Mykola Melnyk

Last updated
Nikolai Melnik
Nikolai Melnik (cropped).JPG
Melnyk in 2006
Born(1953-12-17)December 17, 1953
Stavysche, Kyiv Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
DiedJuly 26, 2013(2013-07-26) (aged 59)
Alicante, Spain
AllegianceFlag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine
Battles/wars Chernobyl disaster relief operation
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union
Order of Lenin
Igor I. Sikorsky Award for Humanitarian Service
Other work Test pilot, aerial firefighting pilot

Mykola Mykolayovych Melnyk (Ukrainian : Микола Миколайович Мельник; 17 December 1953 – 26 July 2013), also known as Nikolai Melnik, was a Soviet-Ukrainian pilot and liquidator hero renowned for his high-risk helicopter mission on the dangerously-radioactive Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant building immediately after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.


For this operation, he was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, [1] and the Igor I. Sikorsky Award for Humanitarian Service.

Early life

Mykola Melnyk was born on December 17, 1953 and grew up in the town of Stavyshche in the Kyiv Oblast in Ukraine (at that time the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). [2] Upon his school graduation, Melnyk worked as a sports coach, and later as a telephone station technician in Stavyshche, later moving to Zaporizhia for a construction job. [3] In 1972–74 he served his conscript service in the Soviet Armed Forces.

Pilot career

In 1979 Mykola Melnyk graduated from the Civil Aviation Pilot School (KLUGA) in Kremenchuk and began working as a civilian helicopter pilot in different cities. Later he continued his education at the Kremenchuk Department of the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute and the Civil Aviation Academy in Leningrad. After graduation from the special test pilot school in 1984, Melnyk worked as a test pilot, particularly for the Kamov helicopter design bureau in Feodosiya. [2] [4]

Chernobyl mission

After the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Melnyk was directed to work in the cleanup operations. Lethal levels of radiation created after the Reactor #4 fire prevented ground liquidator teams from most operations on the roof of the power plant building. However, helicopters could reach and leave the area above the building within seconds, thus inflicting less health damage to the personnel on board. They were employed to cover building openings with sandbags and lead slabs, install necessary equipment, commence aerial photography and atmospheric radioactive contamination monitoring. [5] [6]

Melnyk, among others, was assigned to such missions as an experienced civilian helicopter pilot. He flew 46 sorties over the reactor building, for a combined total duration of 52 hours. [2] The most important of those sorties was the so-called "Operation Igla" (Operation Needle), the June 19, 1986 installation of a giant 18-metre (59 ft)-long radiation probe on top of the building by means of a precision drop from the Kamov [7] coaxial rotor helicopter. [6] [8] [9] This operation was described as dropping a "needle" into a precise spot; it was considered especially difficult. When Melnyk successfully completed the operation during a training exercise in Moscow, the observers broke into applause. [10] Melnyk did not know the purpose of the training, however, until several days later when he flew to Kyiv to undertake the actual mission. [1] The first attempt to insert the "needle" into the actual reactor was foiled by a frozen crust above the target; Melnyk succeeded on the third try. [10]

According to the "Remembrance Book" by the Chornobyl Museum, Melnyk participated in the 'liquidator' operations on site of the disaster from May 20, 1986 until September 9, 1986. [2] In 1994, he underwent two surgeries related to health problems attributed to his radiation exposure. [1]

Subsequent aviation career and death

Upon return from Chernobyl mission, Melnyk continued his work as a test pilot at the Kamov helicopter testing center in Feodosiya until 1992. [3] In independent Ukraine, the facility was reorganized as a separate Feodosiya Kamov Research and Production Enterprise "Vertolit" (Феодосійське науково-виробниче об'єднання "Вертоліт" імені Камова). [2]

Some time after the fall of the Soviet Union, Melnyk co-founded a cargo airline in Kyiv. The company operated Antonov An-24 airplanes and Kamov helicopters as a subcontractor for DHL and United Parcel Service. However, he gradually became disappointed with the business, citing lack of sustainable demand for his helicopter specialization. [1]

In 1995, Spanish airline Helicopteros del Sureste approached Melnyk for help with purchase of Soviet-made helicopters. Melnyk used the opportunity to move to Alicante (Spain), where he became contracted as a pilot and instructor specializing in Soviet-designed helicopters with the Helicopteros del Sureste. [11] He trained at least 25 local pilots and also has worked in aerial firefighting. As of 2006, Melnyk had 13,400 recorded flight hours. [1] [4]

According to a Ukrainian regional newspaper, Mykola Melnyk died in Spain on July 26, 2013. [12]

Recognition and awards

Soviet awards

Melnyk was awarded as a Hero of the Soviet Union, [1] [4] by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued on October 6, 1987 for his "courage, heroism and self-sacrifice displayed during liquidation of the Chernobyl NPP accident consequences". Later he was also decorated with the Soviet Order of Lenin for the same deeds.

