Antonov An-2 “Colt”
Soviet Union — Single-engine STOL agricultural and utility biplane aircraft

Archive Photos ¹

[Antonov An-2 “Colt” (N22AN, s/n 1R16550, 1975) on display 1986 at the Hawthorne Air Faire, Hawthorne, CA (John Shupek photos copyright © 1986 John Shupek)]

[Antonov An-2 “Colt” (NX90400, s/n 1G2722) on display 8/21/2003 at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, CA (John Shupek photo copyright © 2003 Skytamer Images)]

[Antonov An-2 “Colt” (NX90400, s/n 1G2722) on display 8/4/2004 at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, CA (John Shupek photo copyright © 2004 Skytamer Images)]

[Antonov An-2 “Colt — Big Panda” (N2AN, s/n 43798, 1984) on display 8/27/2005 at the Camarillo Air Show, Camarillo, CA (John Shupek photos copyright © 2005 Skytamer Images)]

[Antonov An-2 “Colt — Big Panda” (N2AN, s/n 43798, 1984) on display 1/7/2006 at the Cable Air Show, Cable Airport, Upland, CA (John Shupek photos copyright © 2006 Skytamer Images)]

[Antonov An-2 “Colt — Big Panda” (N2AN, s/n 43798, 1984) on display 8/19/2006 at the Camarillo Air Show, Camarillo, CA (John Shupek photos copyright © 2006 Skytamer Images)]

Overview ²

  • Role: STOL Agricultural and utility aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Antonov; WSK PZL-Mielec; Shijiazhuang
  • Designed by: Oleg Antonov
  • First flight: 1947
  • Status: Series production in China as Y-5
  • Primary users: Soviet Air Force, Aeroflot, North Korean Air Force, Many others
  • Produced: 1947-1992
  • Number built: 18,000+
  • Unit cost: As low as US$100,000
  • Variants: Antonov An-3

The Antonov An-2 “Colt” is an extremely durable, light, single-engine biplane which first flew on 31 August 1947 and was the first plane designed by Antonov. It is used as a light transport, capable of carrying 12 passengers, and for parachute drops and agricultural work. Its slow-flight and STOL capabilities make it suited for short, unimproved fields, and some specialized variants have also been built for cold weather and other extreme environments. The Guinness Book of World Records states that the 45-year production run for the An-2 was the longest ever, for any aircraft, only recently beaten by the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

Design and Development ²

The Antonov An-2 was designed to meet a 1947 Soviet requirement for a replacement for the Polikarpov Po-2 which was used in large numbers as both an agricultural aircraft and a utility aircraft. Antonov designed a large single bay biplane of all-metal construction, with an enclosed cockpit and a cabin with room for seats accommodating twelve passengers. The first prototype, designated SKh-1, and powered by a Shvetsov ASh-21 radial engine, flew on 31 August 1947. The second prototype was fitted with a more powerful Shvetsov ASh-62 engine, which allowed the aircraft's payload to be significantly increased from 1,300 kg (2,870 lb) to 2,140 kg (4,720 lb), and this form it was ordered into production.

By 1960 the USSR had produced over 5,000 units. Since 1960, most An-2s have been built at Poland's WSK factory in Mielec, with over 13,000 made there before full production ended in 1991. Limited production from parts stocks, as well as spares and maintenance coverage continued until 2001, when 4 aircraft were produced for Vietnam. China also builds the An-2 under license as the Shijiazhuang Y-5.

The An-2 was designed as a utility aircraft for use in forestry and agriculture. However, the basic airframe is highly adaptable and numerous variants have been developed. These include hopper-equipped versions for crop-dusting, scientific versions for atmospheric sampling, water-bombers for fighting forest-fires, flying ambulances, float-equipped seaplane versions, lightly armed combat versions for dropping paratroops, and of course the most common An-2T version, which is the 12-seater passenger aircraft. All versions (other than the An-3) are powered by a 750 kW (1,000 hp) 9-cylinder Shvetsov ASh-62 radial engine, which was developed from the Wright R-1820.

