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South African publishes Russian Aircraft Encyclopaedia

November 18, 2013, 10:49 UTC+3 PRETORIA

The 126-page book includes data and photos of nearly 430 Russian aircraft and helicopters since the First World War to the latest Sukhoi Superjet-100 passenger aircraft

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© ITAR-TASS/Alexander Nechaev

PRETORIA, November 18, /ITAR-TASS/. Mias van Pletzen, 53, was born in South Africa in apartheid years when the former Soviet Union armed liberation movements in Africa and was considered an enemy by the white minority rule. Since childhood he was fond of modelling aircraft and dreamt of becoming a pilot, but failed because of medical indications. “I have been always impressed by how the tons of metal, cargo and passengers can fly in the air,” he told ITAR-TASS.

Ten years ago radio engineer van Pletzen decided to write masterwork called Russian Aircraft Encyclopaedia. The 126-page book includes data and photos of nearly 430 Russian aircraft and helicopters since the First World War to the latest Sukhoi Superjet-100 passenger aircraft, as well as brief data on leading Russian aircraft designers. Also included is information about project Buran and Energia, the Russian space shuttle programme.

Mias admits his idea stunned many. “Everybody asks why an Afrikaner should write about Russian aircraft? In the years of apartheid Russia was an enemy and we knew only bad things about it. I thought there must be something good. It was a little bit of my rebellion against the West as information was available on western aircraft,” he explained.

Mias does not speak Russian which complicated his job. He began with MiG combat aircraft, then came Tupolev, Ilyushin, Antonov, Kamov, Beriev, and others. He corresponded with design bureaus in Russia to obtain permission for the use of aircraft photos. He succeeded but lacked illustrations of old craft and decided to go to Moscow, to the Central Air Force Museum in Monino.

“I felt like a boy in a toyshop. I finally got my own pictures,” van Pletzen said. In Russia he met test pilot of Mil helicopter design bureau Valentin Vaouline. “It was very interesting for me to meet a person who is so enthusiastic in discovering the history of Russian (Soviet) aviation and spent a few years at studying and research. I was very impressed by this work, which has resulted in compiling of this book, which I would recommend to those who like aviation and are in love with the sky,” Vaouline wrote.

This year van Pletzen published the encyclopaedia at his own expense and with a circulation of only 30 copies. “I understand there are few pilots and experts wishing to read about Russian aircraft. But for me it is not that much the issue of money, but rather the joy of a completed project. I did it!” he said.

Naturally, he would like to have the encyclopaedia printed in a bigger circulation, but that demands sponsors. Van Pletzen hopes to show his work to Russian aircraft people at Pretoria airshow next year. So far it has become an exhibit at SA Air Force Museum.

After presenting his book to Russian Ambassador to South Africa Mikhail Petrakov van Pletzen began thinking about continued research. “The ambassador told me: Let it be only the first volume,” he recalled.

“I will carry on with the research as new aircraft appear. I may also include gliders in the book", he promised.

The Russian Aircraft Encyclopaedia is available at

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