International awards

In 1990, as part of its "Salute to Excellence" awards program, the Helicopter Association International honored Melnyk (as Nikolai Melnik) with its Igor I. Sikorsky Award for Humanitarian Service. The Sikorsky award is presented annually to one or more persons "who best demonstrate(s) the value of civil rotorcraft to society by saving lives, protecting property, and aiding those in distress". The award to Melnyk recognized his efforts as a Chernobyl 'liquidator'. The award committee specified that Melnyk was recognized as a representative of "all the valiant aircrews who participated in relief efforts following the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident". [13]

In Spain Melnyk received a Spanish royal award for aerial firefighting. [1]

Related Research Articles

Chernobyl City of district significance in Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine

Chernobyl, also known as Chornobyl, is a partially abandoned city in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, situated in the Ivankiv Raion of northern Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine. Chernobyl is about 90 kilometres (60 mi) north of Kyiv, and 160 kilometres (100 mi) southwest of the Belarusian city of Gomel. Before its evacuation, the city had about 14,000 residents, while around 1,000 people live in the city today.

Kamov Ka-50 Attack helicopter

The Kamov Ka-50 "Black Shark" is a Russian single-seat attack helicopter with the distinctive coaxial rotor system of the Kamov design bureau. It was designed in the 1980s and adopted for service in the Russian army in 1995. It is manufactured by the Progress company in Arsenyev. It is used as a heavily armed scout helicopter. It is the world's first operational helicopter with a rescue ejection system.

Igor Sikorsky Russian-American aviation pioneer

Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky was a Russian–American aviation pioneer in both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. His first success came with the S-2, the second aircraft of his design and construction. His fifth airplane, the S-5, won him national recognition as well as F.A.I. license number 64. His S-6-A received the highest award at the 1912 Moscow Aviation Exhibition, and in the fall of that year the aircraft won first prize for its young designer, builder and pilot in the military competition at Saint Petersburg.

Igor Fedorovich Kostin was one of the five photographers in the world to take pictures of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster near Pripyat in Ukraine, on 26 April 1986. He was working for Novosti Press Agency (APN) as a photographer in Kyiv, Ukraine, when he represented Novosti to cover the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. Kostin's aerial view of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was widely published around the world, showing the extent of the devastation, and triggering fear throughout the world of radioactivity contamination the accident caused, when the Soviet media was working to censor information regarding the accident, releasing limited information regarding the accident on 28 April 1986, until the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.

Kamov Ka-27 Naval helicopter

The Kamov Ka-27 is a military helicopter developed for the Soviet Navy, and currently in service in various countries including Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, China, South Korea, and India. Variants include the Ka-29 assault transport, the Ka-28 downgraded export version, and the Ka-32 for civilian use.

Kamov Ka-60 Utility helicopter

The Kamov Ka-60 Kasatka (Russian: "Касатка", is a Russian medium twin-turbine military transport helicopter under development by Kamov. It performed its first flight on 24 December 1998.

Sviatoshyn Neighborhood of Kyiv

Sviatoshyn is a historical neighborhood and a suburb of Ukraine's capital Kyiv that is located on the western edge of the city area, in an eponymous municipality.

Chernobyl disaster 1986 nuclear accident in Pripyat, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union

The Chernobyl disaster was caused by a nuclear accident that occurred on Saturday 26 April 1986, at the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR. It is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history and was caused by one of only two nuclear energy accidents rated at seven—the maximum severity—on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

Coaxial rotors

Coaxial rotors or coax rotors are a pair of helicopter rotors mounted one above the other on concentric shafts, with the same axis of rotation, but turning in opposite directions (contra-rotating). This rotor configuration is a feature of helicopters produced by the Russian Kamov helicopter design bureau.

Kyiv International Airport (Zhuliany) Airport in Kyiv

Igor Sikorsky Kyiv International Airport (Zhuliany) is one of the two passenger airports of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the other being Boryspil International Airport. It is owned by the municipality of Kyiv and located in the Zhuliany neighbourhood, about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) southwest of the city centre.

