Igor Vasilievich Yankov (Rus: Игорь Василиевич Янков; 1922-1983) was a Russian aeroplane pilot and aircraft designer.
Born in Chelyabinsk as the son of one of the Russian Empire's first tankmen and grandson of a decorated Imperial cavalryman, he nevertheless showed a strong interest in flight and aviation from an early age. In school, he showed a marked bent towards engineering and draughtsmanship, and contemporary reports indicate that he was forever sketching some kind of vehicle – tanks, trains, airships, and most especially aeroplanes.
His fascination with aviation brought him into conflict with his father, who wanted Igor to be a tank commander like himself, or at least, to use his considerable engineering skill to help design better tanks for the glorious Imperial White Army.
Igor Yankov was in his teens when GW2 broke out, and as soon as he was old enough he joined up. To his father's dismay, the service in which he enlisted was not the White Army at all, but the Air Force.
With his slight build young Yankov was soon tipped as an anti-airship fighter pilot, for which the Russian Air Force was desperate, and he distinguished himself in combat, earning two decorations for bravery, though he never amassed the requisite number of "kills" to call himself a fighter ace.
Through the period of the war, he continued to draught improved aeroplane designs on whatever paper he could lay his hands on, and this soon came to the attention of his commanding general. It was \felt, however, that with the White Air Force so desperately short of good trained pilots, that he was needed where he was.
At the end of the war, however, this same commanding general agreed to act as his sponsor in his application to the LaGG design bureau as a new aeroplane designer.
Igor Yankov's military service, however, had all been in the Chinese and Turkestani theatres of the war, which were not held in very high regard in St. Petersburg where LaGG were based. And this, combined with the radical and unorthodox aircraft designs that Yankov brought, resulted in the predictable outcome that LaGG's chief designer rejected his application.
Back in Chelyabinsk, however, beginning with his second award for bravery Igor's father had finally begun to take pride in his son's career path. Colonel-General Vasiliy Ivanovich Yankov talked to the SNOR party chief of Chelyabinsk about his son's situation. The party chairman's own son had been an aeroplane pilot in the Western theatre of the war, and when Captain Konstantin Ilyich Belgorenko saw Yankov's designs, he is reputed to have told his father, "If the White Air Force had planes like these, many pilots would be alive who are now dead!"
While possibly overstating the case, Konstantin Belgorenko nevertheless persuaded his father that Yankov's designs had merit, and the elder Belgorenko decided to put the local SNOR party's weight behind the young aeroplane designer.
Yankov was given one of the smallest of the numerous tank factories of Tankograd (Chelyabinsk) and more or less told to go and "build aircraft to the greater glory of the Russian nation". This was the genesis of the Yankov design bureau.
Vasiliy Yankov was amazed when his son's second aeroplane design, the Yan-2, won out over a competing LaGG aeroplane to be a new national-level project. Igor took this in his stride, though having envisioned it as a fighter he was a little taken aback when he found out that the White Council's procurement department intended it as a training aeroplane.
Pilots, however, loved Yankov's aeroplane – it was agile, responsive, and above all handled easily. And after Yankov's death the design bureau he left behind him used a late model Yan-2 as the basis of the first Russian jet plane, the Yan-22 Orel.
Igor Yankov himself kept up his flight status to the end of his life, and died in a flying accident in a new aeroplane at the age of 61.