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Lyulka Arkhyp Mikhajlovych: a teacher and a student, two academicians in one person…In honor of the 100th anniversary since his birthday

Люлька Архип Михайлович

If the revolution in 1917 did not burst out, Lyulka Arkhyp would not have become the person he had been: a famous designer of plane engines, an academician, one of the first to initiate the theory of air-jet engines, a laureate of State USSR prizes, the hero of Social State Work, a holder of many orders and medals…

Exactly this was depicted in numeral articles dedicated to the work of “a mysterious academician” that were published when he was still alive. And this is the fair truth: a simple guy from a poor rural family would scarcely have reached that much in the field of science and then occupied the position of a General designer if it were not for the social disagreements at the beginning of the 20th century. But everything is not that definite as soviet ideologists used to say. It might be that social disagreements shortened the boy’s childhood, who was born in 1908: in his early age he had to be the head of the family and he would scarcely have gone to a primary school regardless of his bent for learning and a real powerful talent to study exact sciences. But anyway those social rebellions brought to his native village “Savarka” a famous Ukrainian mathematician named Mykhailo Kravchuk who actually played a quite significant role in Lyulka’s destiny.

Mykhailo KravchukHere in the region named “Bohuslavschina” a former professor at Kyiv University managed to find a sort of a shelter not to get involved into Denikin’s execution by shooting. Anyone could have been blamed for that in case the hosts of that time in Kyiv had noticed and smelled a rat that someone felt like following their rivals even regardless of their “political colour”. And the authorities had enough hard evidence to accuse Kravchuk, that is why, he had to get concealed. He happened to get to Savarka and that meant a lot for the village: in a few months a professor from Kyiv started to work in a local high school and later became its principle. Except delivering classes of Maths to rural kids, he compiled a few textbooks based both on a school learning agreement and a vocational technical school’s one. The main thing he managed to do is to inspire the children of grain growers to get involved into science. Arkhyp Lyulka was one of them, later even despite of some circumstances that kept him away from studies he also managed to become one of the best. After he finished a seven year high school, he entered a vocational technical school in Bila Tserkva. Though over some time he had to get back to his native village because his family lost a bread-winner: his father died accidentally being blown up by a missile during the plough works. His mother had died three years earlier before this accident occurred in their family, that is, he was responsible to provide his young sisters with a bright future. If it were not for the pieces of advice and aid provided by Kravchuk, Lyulka did not have to graduate from that vocational school. Mykhailo Pylypovych having seen boy’s inclination to technics gave him advice not to quit studying and enter Kyiv Polytechnic Institute Mechanical Faculty where he used to work after returning to Kyiv. Being at the age of 20, he as all the other youngsters of his age was given an opportunity to study at this faculty. By the way, half a year he could stay at Mykhailo Kravchuk’s place. He studied hard and immediately showed his being good at mechanics and mathematics. But he was more seduced by practical drills. Hence he took to heat engineering. The variants of generating unit junctions suggested by Lyulka and also methods of solving heat engineering problems were not only quite original, but also quite suitable to be applied. That is, after graduating from the institute in 1931, a young engineer was sent to become a postgraduate student at Research Institute of Industrial Energy in Kharkiv that used to be a capital of Ukraine at that time. Then Lyulka got involved into finding solutions to designing and steam turbines calculations, but quite rapidly he switched to gas turbines. In Kharkiv in 1934 there was opened the largest in Europe and at that time the most modern plant producing turbo generators. It was that powerful that it produced not only electrically-sustainable turbines, but also there were carried out experiments based on applying gas turbines and being used as engines, especially in the field of aircraft. At that plant Lyulka could embody all his ideas and then he started working as a professor at Kharkiv Aircraft Institute. While constructing a new aircraft engine based on a gas turbine scheme, the most complicated was to bring into proper correlation gas temperature applied upon turbines’ blades and its efficiency. It is known that the higher is the temperature, the more efficiently a turbine functions. But unfortunately at that time there were no materials that could have withstood above 1400 degrees Celsius. The scientists were to construct a low temperature turbojet engine. As it is said hard work pays off, so a young scientist was not giving a try in vain. A designer called his first functioning engine “rocket turbojet engine”, it sounded not that correctly from a scientist’s point of view as he admitted that a bit later by himself.

