The Chkalov Squadron
In the summer of 1927, when his family was living at Gatchina, Valery whispered to his wife: “My dear, go out on to the field and watch, I’m going to fly upside down.”
Olga hurried to the aerodrome, which was not far from their house. She heard the harsh sound of the engine and saw the plane approaching. It was flying low - unlawfully so - and with its wheels upwards.
This was not the first risky experiment the flier had undertaken. On an earlier occasion, before the eyes of many citizens of Leningrad, he had flown a fighter under the arches of the Troitsky Bridge.
On 27 June 1927 a competition was held at Gatchina aerodrome in which fliers from a number of divisions took part. The pilots of the First Fighter Squadron were the last to perform. As always, Valery Chkalov stood out from the rest through his masterly flying, and undertook an aerial contest with another flier, Vladimir Alexeevich Drozdov. In his “Fokker” Drozdov executed a number of test manoeuvres, then flew it up to a great height and put it into a steep spin. The spectators were able to count twelve full turns, and only right at ground level did he bring his plane back to horizontal flight with a firm and experienced hand. The squadron leader, to the approval of the chairman of the jury, declared: “We are maintaining Gatchina’s reputation!”
When the result of the contest was announced Chkalov received first prize, with Drozdov in second place. The certificate presented to Drozdov can still be seen at the museum.
The author has had the good fortune to meet Lieutenant-General P. V. Rodimov, who was personally acquainted with Valery Chkalov and Vladimir Drozdov. Pyotr Vasilievich served in the First Fighter Squadron from 1923 to 1928.
And in June 1937 Chkalov, Baidukov and Beliakov, in ANT-25, became the first men in history to fly non-stop across the North Pole to America. The final entry in their log reads: “20 June 1937. 16.20 Greenwich Mean Time: landing in Vancouver. Total flight time: 63 hours 16 minutes. Total fuel consumed: 7,933 litres or 5,658 kilograms. Fuel remaining: 77 kilograms.”
In answer to a question from a correspondent of the American National Broadcasting Corporation about the purpose of the flight, Chkalov said that the aim had been to show that it was possible to travel between the USSR and the USA by the shortest, most direct route – across the Pole. The heroes of ANT-25 were received by President Roosevelt and US Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
The Main Page | The Dawn of Aeronautics | The Cradle of Military Aviation | The Shchetinin Flying School in Gatchina | Kotelnikov’s Parachute | Aces of the First World War | Red Pilots | The Chkalov Squadron | Leningrad’s Southern Outpost | Gatchina’s Bomb-blasts | The Light of Memory | About the author