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Georgian aviator who constructed iconic American aircraft C-123 Provider
22 June, 2018
There is something in common between Hollywood megastars Nicholas Cage, Brews Willis, Mel Gibson and Robert Downy Junior.
In following films – Con Air, Die Hard 2 and Air America they fly a plane - iconic C-123 Provider that is constructed by Michael Gregor in 1949. The thing is, Michael Gregor was Georgian and his full name was Mikheil Grigorashvili.

He was born in 1888 and was one of the pioneering aviators in the Russian Empire, the United States, and Canada.
Michael graduated from the Imperial Institute of Communications in St. Petersburg and was trained as a pilot in France in 1911. Upon his return to Russia, he worked as an instructor for pilots and joined the army as an officer in World War I.
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A biplane FDB-1. Photo courtesy: airspacemag.com

In 1917, after the Bolsheviks took power in Russian empire, Michael came back to Georgia, but soon he had to leave his country again. In 1921 Georgia was invaded by Bolsheviks and Michael went to the US.
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Crew prepares biplane FDB-1 for a test flight. Photo courtesy: airspacemag.com

There Michael worked for an aviation factory in Rhode Island, but was soon recruited by the Dayton-Wright Company in 1921. Next company Michael worked for was Curtiss-Wright. Michael even founded his own company called Gregor Aircraft. Here he constructed a biplane Gregor GR-1 and GR-1 sportplane. It was intended to be light and lo-cost plane, acceptable for depression-era customers, but soon, because of economic crisis in the US deepened, Michael moved to Canada and continued his career there.
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Workers assemble parts of a biplane FDB-1. Photo courtesy: airspacemag.com

Air & Space Magazine wrote an article about Gregor and his career in Canada. According to them, Gregor strongly believed, that biplanes would eventually replace monoplanes and started to work on the Idea. “They’ll start the war with monoplanes but finish it with biplanes” – he predicted. He persuaded the Canadian Car & Foundry Company Limited (Can-Car) of Montreal to hire him to design and build a highly maneuverable biplane fighter FDB-1, constructed in 1938.
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A biplane FDB-1 before completion. Photo courtesy:airspacemag.com

It appeared that Gregor was very creative. He combined the newest aircraft technologies, like stressed-skin construction, bubble canopy, streamlining, and retractable gear, with the proven dogfighting agility of the biplane, says the article. The first FDB-1 or Fighter-Dive Bomber first flew in April 1939.
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Iconic American military transport plane C-123 Provider. Photo courtesy: nationalmuseum.af.mil

But in performance, the FDB-1 could not beat monoplane fighters and Gregor had to give up his ideas. He moved back to the United States and started to work in Chase Aircraft Company, which built “assault gliders”.
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Military glider or "assault glider" were used during WWII. Photo courtesy: wikipedia

In 1949 Gregor constructed C-123 Provider, a military transport aircraft. This plane has become a symbol of the US during Vietnam War.

Mikheil Grigorashvili died in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1953.

The first photo shows Michael Gregor standing at a FDB-1 (first from right). Photo courtesy: wikipedia

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