSovietjet From Bulgaria, joined Mar 2003, 2642 posts, RR: 17
Reply 18, posted (9 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 23341 times:
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The parachute wasn't used outside the Soviet Union.

User currently offlineTomFoolery From Austria, joined Jan 2004, 529 posts, RR: 2
Reply 19, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 23038 times:

I have heard stories where in the post WWII days up to the 70's that disruptions in electric service throughout rural Soviet Union as well as other utilities were ratehr common, and it was not taken lightly when air service (sometimes only weekly in some places) was cancelled just because the local radar was out. This is probably just one small factor, but I'm sure it is one of a number of factors.
tom



Paper makes an airplane fly
User currently offlineEilennaei From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 23027 times:

Quoting TripleDelta (Reply 12):
When you fly from New York to LA, you'll pass over I'd bet a minimum of 20 VORs. Going from Moscow to Vladivostok, you'd encounter 2. And that's a trip of 11 time zones.

A Finnair pilot that flew Convairs between Helsinki and Moscow in the 1950s states: (my translation): "Navigation was by radio beacons, which vere very powerful"
Unless they later dismantled them, there were more than 2 in existence.

http://www.virtualpilots.fi/hist/WW2...ory-KyostiKarhilaHaastattelu2.html


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14130 posts, RR: 62
Reply 21, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 22989 times:

Back in the 1950s they used NDBs, which are notoriously unreliable (due to various influences).
Somewhere I still have a map of the Soviet Union from the 1980s an it only shows radio nav aids along a corridor following roughly the Transsiberian Railway and in some bigger garrison towns in northern Siberia. Most of the country was navigation by Mk1 Eyeball only. The visual instruments a navigator used for visual navigation would e.g. include an optical drift meter and a ground scan radar pointing downwards.


Jan


User currently offlineLaxintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 26023 posts, RR: 50
Reply 22, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 22910 times:

Navigating via the USSR was tricky as late as the 1980s.

Many Western airlines which managed to operate East of Moscow on Trans Siberia routes even had to make use of Aeroflot navigators onboard to help with enroute communications. There also was no such thing as off airway flying as one had no idea of the location of navaids nor emergency alternate fields might be, nor the reaction of the military if you strayed slightly.
It was an interesting sight to see a Russian Aeroflot navigator be comfortably be seated and enjoying life onboard a western B747.
I know of one major European airline that basically treated Trans Siberian ops as ETOPS flights, with no suitable airports between Moscow until reaching the Russian Far East by Khabarvosk.



From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
User currently offlineTripleDelta From Croatia, joined Jul 2004, 1124 posts, RR: 7
Reply 23, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 22913 times:
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Quoting Eilennaei (Reply 20):
Unless they later dismantled them, there were more than 2 in existence.

I meant that as a figure of speech  bigthumbsup .

Quoting Eilennaei (Reply 20):
A Finnair pilot that flew Convairs between Helsinki and Moscow in the 1950s states: (my translation): "Navigation was by radio beacons, which vere very powerful"

That is true, however that was in the western region of Russia. This is a relatively benign environment, as compared to Siberia, is far more densely populated and a huge percentage of the population of the former USSR was in this area. Moscow was in the area, as well as Leningrad which were both important cities with many people traveling to and from them and naturally needed a developed aviation infrastructure - plus the logistical issues were much simpler on account of the gentler terrain and the number of permanent settlements that could host the navaid.

The number of people flying across Siberia, or to communities far away from major centers, was much lower and probably didn't warrant the difficulties and logistical support needed for a developed navaid network in the Siberian taiga.



No plane, no gain.
User currently offlineMandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6957 posts, RR: 76
Reply 24, posted (9 years 2 months 1 week 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 22880 times:

Privyet!
Are you guys talking about one of my jobs?


LOL

Looking at the ground measuring drift is something I enjoy... Though I would have liked to have that glass nose to make my job a lot easier! Those driftmeters are from the WWII bomb aiming devices...

Mandala499



When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
25 Eilennaei : If they could build and operate radio beacons west of Moscow, what would have kept the government from building them east of Moscow? Planes did and s
26 MD11Engineer : The map was from the official IAP for the Soviet Union. I forgot to add "East of the Ural Mountains". The European part of the Soviet Union was quite
27 TripleDelta : Read my previous post: Dragging power wires through Siberian forests isn't quite as easy as dragging one from a local power grid as in the west. The
28 Post contains links Eilennaei : A somewhat crucial piece of information missing originally, wouldn't you say?Unless I had jumped on you, the public would have remained mis-informed
29 MD11Engineer : NDBs are notorious for their low accuracy. They are affected by solar flares, lightning and the contours of the surrounding countryside (coast lines,
30 TripleDelta : But then again, how many airports are in Siberia, apart from those that gravitate toward the Trans-Siberian RR, and what are the distances between th
31 Post contains links Eilennaei : Normal radio equipment is not a navaid. Navaids and communication aids are two totally different categories. As far as I understand someone's underto
32 Eilennaei : Would these ever have been certified for civilian navigational use anywhere?
33 MD11Engineer : Sure. Have you ever been on airliners of the 1940s-1950s? The driftmeter was essentially a periscope coupled with a gyro, a development from the WW2 b
34 Post contains images CFCUQ : Glasnost ?
35 Eilennaei : Well, learning something new. I've never seen them mentioned in any aviation literature. Probably a number of the 1940-50s airliners then do have the
36 MD11Engineer : I used to work on a DC-4. It still had the drift meter installed beside the navigator's panel. As I said, it was a periscope with a built in direction
37 TripleDelta : Wrong paraphrasing on my side. I meant "radio" as in the device on board the aircraft. A radio is generically used for both communication and navigat
38 Francoflier : A former colleague of mine, who in 1998 (give or take 1 year) ferried an aircraft from Russia all the way to Central America going eastbound, told me
39 Eilennaei : That would certainly explain the invisibility, thanks! Apart from being installed, were they ever certified for the civilian use (the DC-4 started as
40 Stirling : In was not until the late 1980's that the USAF did away with the AQS-38 bombing/navigation system on the B-52. It was an engineering feat to produce
41 Post contains links Alessandro : Quoting TaromA380 (Thread starter): It's a fact. All medium & heavy soviet-made PAX aircrafts, from the '60s - '70s, till the Il-62, Tu-154 and later
42 Azimuth361 : The Fisher pen company spent millions developing a pen that writes in space. The Soviets used a pencil. An American aircraft carrier uses an expensive
43 BOACVC10 : No, I'm looking with awe at the picture of the Navigator's significant other, or just your average stunning russian beauty BOACVC10
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