Arkhyp Lyulka is in the lab of Kharkiv Aircraft  Institute in 1937But the established terminology had not yet existed and named exactly like this the project happened to get a feedback from technical specialists. The professionals in Kharkiv did not support the invention, that is, the documents were sent to Moscow, where experts could have also “hacked” it, but later because of the positive reviews from a professor at MSTU and Air Force Academy named after Zhukovsky Vladimir Uvarov, who stressed the depth of theoretical justification for the use of relatively low temperatures on the turbine blades, gave "good" for further work.

However, to work on improving the engine, the designer was not allowed and in 1939 he was with great difficulty transferred to the Kirov plant in Leningrad. This company had a great industrial and experimental base, so according to the governmental solution there was created Special Design Bureau (SDB-1), which was engaged in steam gas turbines units and turbojet engines. Lyulka was appointed a project manager and completely gave proof of his first brainchild. Within a very short time the group under his leadership managed to complete a working draft RD-1 and prepare the necessary working documentation for its manufacturing.

It was the first victory, which, however, was spoiled by a pretty serious thing: the engine was though suitable for use in aviation, but it turned out to be extremely "energy-consuming". This fact has forced the designer to engage in technological matters applying a project into production process and return to search optimal layout engine, in which he managed to use a double circuit of its construction. It was a fundamentally new solution, a real discovery which became the prototype of many turbojet engines, which are widely used today in civil and military aircraft up to transport and passenger airplanes. Due to the relatively low fuel consumption with such engines have greatly increased distance flight without refueling, while significantly reducing the time of delivery.

SU-11 – the first Soviet fighter equipped with engines  TP-1Despite the real success of his idea, Lyulka did not stop searching for the most optimal schemes of air-jet engines. Among his achievements at that time is the study of options for constructing a  TJE (TurboJet Engine) with augmentor device, that is with extra fuel combustion chamber, which provides short-term increase in capacity by increasing the intensity of combustion, and therefore it provides a rapid acceleration of the aircraft.

Nobody quit working on developing of domestic jet technology even after the Great Patriotic War. However, the situation at the front and the needs of the army sometimes forced designers to engage in more urgent issues. And once a breaking point during combat actions has become irreversible, the State Defense Committee made up its mind to set up specialized research institute for development and construction of jet engines for aircraft, the Department of turbojet engines which ran Arkhyp Lyulka (now the Science and Technology Center named after A.M. Lyulka which is the part of the Russian scientific and technical center "Saturn".) and in 1945 the first domestic turbojet engine was made and successfully tested on the bench. The next step was designing and creating a flight engine variant called the TR-1 ("turbojet first "). This engine was tested on civil benches in 1947 and did not fail. While carrying out the tests, there were confirmed design characteristics and reliability. They were quite sufficient to establish it on the aircraft.

Let us note that this was the time when the construction of a reliable next generation aircraft was closely worked out by the experts from several countries. Actually, starting from the second half of 30ies a hard research and development work in the field of jet technology and, in particular, engines, was carried out not only in the USSR, but also in the UK, Germany, Italy and, later, in the United States. In England, a prototype jet "Gloucester" an engine designed by Uittla was up in the air in May in 1941. A year later, with the same engine a plane "Erkomet" in the United States was built. At about the same time test flights of the German "Mesershmita-262" started.

As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, the first jet flights here were performed on SK-9 rocket designed by Sergey Korolev (the man who later became a General Designer of space technology) back in 1940 and in the spring of 1942 they began testing the first experimental jet BI-1 with liquid rocket engine construction of which was made by engineers of Bolhovitynov Design Bureau Bereznyak Alexandr and Alexei Isaev. Although a series of plane did not get applied, the working on it gave the designers a lot of domestic materials which in one way or another have been used in the design of jet aircraft later. Liquid engines were considered as the ones that did not meet the requirements that were applied to the aircraft power plants and were driven away from the market by turbojets.

In general, most engines remained a vulnerable point of the new technology because their most successful constructions were used on different planes, sometimes developed in different countries. For example, the first Soviet postwar jet fighter aircrafts and front-line bombers were equipped with engines RD-45 and RD-500, constructed in Vladimir Klimov Design Bureau based on the constructions of the British engines, some of which were purchased by the Soviet delegation at an international aviation exhibition. Therefore, experts took it as the air parade in Tushino in 1947 that considered to be a triumph of domestic machinery, where viewers for the first time saw a jet fighter Su-11 and a four-jet bomber Il-22 with local, originally designed engine TR-1 constructed by A.Lyulka.

