Soviet expert teaches advanced fighter aircraft design

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The best part about living in Ann Arbor is the people, says Moscow aircraft designer Oleg Samoilovich, who is a visiting professor in aerospace engineering this term.

“People are very friendly, open and straight-forward,” Samoilovich says. “I don’t feel like I’m in a foreign country.”

Samoilovich, who speaks no English, is teaching a course on advanced fighter aircraft design to 11 aerospace engineering students. His lectures are translated by Helena Maroko, an assistant from the Moscow Physical Technical Institute, who also teaches a class in elementary Russian to engineering students and several U-M faculty members.

One of the most respected fighter aircraft designers in the former Soviet Union, Samoilovich worked for 28 years at Moscow’s prestigious Sukhoi Design Bureau where he helped develop the T-4, a long-range missile carrier, the Su-24 bomber, the Su-25 attacker, and the Su-27 jet fighter.

“Over the past 40 years, Oleg Samoilovich has participated in the design, production and operation of some of the former Soviet Union’s most significant aircraft, and he continues to play a role in the future of Russian aviation,” says C. William Kauffman, associate professor of aerospace engineering.

“American students studying under his guidance have a unique opportunity to learn, through his personal experience, about the previously suppressed accomplishments of the former Soviet Union in aviation. His insight and expertise will also help U-M students envision future joint Russian-American ventures, which may lead to an aerospace plane or the exploration of Mars.”

Samoilovich currently works for the Mikoyan Design Bureau and is chair of the design department at the Moscow Aviation Institute, which has an ongoing student exchange program with the U-M. Because the American and the Russian education systems differ radically, Samoilovich designed a course especially for his U-M students.

“American students are eager to learn, but they do not have sufficient training to understand the courses I teach in Russia,” Samoilovich explained. “In America, you train wide-ranging professionals who receive specialized training later in their careers. In Russia, the educational system produces specialists who are ready to work immediately in one narrow field.”

Samoilovich maintains that the Russian educational system produces highly skilled engineers, but admits there are drawbacks to the system. “Our graduates find it difficult to change professions,” he says. “They are destined to work all their lives in one field, as if they were sentenced.”

In addition to their teaching responsibilities this term, Samoilovich and Maroko have made several appearances outside the U-M, including a visit to Michigan’s Selfridge and Battle Creek Air Force bases and a Nov. 6 briefing at the Pentagon, where they were guests of the U.S. Secretary of the Air Force.

Before he returns to Moscow in December, Samoilovich hopes to visit General Dynamics and Boeing, historical sites in the United States and, especially, Hollywood. “Everyone in Russia dreams of going to Hollywood,” he says.

Samoilovich hopes that exchanges between students at the U-M and the Moscow Aviation Institute will continue. “We can learn much from each other,” he says. “The time for secrets is over.”


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