The An-2 has design features which make it suitable for operation in remote areas with unsurfaced airstrips:

  • It has a pneumatic brake system (similar to those used on heavy road vehicles) to stop on short runways.
  • It has an air line fitted to the compressor, so the pressure in the tires and shock absorbers can be adjusted without the need for special equipment.
  • The batteries are large and easy to remove, so the aircraft does not need a ground power unit to supply power.
  • There is no need for an external fuel pump to refuel the aircraft, as it has an onboard pump that allows the tanks to be filled from simple fuel drums.
  • It has a minimum of complex systems.
  • The crucial wing leading edge slats that give the aircraft its slow flight ability are fully automatic, being held closed by the airflow over the wings. Once the airspeed drops below 64 km/h (40 mph), the slats will extend because they are on elastic rubber springs.
  • Take-off run: 170 m, landing run: 215 m (these numbers will of course vary depending on take-off/landing weight, outside air temperature, surface roughness, and headwind).

An interesting note from the pilot's handbook reads:

“If the engine quits in instrument conditions (blind flying when you can't see the ground) or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft (it won't stall) and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 64 km/h (40 mph), and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground.”

The An-2 indeed has no stall speed quoted in the operating handbook. Pilots of the An-2 say one can fly the aircraft in full control at 30 mph (as a contrast, a modern Cessna 4-seater light aircraft has a stall speed of around 55 mph). This slow stall speed makes it possible for the aircraft to fly backwards (if the aircraft is pointed into a headwind of, say, 35 mph (56 km/h), it will travel backwards at 5 mph (8.0 km/h) whilst under full control). (This is, of course, also possible with almost any other real Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft.)

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European communist states, most airlines in these areas have been withdrawing their An-2s from service as some of these aircraft are now over 40 years old. Private operators are still using the planes as their stability, capacity and slow-flying ability make them very popular, for instance for skydiving.

In the early 1980s Antonov experimented with a development of the An-2 powered by a modern turboprop engine. The unit used was a 1,450 horsepower (1,080 kW) Glushenkov engine, and aircraft fitted with this engine were fitted with a longer, more streamlined nose to accommodate it.

Whilst their high noise levels, increasing maintenance costs, high fuel consumption and unsophisticated nature (the pre-flight checks alone take between 30 and 40 minutes) makes them obsolete for commercial service in Europe, the huge number of aircraft available means that prices are low (from as little as $30,000 for a serviceable example). This makes them ideal for the developing world, where their ability to carry large loads into short airstrips makes them assets to airlines on a budget. Many ex-Aeroflot An-2s work as regional airliners in Africa, Central and South America, Cuba and the Indian subcontinent.

North Korea has a number of the aircraft. It is believed that the wooden propellers and canvas wings on their variants (the Y-5 version license-built in China) give them a low radar cross-section, and therefore a limited degree of “stealth”. In a war they would probably be used to parachute or deliver special forces troops behind enemy lines for sabotage operations.

The An-2's ability, looks and flying characteristics, and its status as “The World's Biggest Biplane” mean that demand for the aircraft is increasing in the United States and Western Europe, where they are prized by collectors of classic aircraft. This makes the An-2 an increasingly common sight at airshows. However, in nearly all Western nations (the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, etc.) one may not use the An-2 commercially (despite its obvious potential as a bush plane and parachute aircraft). This is because the aircraft has not been certified by the relevant national aviation authorities, which limits its use. These restrictions vary by country, but all prevent the An-2 being used for any “for profit” purpose. In the United States, An-2s imported since 1993 are limited to flights within 300 miles (480 km) of their home airport, and may only land at that same airfield; the An-2s that PZL produced, however, are exempt due to a bilateral agreement with Poland, which, essentially, include any An-2 built after 1972 except Chinese Y-5, as at this time the production of the aircraft in Soviet Union ceased as per COMECON agreement.

Combat Service ²

Initially used by combat service in Korean war. During the 1960s an An-2 attempting to engage South Vietnamese naval units was shot down by an McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II under the control of an Air Intercept Controller (AIC) on the “USS Long Beach”. The An-2 was used also during the Vietnam war as a Navy interceptor. This modification had two “Skvall” torpedoes under the wing and was difficult to detect due to its low-altitude flight. Even when detected it was difficult to intercept because the plane's cruise speed was 135-160 km/h (well below the landing speed of jet aircraft during the war).

