Valery Chkalov – legendary Soviet pilot
Valery Chkalov was a Soviet test pilot, brigade commander (1938), Hero of the Soviet Union (1936). He was the commander of the crew, who in 1937 made the first non-stop flight across the North Pole from Moscow to Vancouver, Washington.
Valery Pavlovich Chkalov was born on January 20 (February 2), 1904 in Vasilyovo, Balakhninsky district, Nizhny Novgorod Province, Russian Empire (now Chkalovsk, Russia). His mother died in 1910, when Valery was six years old. At the age of seven the boy entered elementary school. He had excellent memory and good mathematical abilities, was a good swimmer. In 1916, after school his father sent him to study at the Cherepovets Technical School. However, because of the financial difficulties and shortage of teachers, the school was closed in 1918. Valery returned home and began working with his father.
In 1919, Valery Chkalov saw the plane for the first time and aviation became his dream. He left for Nizhny Novgorod, where he met a fellow villager Vladimir Frolishchev, who worked in an aviation park. On his advice Valery joined the Red Army and began to work as a pupil of an aircraft fitter.
In 1921, Chkalov entered the Yegoryevskaya Military Theoretical School of the Air Force. After graduating in 1922, he was sent to further study at the Borisoglebsk Military Aviation School of Pilots, where he made his first independent flight. After graduation, in 1923-1924, he was trained at the Moscow Military Aviation School, where he mastered combat aircraft. Then he studied at the Serpukhov Higher Aviation School.
In June 1924, the military pilot-fighter Chkalov was sent to serve in the Leningrad Red Banner Fighter Squadron. He made risky flights. There is a well-known case when Chkalov flew under the Bridge of Equality (Troitsky) in Leningrad. For the movie Valery Chkalov this flight was made by the pilot Evgeniy Borisenko. At the same time, he had serious problems with discipline. On November 16, 1925, he was sentenced by a military tribunal for one year of imprisonment for a drunken fight.
In 1927 Chkalov married a Leningrad teacher Olga Orekhova. In March 1928, he was transferred to the 15th Bryansk Air Squadron, and his wife and son Igor stayed in Leningrad. In Bryansk, Chkalov made an accident and was accused of numerous violations of discipline. He was fired from the Red Army.
In 1929 Chkalov returned to Leningrad and until November 1930 he worked as an instructor pilot. In November 1930, Chkalov was reinstated in military rank and sent to work in the Moscow Research Institute of the Air Force of the Red Army. For two years of work in the scientific research institute, he made more than 800 test flights. On December 3, 1931 Chkalov participated in the tests of an aircraft carrier, which was a heavy bomber carrying up to five fighter planes on its wings and fuselage.
On May 5, 1935 aircraft designer Nikolai Polikarpov and test pilot Valery Chkalov for the creation of the best fighter planes were awarded the highest government award – the Order of Lenin.
The flight of Chkalov’s crew from Moscow to the Far East started on July 20, 1936 and lasted 56 hours before landing on the island of Udd in the Okhotsk Sea. The total length of the record route was 9,375 kilometers. For the flight to the Far East, the entire crew was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
In May 1937 Chkalov received permission to fly to the United States. On June 20 the plane made a successful landing in the city of Vancouver, Washington, USA. The length of the flight was 8504 kilometers. For this flight the crew was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
Valery Chkalov died on December 15, 1938 during the test flight at the Central airfield in Moscow. After the death of Chkalov, a number of leaders of the aircraft plant, who were involved in the organization of this flight, were arrested. They were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for flying a plane with numerous faults, which caused the death of the pilot.