Unitsky String Technologies
8 September 2017
Public transport at the speed of Formula 1 race car: those who are responsible for speed in SkyWay
Not only to catch up with the world leaders in the field of transport but also to overtake them. Professionals from SkyWay Technologies Co. have taken on addressing this ambitious goal in Belarus. The team consists of racers, mechanics, engineers, designers. Each of them has a great experience and an individual story under his belt. The overall goal is the creation of transport of new generation: high-speed type (up to 500 km/h), urban type (up to 150 km/h) and freight type of SkyWay. This article is about those in Belarus, who want to be the fastest and about the races SkyWay creators managed to win before.
Unibike (in the foreground) and unibus (in the background) - SkyWay rolling stock on special tracks
According to SkyWay, the vehicles of the future are electric cars on steel wheels traveling on special rails. The work to create such vehicles is directed by Alexander Sinkevich telling about himself and his team.
Alexander Sinkevich (in the center) on-site of the SkyWay assembly workshop
The backbone of the team began to take shape 30 years ago when our interlocutor, the founder of the legendary racing team "MAZ-TRT" at that time has been able to refute a seemingly axiomatic statement by Alexander Pushkin and to harness "a horse and a quivering fallow deer" in one cart! Speaking in modern prose, he managed to create a legendary sports team that has won countless road circular races with their "battle bison" - sports trucks MAZ.
Then there was the team "MAZ-YAROVIT" for cargo truck trials, in which the future Chief Production Manager of SkyWay worked as sports Director. He has won with it two European Championships, two CIS championships and gained the experience of organizing and conducting competitions. In general, during his glorious career he has been an engineer, a mechanic, a team leader, an organizer of competitions and a judge. And then he became the ideological father of the Russian people's electric car defiantly christened as "Yo-mobile".
Today the founder and encourager of high-profile projects in the past is speaking about his journey to SkyWay.
The end of 1980s. Alexander Sinkevich (third on the left)
With all the multiple options there was no alternative and there is none now
"In the project, where I came to work, the important aspects are novelty, originality and complexity of tasks. Often the operative motives are criticism and disbelief that you can do that. And for me the result is also important. I always strained after it, wherever I worked. The SkyWay project especially attracted me by the novelty and original, unusual Anatoly Yunitskiy's vision of the transport of the future, his engineering tasks that have to be solved.
Alexander Sinkevich and General Designer, SkyWay author Anatoly Yunitskiy
The attitude of the family, friends and acquaintances to the work in the Company
Of course, there are a lot of skeptics. Even among my acquaintances. At the same time, positive attitude towards the project prevails: each of them would be glad to see its successful implementation. They would be proud that it is made by our people! It seems to me that some of them have an element of envy, because it would be interesting for them to work in such a project, but for some reason it does not happen so far.
The team of SkyWay pilot experimental production facility
When a little more than a year ago there appeared the task to pass over from designing and modelling to prototyping of vehicles - just at that moment I was invited to complete this task - 3.5 months were left until the trade fair InnoTrans 2016 in Berlin. Naturally, to perform this important task in such a short period I had to gather professionals, in whom I would be confident: in their skills, potentials, capabilities, etc. Naturally, I addressed the people with whom I worked before in different projects, which were many, since late 1980s, when I became the initiator of creating a circular road racing team at Minsk automobile plant MAZ to participate in the European championship of races with tractor trucks.
Dmitry Kniga at the European championship of truck trial, 2001
Those who came to SkyWay from motorsport
And one person from that team was the master of sports Dmitry Kniga, who was an engineer and mechanic in it. Now he is working with me. We have built a truck together, rode together to races and maintained it together... In short, we did all the work from the beginning to the end. It turns out that we have been working - albeit intermittently and in different projects - for 30 years! Today Dmitry is heading the testing Department.
Dmitry Kniga, Head of SkyWay testing Department
Speaking about the colleagues in motorsport, I cannot but mention also the master of sports Andrey Rudnitsky, engineer of the testing Department. He's a true sportsman, even since the time of martial arts he has a wonderful quality - the desire to win! Before the victories in motorsport, Andrey had been a champion of his country, Candidate in masters of sport in karate knowing perfectly well what "zanshin" means: in any situation you have to be goal-oriented, but calm, i.e. to be able to meet it without strain, and at the same time to take quick decisions.
