The Soviet Record Breakers

We have often heard the statement: – “What is the use of old gliders? You can’t go anywhere in them”. Then we have been asked by experienced glider pilots (who we think should know better) “How fast can you fly old gliders between thermals?”

The following article is an answer to some of these questions to give our members something with which to fight back.

Occasionally gliding records have been broken by such a huge margin as to create an international sensation. In this category were the records flown by Soviet Glider pilots in between 1937 and 1939. Their flights were such as to break existing records by as much as 30% and, in our opinion they were the most sensational records of all time. Although these records were recognised by the FAI, no details of the sailplanes, which flew them, have ever been released to the West until now.

It is our proud honour to be able, through VGC News, to reveal for the first time details of the GN-7 flown by Rastorguev on his staggering 652kms world distance record in 1937. The previous World Distance Record was 504 kms flown from the Wasserkuppe by four pilots during the 1935 Rhön Contest. Even more sensational was Olga Klepikova’s 1939 World Distance Record of 749kms in a Rot Front 7. Until now, the only information we had on the RF-7 was that it was similar to the 1948 A-9, which some of us have seen. Just how it was is now evident.

Details of great numbers (83) of Soviet pre-war sailplanes were publicised in Soviet books during the 1950’s but no information filtered through to the West. Details of the GN-7 and

Stakhanoviets were kindly given us by Martin Simons who had obtained some of these books with the assistance of the Adelaide South Australian State Library. Gabor Fececs of Budapest kindly sent us details of the Rot Front from an East German publication.

Some details of the Stakhanoviets have been previously released as one was seen at the 1936 Paris Air Show, although our information says that it was not finished until 1937.

The GH-7


The GH-7 was created during 1936/7.
Wing span
Length 12.8
Wing Area
Aspect Ratio 22
Wing Profile Modified Gottingen 549
Empty Weight 200kgs.
Flying Weight 304kgs.
Wing Loading 23.8kgs/Sq.m;
Max L:D 1:28

We think that the above reveals that it was no “Lead sled”.

The Records

5th May 1937        Victor Rastorguev flew 539kms.

12th May 1937      flew 602kms.

27th May 1937      flew 652kms.

Already the first of these flights had broken the existing world record of 504kms. On his last flight, Restorguev flew from Moscow Tushino, took course at 6,000 ft. and landed late in the evening at Saratov in the Volgograd (Stalingrad) region. Collective farm workers with showers of rose petals greeted him as a hero.

During the 12th Soviet National Contest of 1937, the GN-7 was judged as the best single-seat sailplane. However, it was outclassed by Korotov who flew a KAI (Kazan Aviation Institute) 3 flying boat glider 385kms, and by the AG (Antonov Groschev) 1 (an improved GN-7 which Groshev had designed in collaboration with O.K. Antonov) which flew 326.5kms on 21st June. The VGC has three view drawings of the latter two sailplanes.

The Stakhanoviets.

This two-seater had been designed by Emelyanov who had developed it from his 1935 KIM 2. The Stakhanoviets was the KIM 3.

It can be seen again form the data below that this was no “lead sled”. The swept-forward wings foreshadow those of some modern two-seaters, especially the Bocian. In spite of its over 20m wing span, its weight was comparable with that of some Kranich 2’s which have 18m spans.


Stakhanoviets Statistics
Wing Span 20.2m
Length 8.1 m
Height 1,2m
Wing Area 22.97sq.m
Max. Chord 1.135m
Aspect Ratio 17.8
Profile P.111
Empty Weight 294kgs
Flying Weight 454kgs
Weight of the wings 161.2kgs
Weight of the fuselage 121kgs
Wing loading: 19.8kgs/sq.m
Landing speed 60 kph
Min Sink 0.65 m/sec
Max. L/D 1:26.8.

The Records

·       27th May   Victor Ilchenko flew 407.660kms. He had flown already 407kms with a passenger in a “Konsomol” (KIM-2) sailplane, which was the forerunner of the Stenkanoviets (KIM-3).

·       May 1938  its designer Emelyanov with Ilchenko as passenger flew a Stekanoviets 552kms.

·       Jul 1938    I. Kartashev and passenger flew a Stekhanoviets 619kms from an airfield near Moscow to the region of Chernigov. The flight lasted 7 hours 30mins.

·       Kartashev and Gorokhova flew a Stenkanoviets 395.7kms from Moscow to Gorki, a World Two-seater Flight record.

·       Kartashev and Petrochenkova flew a Stekhanoviets 495kms from Tulo to Karkov, a World Goal Flight record.

The above flights broke a previous two-seater World distance record of 193kms flown in a Kranich 2 from the Hornberg to Bingen on 12.4.37. There were no previous two-seater World Goal Flight records.

·       12.6.40.     Kartashev, Petroschenkova. 416kms. Tula-Oklovo and return. The World’s Out & Return record for single seat and two-seater gliders flown in a Stakhanoviets.

The previous World record out & return for single seaters was: Bernard Flinsch – 305.6kms on 7.7.38 in the legendary D.30 “Cirrus” sailplane. Previous World Record Out & Return for two-seaters was Heinz Huth and Brandt. 10.8.38. in a Kranich 2 – 258.8kms, Hamburg to Hannover and return.

The Rot Front 7 and its 1943 offspring the A-9.

