Victor Dmitriev was a teacher, truck driv-er, and aviation enthusiast in the Soviet Union. He pored over ev-ery bit of available information on American sport planes and taught himself how to design aircraft when the Soviet state considered such knowledge secret. Over the course of 24 years he built 30 aircraft, scrounging materials from the trash, now and then buying real air-craft parts through an illegal under-ground network. He modified a Czechoslovakian motorcycle engine for an airplane power plant. His design studio, assembly plant, and hangar were all located in the four room apartment his family shared with two others in Beslickek (formerly Frunze) in Kirghizia, a republic be-tween Kazakhstan and China.
Dmitriev built a whole series of tiny X-planes over the years. "I built very many wings," he said. "Without flaps. With one flap. With two flaps. With three flaps."
Victor's first attempt to build an airplane, in 1968, used a version of the Rogallo wing, a triangular kite-like device popular with early hang gliders. It didn't work, but he was undeterred. In 1970, he got an aircraft off the ground; in 1979, he flew his first circle.
Dmitriev made contact with other closet airmen who helped one another. He said they sometimes sold aircraft parts under the table, and when he couldn't find parts, he made them. He carved his own propellers with hand tools. He covered the wing and tail surfaces with parachute fabric, then shellacked and painted it for a smooth, drum-tight surface. He made lightweight wing struts by shaping pieces of wood, cutting them in half, hollowing them out, and gluing them back together, and then epoxying on a layer of fiberglass cloth.
His work surfaced in the West in 1990 when the magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology published a photo of his machine. In 1991, he sent photographs of the X-14d in flight to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wis., which published them in the magazine it sends to its members.