A turbo-jet engine TP-1These engines became the first ones in the whole range of power units, each of which marked a milestone in the history not only home history, but also an international jet aircraft.

Among the best of them, especially AL-7 with modifications that were installed on the SU-7, SU-7B and even on the SU-17, who has been considered the main front-line fighter-bomber originally of the Soviet Union and then Russian air force and Cuba, India and some other countries are still armed with them. It should be added that these engines were installed not only on the fighters. A seaplane with two modified power plants AL-7PB was to break the world speed record for cars in its class. A version of this AL-7B engines were used at the strategic bomber Tu-98, which is at an altitude of 12,000 meters developed its velocity up to 1238 km / h.

One can’t help also mentioning the engines AL-21 which became the heart of a fighter with variable geometry wings.

SU-24, better known in the West under the imaginative name "truck with bombs," with which since 1972 and still today  the Air Force of Russia is armed and some other countries. An interesting and somewhat unexpected development was the TC-31m – a low-powered engine weighing just 23 kilograms. This so-called "kid" was a kind greeting from Lyulka to his native Ukraine, because it was installed on a motoplanery AN-13 designed by Oleg Antonov.

And, finally, AL-31F is a masterpiece of a world aircraft engine, a super-engine, which is said to become a lifeline for the Russian aircraft building industry when they experienced hard times that did not let it die, providing a decent financial and economic situation for the leading engine construction industrial companies. This engine was also an important component that has marked a commercial success on foreign markets for fighters SU-27 and SU-30 - “a so-called Soviet answer" to the American ones: F-15 "Eagle" and F-16 "Falcon".

The construction of the whole family of engines named AL-31 was launched in 1976-1977 and it was completed in 1984, the year when Arkhyp Lyulka passed away.  Since then there were several versions of this engine and now they do not only fly in the air, but also perform tasks peacefully on the ground; they are used for a gas compressor station of Gazprom (the modification AL-31ST) and as an energy power plant generator with a frequency rotor at 3000 rpm (AL-31STE).

A meeting with his fellow countrymen in Savarka in  1976.The results of scientific research made by Arkhyp Lyulka were embodied in all the technical constructions. He gave ground to the advantages of axial compressors in comparison to centrifugal ones, also first introduced the concept of air pressure recovery coefficient in the input devices propulsion aircraft turbojet engine, developed a method of calculating the efficiency of gas turbine considering the initial velocity of gases, developed the theory and proposed a method for calculating altitude-speed characteristics of turbojet engines, defined the limits of the use of motor speeds and so on. Therefore, as the chief of state authority in his field over many years from 1967 and till the last months of his life he ran the position of a chairman of the Commission of the Academy of Sciences in USSR concerning the gas turbines.

The half of his life Arkhyp Lyulka lived in Moscow, but his heart remained in Ukraine. People who knew him personally and have been in his Moscow apartment, remember that his table has always been laid with fresh Ukrainian newspapers and magazines and he spoke Ukrainian with the guests from Ukraine. He took floor also in the Ukrainian language speaking to his fellow countrymen when getting to his motherland and by the way, despite all his high rank and position he treated them all with respect. And yet, two portraits hung on the wall in his study; these were Taras Shevchenko and Mykhailo Kravchuk. He kept the gratitude to his teacher till his last days. And it was he who came to lend a hand the daughter of the suppressed academic: in the hardest times when she did not have her own shelter, he gave her the money for her own apartment.

In front of the State Museum of Technics that is housed in building №6 of the National Technical University of Ukraine “KPI” where in the past there used to be students’ labs. Today we can see there a bust of Mykhailo Kravchuk. At the museum’s entrance there hangs a memorable plaque dedicated to Arkhyp Lyulka. A teacher and a student, two academicians in one person again met each other in Kyiv…

Descriptions given to the pictures:

  1. Arkhyp Lyulka after finishing the vocational school in 1927
  2. Mykhailo Kravchuk
  3. Arkhyp Lyulka is in the lab of Kharkiv Aircraft Institute in 1937
  4. SU-11 – the first Soviet fighter equipped with engines TP-1
  5. A turbo-jet engine TP-1
  6. A meeting with his fellow countrymen in Savarka in 1976.

The author: Dmytro Stefanovych


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