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The Noisy Demon
In the early 1970s, Soviet government officials approached the Polish aircraft builder WSK-PZL, looking for a clean-slate design for crop-dusting over the enormous Soviet collective farms to replace the antiquated (read: proven and reliable) An-2 Biplane. This new aircraft was to use the aircraft propulsion of the future - the jet engine, despite the fact that the low and slow nature of agricultural aviation is woefully unsuited to jet aircraft.
Other factors troubled the M-15, including the high-maintenance jet engine, the lack of available spare parts, and the long takeoff roll required compared to the existing An-2.
Despite all this, the engineers at WSK-PZL created the best possible aircraft they could given the requirements. The resulting design, the M-15 would be one of the most unique aircraft in history. Obviously, it is unique in being designed as a jet biplane. It also is the only agricultural jet aircraft, and has the slowest stall speed of any jet aircraft.
However, none of these were able to allow the M-15 to usurp the An-2 as the predominant Soviet (and later Russian) agricultural aircraft. M-15s were ultimately pushed by politicians whose forward-looking ideals overlooked simple practicality. As a result of this, 175 were eventually produced, of a theoretical order of 3,000 aircraft.
- Type: SPH
- Class: aircraft
- Part Count: 313
- Pure Stock
And the nickname
Belphegor? The noise of the jet engine lent the aircraft its name, named for the noisy demon; however the name is more appropriate than it may seem. Belphegor was said to seduce people with seemingly ingenious labor-saving devices which would ultimately fail. Perhaps the Soviets who insisted upon forcing a modern technology into an area where it was woefully unsuited had such a demon whispering in their ears.
Cheers, and happy flying!