Transport Gyrodyne Helicopter
Intended to feature the qualities of both a fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter, the experimental - and lethal - Kamov Ka-22 was only built in four examples.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Since the prospect of vertical flight became established during the 1940s and evolved throughout the 1950s by way of the "helicopter", aviation engineers had sought to combine the vertical flight capabilities of such aircraft with the horizontal performance of a traditional aeroplane. The Soviets envisioned such a design in the heavy transport role, perhaps serving both military and civilian markets, and capable of taking-off and landing thousands of pounds of supplies or passengers.
The charge eventually fell to the Kamov helicopter concern which was already a proven developer of many rotary-wing designs to date. The Vertical Take-Off and Horizontal Flight (VTOHF) attempt was through their unique Ka-22 model, classified as a "gyrodyne", and produced across four prototypes during its development phase. The aircraft first flew in tethered form on August 15th, 1959 though it did not lead to a serial production form for the program was cancelled in August 12th of 1964 after two fatal crashes. The heavy-lift helicopter role was eventually filled by more conventional means through a competitor's design.
Design work on the Ka-22 began during 1954 and the resulting product interested Soviet authorities enough to order several prototypes. Development then proved slow for many technological challenges arose that would delay first flight. Work continued into the middle of the decade at which point four flyable prototypes were now contracted for. During its first flight, the Ka-22 exhibited several inherent flaws that required engineers to revise and install fixes - some simply to make her safe to fly.
Kamov engineers elected for a deep, rectangular fuselage to serve the intended cargo role while also support avionics, fuel stores, and the cockpit. The fuselage featured a glazed nose section (hinged to allow internal access) and a raised tail unit. With its high-mounted wings, the aircraft allowed nfettered movement by ground personnel all about the design. The tail unit was highly conventional with its single vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes. Engines were fitted in nacelles found at each wingtip and a combination engine approach was used - a pair of helicopter rotor blades provided the needed vertical flight and puller propeller units gave the aircraft its forward flight (this gave the aircraft its gyrodyne classification). The undercarriage was fixed and arranged as a three-point, wheeled support system. The cockpit was sat high above and slightly aft of the nose section which offered the flight crew a commanding view around the aircraft. The Ka-22 certainly had its own identifiable look for the period and its rather utilitarian approach was a Soviet design signature.
As completed, Ka-22 was to ferry up to 100 passengers or heavy cargo load - it was not armed for its transport role in any way. Dimensions included a length of 27 meters with wingspan of 22.5 meters and weights included 62,170lbs when empty and a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) nearing 93,700lbs.In the first prototype, power was served through 2 x Kuznetsov TV-2VK engines developing 5,900 horsepower. Subsequent prototypes all fielded 2 x Soloviev D-25VK turboshaft engines developing 5,424 horsepower. Each engine drove a pair of 65.6 foot diameter main rotors as well as four-bladed, variable-pitch propeller units. Performance included a maximum speed of 233 miles per hour with a range out to 280 miles and a service ceiling of 18,050 feet.
The optimistic Ka-22 development program would only last a few short years however. It did prove itself a record-setting world design, setting no fewer than eight records in its time aloft. It was first showcased during Moscow Aviation Day 1961 which also proved the West's first look at the unique Soviet machine. Its undoing came through a pair of unfortunate, and tragic, crashes - the first prototype was lost in a fatal crash on August 28th, 1962 and the third was lost to a crash a year later on August 12th - only three of her crew survived. From these fatal flights came word that the Ka-22 would go on unsupported and this naturally proved the death knell for the Ka-22 product - it was eventually given up by Kamov itself - leaving only the second and forth prototypes. This pair was eventually scrapped bringing a complete end to the Ka-22 program.