On January 12, 1968, a clandestine TACAN site (call sign: Lima Site 85) installed by Special Forces (United States Army) in Northern Laos for directing USAF warplanes flying from Thailand to Vietnam was attacked by three North Vietnamese An-2s using machine guns fired from the cabin and hand thrown grenades. An Air America (airline) Bell UH-1B flying in the vicinity was radioed for help and chased the flight of three aircraft. By using a carbine the American crew succeeded in shooting down one of the An-2 while the second aircraft was forced down and crashed into a mountain. The surviving Antonov was later chased minutes before the border by another Air America helicopter and was forced down to ground too.

During the Croatian War of Independence in 1991, a few old Antonov An-2 biplane used for crop-spraying were converted to drop makeshift bombs and were used in supply missions to the besieged town of Vukovar. Some were shot down by SA-6.

Variants Soviet/Russian Production ²

Soviet/Russian Production

  • SKh-1 — the original designation of the An-2
  • An-2F — experimental artillery-observation with a revised twin-tail, under-fuselage observer's position and defensive machine-gun dorsal position
  • An-2L — fire-fighting with chemicals
  • An-2LV — fire-fighting water-bomber
  • An-2M — modified agricultural version (developed by Beriev)
  • An-2P — passenger version
  • An-2P — fire-fighting with water
  • An-2S — ambulance
  • An-2V — seaplane version, also known as An-4
  • An-2VA — water bomber
  • An-2ZA — atmosphere sampling, high altitude meteorological research (also known as An-6 Meteo)
  • An-2E — Ekranoplan conversion

Russian/Ukrainian Production

  • An-3 — New-build turboprop derived from An-2 that has spawned its own line of sub-variants

Polish Production

  • An-2 Geofiz or An-2Geo — Geofiz geophysical model
  • An-2D5 — VlP transport with 5 seats
  • An-2D6 — VlP transport with 6 seats
  • An-2T — Polish version of initial An-2 model
  • An-2M or An-2W — Polish version of An-2V floatplane
  • An-2P — passenger version with 12 seats with better soundproofing and propeller
  • An-2P Photo — Special version equipped for photogrammetric operators.
  • An-2PK — VlP transport with 5 seats prepared to usage in Arctic climate
  • An-2PF — modified for photography
  • An-2PR or An-2PRTV — TV relay work (PR for Polish Radio, TV for television)
  • An-2R — agricultural model with tank for 1,300 kg chemical substances
  • An-2S — ambulance with 6 seats
  • An-2TD — paratrooper version with 12 seats
  • An-2TP — passenger/cargo, modified from An-2TD
  • An-2TPS — ambulance derived form An-2TP in 1974
  • An-3M — prototype with turboprop engine TWD-20 (1054 kW/1432 KM) built with some components from the PZL-106 Kruk
  • Lala-1 — experimental version with revised, open-frame tail to accommodate turbofan engine; used as development model for M-15 Belphegor agricultural aircraft.

Chinese Production

  • Nanchang Y-5 — (Yunshuji - transport) Chinese version of An-2, initially built from Soviet blueprints and with supervision from Soviet advisors.
  • Nanchang Y-5II — (a.k.a. Fong Shou-2 - Harvester-2) Crop-sprayer/duster with a chemical hopper/tank in the cabin and interchangeable spraying/dusting equipment. Cooling of the cockpit was improved to improve comfort in the sub-tropical regions of China. 229 built.
  • Nanchang Y-5A — First mass-produced Chinese version, light passenger transport. 114 built
  • Shijiazhuang Y-5B — Improved version introducing avionics upgrades and a new engine; some built as paratrooper transports.
  • Shijiazhuang Y-5B-100 — Y-5B aircraft fitted with triple tipsails on the upper wing tips, which reputedly gave 20% higher climb rate and improved L/D ratio by 15%.
  • Shijiazhuang Y-5B(T) — A para-dropping version developed for the PLAAF, with up-dated avionics including a GPS.
  • Shijiazhuang Y-5B(K) — Variously reported as a tourist variant or Agricultural variant.
  • Shijiazhuang Y-5B(D) — Variously reported as an Agricultural variant or Tourist variant.
  • Nanchang Y-5C — Amphibian version of Y-5A
  • Nanchang Y-5D — Bomber crew trainer
  • Nanchang Y-5K — A VIP passenger variant with five seats. Eleven were delivered to the PLAAF from 1958. A seven seater was delivered to Ho Chi Min in North Vietnam and two were gifted to the Nepal Royal Flight for use by King Birendra.
  • Shijiazhuang Y-5B (turboprop) — A projected turboprop conversion program replacing the 1,000 hp Huosai-5 radial engine with a more powerful turboprop.

