If you take even a passing interest in aircraft, the Ilyushin is instantly recognisable as a Russian brand, and the company that manufactures them owes it all to the son of a peasant family, Sergei Vladimirovitch Ilyushin.
Ilyushin was born in the village of Dilyalevo in south-central Russia in 1894, the youngest of eleven children.
He left home in his teens and took various menial jobs, factory labourer, digging ditches and cleaning gutters at a dye plant. But his first encounter with flying came in 1910 when the sixteen-year-old Ilyushin became a groundskeeper at the Kolomyazhsky Racetrack.
The racetrack was also the site of the first All-Russia Festival of Ballooning in autumn of that year and Ilyushin helped to set up the equipment and also met many of Russia’s pioneer aviators and began his obsession with aviation.
But the opportunity to pursue his interest was to elude him for several years. Although Ilyushin was literate, his lack of formal education meant that he was confined to unskilled labour until the outbreak of World War One. He was conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army as an infantryman, but was quick to step forward when volunteers were sought for the new Aviation Section.
At first, Ilyushin was one of the ground crew as a mechanic, but in 1917 he qualified as a pilot and yet he had little time to put his new skill to good use since he was demobbed in 1918 and sent back to his home village. He joined the Bolshevik party and was drafted into the Red Army in May 1919 as the Russian Revolution raged.
In the autumn of 1919, autumn, Ilyushin led a team which dismantled an Avro 504 biplane of the White Army after it had been forced to land near Petrozavodsk. He sent the parts toit to Moscow where it was reverse-engineered into the Soviet U-1 trainer.
Ilyushin left military service in 1921 and the following year he joined the Institute of Engineers of the Red Air Fleet to study aeronautics and aircraft design. He first concentrated on gliders and in 1925, one of his designs took first prize for flight time in a competition in Germany.
He received his degree in engineering in 1926 and began designing aircraft at the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, working with those other pioneers of aviation, Nikolai Polikarpov and Andrei Tupolev. By 1931, he was Assistant Chief of the Research and Test Institute.
In 1933, he founded the Ilyushin Design Bureau which would be responsible the design and development of Russian military and civilian aircraft, including the IL-2 Sturmovik, the most-produced military aircraft of all time.
After the war, Ilyushin concentrated primarily on the commercial airliners used extensively by Aeroflot and Soviet client states. In 1967, he was given the honorary rank of General-Colonel of Engineering/Technical Service and became an Academician of USSR Academy of Science in 1968. He remained the chief designer at the Ilyushin OKB until his retirement due to illness in 1970.
From his lowly beginnings, Ilyushin created what was to became a worldwide brand and received many Soviet honours and awards. He died in Moscow in 1977.