We met in 1996, we have passed much together during this time. He is a real athlete! He participated in Dakar races many times, and it is even impossible to recall all international competitions and even World Cups in which he took part and won at the racing stages, and in the absolute category, too. In any case, he has several dozens of rally-raids under his belt, and it means that he is, at least, a "hard nut to crack"! Could this man let you down?
Andrey Rudnitsky at the World Cup stage, Morocco, 2015
Andrey Rudnitsky, engineer at SkyWay testing Department
Or Alexander Kovalik, one of the strongest go-karters of the former USSR, master of sports, thirteen-time champion of the Belorussian SSR, winner of numerous all-Union competitions, medalist of the USSR championship. Today he is also in perfect physical shape! This person is very meticulous, punctual, neat, i.e. possessing all the qualities required to work with technological units. So he is now engaged in the assembly of our electric motors, where everything should be done perfectly, accurately and precisely.
Alexander Kovalik at the competitions, 1974
Alexander Kovalik, fitter of mechanical assembly works at SkyWay electrical assembly section
It is impossible not to mention Vladimir Alkhimovich, master of sports of the USSR in automodeling sport, who has a huge knowledge and experience, owns a technology of aluminum die-casting, works with different types of plastic as well as with tiny elements that make up scale models of rolling stock and the layouts of the track structure for Yunitskiy's SkyWay transport.
Vladimir Alkhimovich, lathe operator of SkyWay modeling section
If the youth knew, if the old age could...
There is a large number of technicians in the workshop who worked as mechanics for sports teams, and we are talking about the sport of high achievements, at the level of the Championships of Russia, Europe and the World! People with an extensive experience of creating vehicles, with which they participated and won major competitions, manufacture the SkyWay rolling stock. That's the whole point!
There are also dozens of other former colleagues that I have managed to involve. They formed the backbone of the team that has mastered the performance of the task set up by the General designer Anatoly Yunitskiy last year. However, these tasks become more and more complicated; their number is growing, therefore now I have already 74 people under my command. While creating the team capable to solve complex and most interesting tasks - which is obvious, because we are building the rolling stock that will soon rush on string rails at 500 km/h speed, never dreamed by racing drivers, - we keep a reasonable balance in quantitative proportion between experienced and young employees, and the words "mentorship" and "succession" are fundamental here.
Unibus - this is the name of the SkyWay vehicle - on a special overpass
How you can get a job at SkyWay
The principle of forming the team is the following: first, they are professionals, with whom I worked, whom I trust and know how to lead them. Secondly, those who were brought by the first ones, being confident in their professional qualifications not less than I am confident in those my former colleagues.
We continue employing people - we need qualified professionals! Everyone, with whom we work now, came once, we can say, from "the street", therefore for those interested in what we're doing, our doors are open anyway. However, I impose on them additional requirements, because only a team can work under our conditions, very similar to those existing in sports. And our team is very similar to the sports one as regards its organization, ideology, spirit, psychology and relationships! For me, my staff is a set of high quality precision tools, not a bunch of rusty scrap. When I open my cabinet, I see a marvelous set of keys, each in its place. And if I have a new task, I have to fill in the blanks. However, I realize that for my leader I am myself the same tool in achieving the posed goal.
I have a double task: trying to achieve the solution of the set task from the team on behalf of the Management and at the same time to protect its interests facing the employer. Employees know and feel it perfectly well. Only with the observance of such a balance, efficient work is possible.
Visualization: high-speed (top) and urban (bottom) SkyWay
These are the principles that lie in the basis of creating our team. You can call this approach a joint responsibility, the Italian mafia... It doesn't matter, because the result is important! I have been learning it for many years, beginning with the team "MAZ-TRT" participating in circular road races, where all of us were friends, young and joyful guys who managed to achieve great success: despite the hard times we were many times on the podium of European Championships in England, Belgium, France... It was very difficult to compete with the teams from Mercedes, MAN, Volvo, SCANIA and others. The contenders were such that it was dreadful just to watch them! Nevertheless, within a few years of hard work we managed to create a competitive truck. And it was done, frankly speaking, due to morally and strong willed qualities because naturally we did not have budgets comparable to those teams. Only six people were really working on the project at the plant. They had designed and built this truck themselves.
My attitude is that an engineer needs to have his hands dirty. A white collar cannot create a fully functioning machine. The engineers, who work with me, always work out and perfect the things that they have designed with a computer in the shop and in the field with their hands.
