The Flying Machines of Yuri Gagarin

Yuri was above all, an enthusiastic flyer and planes of all types played a big part in his life. Each of them has its own story, and together they tell us about how quickly the world was changing in Yuri’s lifetime. This is the first in a series of posts reflecting the flying machines Yuri familiarised himself with throughout his life…

Model aircraft

Model planes were a big part of Yuri’s childhood. Building and flying your own models is a great way to understand how planes fly, and a good training for a would-be pilot.

Technical hobbies like aeromodelling were looked on favourably in the Soviet Union because they were seen as practical education. Model flying in international competitions was also supported by the state because of the propaganda value, (as with Olympic sports), showing that Communism could compete on the world stage.

In the novel, I have represented Yuri’s hobby by an actual Russian design for a rubber-band powered model plane called ‘Malisch’. The plans were published in the Russian magazine ‘Wings of the Homeland’ (Krila Rodiny), in 1961, but is still typical of the kind of model Yuri might have built as a kid.

Rubber band powered model called 'Malisch'

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2 Responses to The Flying Machines of Yuri Gagarin

  1. Malisch

    Do we know why the rubber band-powered model airplane was named the Malisch? That’s our family name…

  2. Andrew J King

    Hi! Thanks for asking. The easy answer is, I don’t really know, but the most likely explanation is that ‘Malisch’ in this context could be the Russian word for ‘baby’ or ‘little one’. Names like this for model aircraft designs were quite common around the world, usually meant to suggest that this was good design for a beginner, a ‘starter’ model. This could be either in terms of ease of construction or flying, or both. Having said that, Malisch’s girder fuselage and many wing-ribs do not look like a beginners job.

    If you want to build one, the plans can be found in the same Aeromodeller Annual where I found Yuri’s Mig 15 – the 1961-2 edition. Copies of these old annuals can often be found in charity shops, second hand book stores and on line.

    Thanks for getting in touch.


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