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Obituary: Nikolai Kuznetsov

Nikolai Kuznetsov was a leading designer of aircraft engines in the Soviet Union for 40 years from 1946.

He headed the design teams for the engines that powered the TU-114, TU- 154, AN-22 and IL-62 airliners and the TU-144 supersonic passenger aircraft (dubbed "Concordski" in the West), and was the last survivor of the "Big Five" aviation scientists who played a key role in the Soviet war machine.

Kuznetsov worked closely with the four most secret names in aviation design: Sergei Korolev; Andrei Tupolev (who died in 1972); Sergei Ilyushin, with whom he worked until Ilyushin's death in 1977; and Oleg Antonov, who died in 1984.

Kuznetsov was born in 1911 in Aktiubinsk (White Hill), in Turgai Province. He attended Zhukovsky Military Aviation Engineering Academy, in Moscow, graduating in 1938, and going on to work at highly secret military institutes. This was a time when Korolev, Stalin's designer-in-chief, had been arrested on suspicion of being a German spy, and was working on jet engines with a group of other scientists, among them Tupolev, at a special prison laboratory.

In this atmosphere of spy paranoia, Kuznetsov was appointed deputy chief designer of military aircraft in 1943 and was put under surveillance by Lavrentii Beria's secret police. In 1946 he was made designer-in-chief of his institute. In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev appointed Kuznetsov to be Soviet Designer-in- Chief for aircraft engines. Until 1973, Kuznetsov's name was never mentioned in the Soviet press. He would be referred to only as "Glavny Konstruktor" ("Designer-in-Chief").

Jeanne Vronskaya

Nikolai Dmitreyevich Kuznetsov, aircraft engine designer: born Aktiubinsk 10 June 1911; died Samara 30 July 1995.