Our Local Russian:
Gigantic isn’t a big enough word to describe the bright red, Russian AN-2 biplane parked in Ron and Kathleen Arnett’s hangar at their Clifton, Colorado farm. Ron, a local farmer and proud airplane owner, hosted Grand Junction’s Chapter 800 Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) June’s meeting. His enthralled audience, many of them pilots or former pilots, kept their eyes on the plane while Ron explained his prize possession. After the meeting, everyone got to climb up and in his plane to witness and admire the enormity of the aircraft’s interior.
“One and, two and, three and, four and you’re off,” he counted out for the listening crowd of EAA members. “That is all the time it takes for this short take off and landing (STOL) biplane to lift off the ground and into the air. It is utilized for agricultural spraying but it also can carry 12 passengers and can be used for parachute drops. Ron doesn’t do any ag spraying anymore. When asked why he bought this plane, he replied, grinning, “I decided that the next plane I would buy would be one I could jump out of if I needed to.”
“The AN-2 has a hefty tail dragging gear,” continued Ron, “a big wing surface for maneuvering, a hopper, and it was designed to fly low and slow for agricultural spraying or fire-fighting… That’s the way I like to fly. Low and slow, just above the tree tops. The plane’s fuel tanks are in the wings. It takes off at 1000 horsepower and burns 36 gallons an hour.”
“I like experimental airplanes because you can modify, change and do your own thing with them,” Ron claimed. “I bought this one two years ago. I made a model of it in 1960. The AN-2 is currently in production. This is a biplane that has never had a design change since it was developed. It can take off and land on dirt strips so you’ll see lots of them in Alaska and northern Canada. It has the best safety record of any biplane.”
According to aviation records, the Antonov AN-2’s first flight was on August 21, 1947. It has the NATO code name of COLT. It is the largest, single-engine biplane every produced. By 1960, the USSR had produced 5,000 of them. It was designed by Russian scientist, Oleg Antonov, (2/7/06 – 4/4/84) who graduated from Kalinin in Leningrad in 1930. Antonov was made the head of Aircraft Design Builders in 1946, and attained Dr. of Science in 1968. In 2006, a coin was minted by the National Bank of Ukraine honoring Antonov for his work.
Ron and Kathleen live on their 140-150 acre Clifton farm where they grow alfalfa, grass and raise cows. A native of Nebraska, he moved here 40 years ago. He doesn’t fly his AN-2 now as a pilot, but it’s not a relic and he does co-pilot it every chance he gets.
Ron Arnett added some common sense advice to the seated, fascinated EAA crowd in his hangar that early Saturday morning. “Don’t park a fabric plane by a bunch of horses. I had some that stripped a plane once. Guess they like the glue and fabric.”
A feature article about them was published in the September edition of “Sport Aviation”, a national EAA magazine. Ron and Kathleen were invited to exhibit their huge biplane to the September 26-28th Air Show at Grand Junction’s Regional Airport (formerly Walker Field) in Grand Junction, Colorado. So, your Clifton neighbors shared the same space as the U.S… Navy’s famous “Blue Angels”