A9 landing

A9 landing

Until recently, we had heard only that this sailplane in which Olga Klepikova had flown over 749kms in 1939, was similar to the post war built A-9, but did not have the latter’s turned down wing tips. Just how similar it was, can now be seen.

By 1932 Oleg Konstaninivitch Antonov had designed his OKA 13 (presumably his 13th sailplane). By 1933, he had designed his OKA 19 (6 designs in one year!), which was known as the Rot (Red) Front 3. One therefore assumes that his 1939 Rot Front 7 was his 23rd design. We presume that the sailplane was named in honour of the German Communist Party? We presume also that by the time 0leg Antonov (or his design bureau) had designed the A.15 in 1960, he had designed 32 gliders.

The East German publication, from which the information comes, states: “The 1938 Oleg Antonov designed high performance sailplane ‘Rot Front 7’ can be included among the best sailplanes of that time. Beyond having flown several Soviet best performances, this cantilever shoulder-wing sailplane flew two world records, one of which was the sensational distance flight by Olga Klepikova of over 749 kms in 1939.

“The wings of the RF-7 were in three parts. The tips were fitted on to the two-spar, permanently installed, centre section. The fuselage was of aerodynamic form with the canopy blending into its line. The single wheel undercarriage could be retracted and the undercarriage compartment’s doors shut. Behind the pilot’s seat was a tank for 120 litres of water ballast. In spite of minimum empty weight, it was so strong that it was cleared for full acrobatics.

“The ‘Rot Front 7’ design served as a basis for the 1948 designed record breaking A-9 sailplane.” The RF-7 was of stressed skin, semi-monocoque, and wooden construction.


Rot Fort 7


Wing Span 16.24m 16.3m
Length 6. 4 m 6.4m
Wing Area 11.86sq.m 13.5sq.m
Aspect Ratio 22.2 19.6
Empty Weight 245kgs 360kgs
Take off weight 325kgs without ballast 450kgs
  445kgs with ballast  
Wing loading 27-37kgs/sq.m 33kgs/sq.m,
Max L/D 30.5 28

It would seem that the RF-7 was one of the most highly wing-loaded sailplanes of its time and was designed specially for distance flying at great speed.


Also refer to separate VGC document on the A-9 here


The World Records gained:

The RF-7

6.6.39. Olga Klepikova, 749.5kms.

She started from Tushino airfield near Moscow, and landed after flying for 8 hours 25mins, near the station of Kikhailovka in the Volgagrad (Stalingrad) region. This was the world distance record for both men and women and was broken by Dick Johnson in 1951 flying the RJ-5 in the USA. As a woman’s record, it was not broken until recently by a fibreglass glider in Poland.

The previous World distance record had been 504kms set up by four pilots during the 1935 Rhön Contest, but the German record was increased to 523kms by a Minimoa in 1939. During 1938/9, German pilots were severely restricted for distance flying by their not being allowed to cross their frontiers because of the political situation.

31.7.39. P. Savtsov flew an RF-7 602kms on a World’s Goal Flight Record starting from Tula and finishing in exactly the same place where Olga Klepikova had landed.

The A-9 

6.6.52. Yeffimienko flew an A-9 636.88kms from Grabtsevo to Molovos for a World’s Goal flight Record.

It would seem that de-rigging the RF-7 and A-9 only consisted of removing the outer wing panels. The big effort was needed to lift the sailplane without wing tips onto a lorry for its retrieve. Their centre sections were not so wide as to overhang the lorry’s sides by very much.

The pre-war Soviet sailplanes were not fitted with wing lift spoilers or air brakes and so one assumes that good landing areas were available.

Rastorguev was killed as a test pilot during the war but Olga Klepikova lived on as a schoolmistress.

During the war, almost everything to do with pre-war Soviet Gliding was destroyed in the great battles West and South of Moscow. After the war, Soviet gliding had to be recreated and it was lucky that information on the RF-7 existed to be used for the basis of the A-9 design.

Source for the RF-7 information was:    Hartmut BuchLSegelfliegen).


VEB Verlag fur Verl Verkehrswesen,



From “Sailplane and Glider” 1939

Official Records 

Category 1.- Single-seaters. 

Distance in Straight Line – USSR:-

  • Olga Klepikova. Rot Front 7. July 6th. 750km.

Distance Returning to Departure Point:-

  • Kimelnan.   Rot Fort 7. July 23rd. 300 km.

Goal Flights – USSR:-

  • Satzov. Rot Fort 7. Moscow – Tambov. June 30th. 410 km.
  • Satzov. Rot Fort 7. July 31st. 600 km.
  • Zelienkova. Rot Fort 7. July 6th. Moscow – Riazan. 195km.


Category 2 – Multi-seaters. 

Goal Flight – Germany

  • Otto Bräutigam (pilot) and Hannes Neyer (passenger). Kranich. Grossrukerswald to Vienna – 363.798 km. April 21st 1939.

Goal Flight – USSR

  • Kartasher and A. Gorokhova. Stakhanoviets. Moscow – Govki – 395.730km on July 1st 1939.

Return to Point of Departure

  • Kartashev (pilot), Chekoulkhin (passenger). Stakhanoviets. July 23rd. 300 km.

(Other records are mentioned in Rot Fort 7s and Stakhanoviets but have not been thought worthy of recording owing to their being less than 300 km or 6280 ft. height.)