SkóWay unibus in assembly process
Once in England, in addition to the third place won at the European championship, we have received the Cup "Team Spirit". At that time, it was more important for us than the podium. We felt that team spirit is indispensable! Since then, I live and work in totally different projects with that thought in mind. Otherwise, there will be no result.
What is typical for technical types of sports? It is the teamwork of a large number of people, where you did not tighten up one screw-nut, because you were too lazy to reach it out and, as a result destroyed the work of the whole team. A racer is a star staying at the top of a pyramid. But all the others are doing him like that remaining in the shadows. They have no star sickness, but they have an inner core instead. And this is in addition to excellent professional qualities!
What else sport gives to production
It is the character formation, accuracy, and attitude to work - most important aspects in technical kinds of sports and, in particular, in motorsport.
The knowledge, experience and people working with me since the beginning of the 1990s are very useful for SkyWay project today. Only one example - an important role in ensuring the safety of passengers in Yunitskiy's SkyWay transport is played by welding technologies for space frames. Those professionals, who once welded safety cages for race cars, are now making frames for SkyWay, which are aluminum space structures. The accumulated experience adapts to new conditions.
We also use sport brakes for rolling stock. We need to be sure that we provide it with the best features. When we pass over to the stage of industrial production, we'll most probably give up excess sports "stuff" and optimize the brakes making their efficiency and prime cost indispensable and sufficient.
SkyWay pilot and experimental production facility
How the experience of creating "Yo-mobile" became useful
About 10 years ago I worked in partnership with Yury Schiff participating in designing a couple of dozens of bikes that have become winners and medal-winners of International Championships including the World Cup. We became members of the Belarusian Union of designers for the total merits in the field of transport and industrial project designing.
In 2009, we were offered to develop a concept on a city car of the future using a hybrid propulsion unit that was the only requirement. During 4 months we have created, without exaggeration, an engineering and philosophical work on the trends the automobile industry is heading to, what will happen in the transport sector in 20-30 years and how to prepare to it. The understanding of that led me eventually to SkyWay, where I brought all the accumulated experience. And at that time the project interested Mikhail Prokhorov, who was already rich and wanted to become famous in addition. Everything began to progress quickly, I became the technical manager of the project, its name was selected with my participation, we have worked out a PR-campaign, etc.
Unfortunately, later the development of "Yo-mobile" proceeded in the opposite direction and nothing was left in the thing that turned out in the end, except for the hybrid propulsion unit - despite the achievement of engineering and technological results, including the creation of prototypes and samples of the first stage. I understood that the project would not succeed and left it. I can address only the things that I believe in!
SkyWay unibus on a special overpass
In addition to the experience of working with the hybrid drive, transmission and accumulators, I brought from that project to SkyWay the skills to work with composite materials: prepregs, carbon fabrics, kevlar, etc., with which I started to deal for the first time being the technical Director at the Belarusian-German joint venture "JAK Automotive technologies, Ltd." back in the 1990s. We serviced orders for the European Motorsport: designed race cars for Formula 3, Formel Junior, ADAC-BMW Formel Junior, etc., have produced vehicles for Mercedes-AMG DTM, body frame and transmission parts for Porsche, Opel... The materials were delivered from Germany, but it was all done in Minsk against the technologies used in motor racing and the aircraft industry! Therefore, do not be surprised when today Anatoly Yunitskiy compares the unibus with a "Boeing".
A few dozens of engineers, with whom I worked at "Yo-mobile" and "Yarovit", are now working not only with me at the production facility, but also at Design Bureaus under SkyWay Technologies Co. For example, one of the colleagues in the project "Yo-mobile" Dmitry Zabrodsky works with me now. He was the Head of the testing Bureau there.
The experience of engineering and work in most modern project packages is also demanded by SkyWay. The designing experience, previously obtained, is not less valuable than all the above mentioned.
What SkyWay project means for the team
Anatoly Yunitskiy has undertaken a very heavy burden, and all of us have to share it. His merit lies in creating the whole concept of global transportation, organized on completely new principles, but that is the philosophical side of the issue. And the technological one is the following: we must not only create vehicles of the future, but also build routes for it! Therefore, all those people coming here to work need to realize that we do not have rivers of milk and honey, but rather sugar cane plantations. However, I personally work only with people whom I respect, and only for as long as I believe in the project."
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