Chernobyl liquidators Civil and military force sent to deal with the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster

The Chernobyl liquidators were the civil and military personnel who were called upon to deal with consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union on the site of the event. The liquidators are widely credited with limiting both the immediate and long-term damage from the disaster.

Stavyshche Urban-type settlement in Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine

Stavyshche is an urban-type settlement in the Kyiv Oblast (province) in northern Ukraine, on the Hnylyi Tikych river. It is the administrative center of Stavyshche Raion. Population: 6,218 (2020 est.) . In 2001, population was 7,929.

Internal Troops of Ukraine Former gendarmerie of Ukrainian military

The Internal Troops of Ukraine were a uniformed gendarmerie in Ukraine which merged with the National Guard of Ukraine on March 13, 2014. They were subordinate to the Chief Directorate of Ministry of Internal Affairs, and cooperate with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. The VV were used to assist militsiya in policing, deal with riots and internal armed conflicts, and safeguard important facilities such as nuclear power plants. In wartime, the Internal Troops were under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian armed forces for local defense and rear area security.

Leonid Telyatnikov

Leonid Petrovich Telyatnikov was the head of the fire department at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and led the team of firefighters to the fire at reactor number 4 which became the Chernobyl disaster. Despite the radiological dangers, they had no radiation suits, no respirators, and no working dosimeters. From results of a blood test it was estimated he received 4 grays of radiation.

The Chernobyl disaster, considered the worst nuclear disaster in history, occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, then part of the Soviet Union, now in Ukraine. From 1986 onward, the total death toll of the disaster has lacked consensus; as peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet and other sources have noted, it remains contested most extremely among a wide range of anti-nuclear lay groups.

Helicópteros del Sureste

Helicópteros del Sureste is a helicopter service based in Mutxamel, Alicante, Spain.

Mykola is a Slavic variant, more specifically a Ukrainian variant, of the masculine name "Nicholas", meaning "victory of the people". It may refer to:

Salute to Excellence is a category of awards issued by the Helicopter Association International since 1960, "for outstanding achievements in the international helicopter community".

Kremenchuk flight college of National Aviation University

The Kremenchuk flight college of National Aviation University is a college in Ukraine specialising in the teaching of aerospace-related courses.

Melnik, Melnick or Melnyk is a gender-neutral Slavic occupational surname literally meaning "miller". The surname may refer to:


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Former Chernobyl Pilot Soars Above His Obstacles". St Petersburg Times . 31 May 2005. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011. Retrieved February 2013.Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 МЕЛЬНИК, Микола Миколайович, "Remembrance Book" (in Ukrainian)
  3. 1 2 Poshtar, Petro (2013-08-07). "Життя заради прийдешніх поколінь (пам'яті товариша)". Dzerkalo Tyzhnia . Kyiv. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 "ВЕРТОЛЕТ КА-32 – В НЕБЕ ПЯТИ КОНТИНЕНТОВ (The Ka-32 in the Sky, Five Continents)" (in Russian). Oboronprom Corporation. 13 January 2006. Archived from the original on 16 June 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  5. БОЕВЫЕ ДЕЙСТВИЯ В "МИРНОМ" НЕБЕ Archived 2013-04-16 at (in Russian)
  6. 1 2 Воздушная битва при Чернобыле (Aerial Battle of Chernobyl) in "Aviatsiya i Vremia" magazine, 2011, #2; (in Russian)
  7. Sources name either Kamov Ka-27 or Kamov Ka-32 as the model of exact helicopter.
  8. Операция «Игла» Archived 2013-10-07 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian), Работа Мельника Archived 2013-10-07 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian), Страсти по Чернобылю (in Russian), Губарев, В. Страсти по Чернобылю – М., "Алгоритм", 2011 ISBN   978-5-4320-0011-8 (in Russian)
  9. S. V. Mikheyev, KA-32 Helicopter Over the Reactor of the Number 4 Block of Chernobyl Archived 2016-03-06 at the Wayback Machine , Rotor magazine, Spring 1990, pp. 20–21.
  10. 1 2 "Губарев В. Страсти по Чернобылю // Деловой вторник (Passion for Chernobyl)". Делового вторника (Business Tuesday) (in Russian). 18 February 2011. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012.
  11. Летчик-Герой Чернобыля ведет Ка-32 в Испанию (in Russian)
  12. В Испании умер Герой СССР, летчик-испытатель из Кременчуга Николай Мельник. Telegraf (in Russian). Kremenchuk. 29 July 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  13. ""Salute to Excellence" Awards" (PDF). Helicopter Annual. 2009. p. 370. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013..