Operators ³

Military Operators

  • Cambodia: Cambodian Air Force
  • People's Republic of China: People's Liberation Army Air Force, People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force
  • Croatia: Croatian Air Force
  • Cuba: Cuban Air Force
  • Czechoslovakia: Czechoslovakian Air Force
  • East Germany: East German Air Force (East German An-2s were passed on to Germany upon unification)
  • Egypt: Egyptian Air Force
  • Estonia: Estonian Air Force
  • Georgia: Georgian Air Force
  • Germany: Luftwaffe (Germany adopted its An-2 fleet from East Germany)
  • Hungary: Hungarian Air Force
  • Iraq: Iraqi Air Force
  • Kyrgyzstan:
  • Laos: Lao People's Liberation Army Air Force
  • Latvia: Latvian National Guard (Zemessardze)
  • Lithuania: Lithuanian Air Force
  • Macedonia: Macedonian Air Force
  • Mali:
  • Moldova: Moldovan Air Force
  • Mongolia: Mongolian People's Air Force
  • Nicaragua: Nicaraguan Air Force
  • North Yemen:
  • North Korea: North Korean Air Force
  • Poland: Polish Air Force
  • Republic of Korea:
  • Romania: Romanian Air Force
  • Russia:
  • Serbia: Serbian Air Force
  • Somalia: Somali Air Corps
  • Soviet Union: The Soviet military's An-2 fleet was dispersed amongst the successor states upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
  • Sudan: Sudanese Air Force
  • Syria: Syrian Air Force
  • Tajikistan:
  • Tanzania:
  • Tunisia:
  • Turkmenistan:
  • Ukraine:
  • Uzbekistan:
  • Vietnam: Vietnam People's Air Force
  • Yemen: Yemen Air Force
  • Yugoslavia: SFR Yugoslav Air Force

Civil Operators

  • People's Republic of China: Civil Aviation Administration of China
  • Czechoslovakia: Slov-Air
  • East Germany: Deutsche Lufthansa (East Germany), Interflug, Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik (paramilitary sports organization)
  • Kyrgyzstan: Golden Rule Airlines
  • Mongolia: MIAT Mongolian Airlines
  • Poland: Aeroklub Polski, Zaklad Uslug Agrolotniczych
  • Russia: Aeroflot, Serbia, JAT
  • Soviet Union: Aeroflot
  • Turkey: Approximately 10 An-2s were acquired by the Turkish Aeronautical Association (Türk Hava Kurumu - THK) in the early 1980s. These planes are still operational and being used for air sports purposes, mainly parachuting.
  • Yugoslavia: JAT
  • Note: In addition to Aeroflot, the Soviet Air Force, and other Eastern Bloc military forces, dozens of nations and airlines have employed the An-2 in civil and military roles.

Specifications (An-2) ²

General Characteristics

  • Crew: 1-2
  • Capacity: 12 passengers
  • Length: 12.4 m (40 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan, upper wing: 18.2 m (59 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan, lower wing: 14.2 m (46 ft 9 in)
  • Height: 4.1 m (13 ft)
  • Wing area: 71.52 m² (769.8 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 3,300 kg (7,300 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 5,500 kg (12,000 lb)
  • Useful load: 2,140 kg (4,700 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Shvetsov ASh-62IR 9-cylinder supercharged radial engine, 750 kW (1,000 hp)


  • Maximum speed: 258 km/h (139 kn, 160 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 190 km/h (100 kn, 120 mph)
  • Stall speed: ~50 km/h (26 knots, 30 mph)
  • Range: 845 km (456 nmi, 525 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 4,500 m (14,750 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 3.5 m/s (700 ft/min)
  • Power/mass: 140 W/kg (0.83 hp/lb)


  1. Shupek, John. “Antonov An-2 Colt,” The Skytamer Archive, Copyright © 1986, 2003-2006 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Antonov An-2 “Colt”
  3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. An-2 Operators

Copyright © 1998-2020 (Our 22nd Year) Skytamer Images, Whittier, California
All rights reserved