Military Review

"Country of the Soviets". Flying across three continents


In September of this year, 86 will be celebrated since the meeting of the aircraft crew in Khabarovsk under the name "Country of Soviets". Under the guidance of pilot Semyon Shestakov for 137 flight hours, from 23 August to 30 October 1929, the ANT-4 machine flew 21242 km along the route Moscow - Omsk - Khabarovsk - Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka - Attu Island - Seattle - San Francisco - New York This flight entered the world history aviation.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the counting of long-distance and ultra-long flights in the history of aviation was launched by Russian designers and pilots. Back in June, 1914, the famous aircraft designer I. Sikorsky made a long-distance flight for those times on an Ilya Muromets plane on the route Petersburg - Kiev - St. Petersburg. But the world community did not have time to appreciate this outstanding flight - the First World War began.

Meanwhile, the success of I. Sikorsky could not be called accidental. There was great interest in aviation in Russia, and quite a lot of attention was paid to its development. Recall that although the country before the beginning of World War I had mostly airplanes of outdated design (Newport-4 and Farman-16 of licensed construction), however, it possessed the largest fleet of military aircraft (Russia - 244, Germany - 232, France - 156, Austria-Hungary - 65, England - 30, USA - 30). For three years, from 1914 to 1917, Russian factories built 5600 airplanes, including several Ilya Muromets airplanes, the largest multi-engine vehicles of their time.

It must be said that in the first decade after the end of the war long-haul flights were actively carried out abroad. One of these flights — across the Atlantic Ocean, from America to Europe — was performed by Captain D. Alcock in the English Vickers Vimkers twin-engined bomber. In 1927, the famous American pilot C. Lindberg flew from New York to Paris on a single-seater.

The first achievements in the field of long-distance flights of Soviet aviators belong to the twenties. Thus, the pilot B. Welling 1923 for the year 76 hours 35 minutes covered the distance in 10567 kilometers on the highway Moscow - Bukhara - Moscow. In 1925, the Soviet F-1 aircraft participated in the Moscow-Beijing flight. On one of these aircraft, the famous M. Gromov continued his flight to Tokyo.

In 1927, ANT-3 pilot S. Shestakov with flight engineer D. Fufayev made a flight on the route Moscow-Omsk-Novosibirsk-Krasnoyarsk-Irkutsk-Chita-Blagoveshchensk-Spassk-Nanyan-Okayava-Tokyo and back. A round-trip route with a total length of about 20 thousands of kilometers the plane traveled in 153 hours.

In the summer of 1929 of the year, on the ANT-9 “Wings of the Soviets” plane, M. Gromov flew the Moscow-Berlin-Paris-Rome-London-Paris-Berlin-Warsaw-Moscow length of 53 kilometers in 9037 hours.

But the most outstanding in terms of range and complexity of the flight of those days was the flight of the Land of Soviets from Moscow to New York.

Shel 1929 year. The construction of Magnitogorsk begins, Turksib is about to enter service, work is underway on the creation of the Dnieper power plant. There are no diplomatic relations with the United States yet, but the Soviet government decides to organize a flight of a Soviet aircraft to America. For the flight, we chose the world's first heavy all-metal cantilever monoplane ANT-4 (TB-1) designed by A. Tupolev. American aircraft manufacturers at that time had not yet created such machines.

The ANT-4 aircraft was created in 1928 by the TsAGI design team. It was the undoubted success of the Soviet aircraft. The first production bomber planes ANT-4 (TB-1) were produced with imported engines BMW-VI, but then they began to be equipped with domestic M-17 engines with horsepower 500-680. In the front cockpit, equipped with a machine gun to repel attacks from the front hemisphere and a radio station, housed the navigator-scorer. Behind the cockpit with two pilots allotted space for flight mechanics. In the central and tail compartments, there are places for air shooters, who protected the aircraft from attacks from the rear hemisphere. ANT-4 (TB-1) was successfully tested in the version of a seaplane.

Tupolev appealed to the famous navigator Sterligov with a request to develop options for the flight route to the United States. Sterling worked three routes. In accordance with the first, it was planned to fly across the North Pole; this was a route with a length of 9,6 thousand km. However, at that time an aircraft with such a range did not exist. The famous ANT-25, on which non-stop flights were made to the USA by the crews of V. Chkalov and M. Gromov, were built only in 1934 year.

The second option was planned to fly across the Atlantic. The total length was about 14 thousand km. The third route was Transsiberian, it ran through the Urals, Siberia, the Far East, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska to Seattle - the capital of "Boeing". The length of the route in this case increased to 17 thousand. Km. But on the other hand, it could be divided into several segments, not exceeding the range of ANT-4, which was on the order of 1200-1400 km. German motor engines caused the fear of the flight organizers: their life was equal to 60 hours, and the flight should have taken much longer.

The first attempt was made by 8 August. ANT-4 took off at night from the Central airport. Frunze. The first hours of the flight were normal, but on the way to Chita, Shestakov made a mistake, deciding not to stop to refuel, but to continue the flight in order to get to Chita before nightfall. Over 80 km to the landing site, the fuel ran out, both engines went out. The plane made a rough landing on the trees - only this saved the crew. Everyone was worried because they were afraid that the leadership in general would now abandon the idea of ​​a flight. But it all ended well.

Early in the morning of 23 August 1929, the second copy of the ANT-4 aircraft, an understudy with the symbolic name “Country of the Soviets”, took off from Moscow Central Airport and headed east. His destination was New York. The route lay over the Urals, Siberia, the Far East, the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, the Bering Sea, the western coast of the Pacific Ocean, and North America. The crew included the commander, the most experienced pilot S. Shestakov, the co-pilot (sea pilot) F. Bolotov, the navigator (then this position was called aeronautical) B. Sterligov, the flight mechanic D. Fufayev.

The first point of landing identified Chelyabinsk. Then the flight passed along the Siberian railway route. Through 29 flight hours "Country of the Soviets" landed in Irkutsk. Subsequent landing points were: Verkhneudinsk, Chita, Blagoveshchensk, Khabarovsk. Strong storms and fog pursued the plane during the Baikal flight.

In Khabarovsk, laborious and responsible work was done: the aircraft was put on floats. Especially for this, aviation specialists headed by TsAGI engineer B. Saukka arrived in advance from Moscow in advance. They were entrusted with the task of making a seaplane out of a land vehicle, without disturbing its aerodynamic qualities and centering.

From Khabarovsk, the car flew 12 September. Sea of ​​Okhotsk was greeted by the crew. But the plane successfully crossed the stormy sea and splashed down in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Then the flight was supposed to take place outside our country.

Near the island of Attu, in a small bay, waiting for the "Land of Soviets" stood our patrol ship "Red Pennant" - the oldest ship in the Pacific fleet. A watchman brought fuel to the island for the “Land of the Soviets”. After Attu, the flight continued mainly along the line of the Aleutian Islands with a landing on one of them - Unalaska Island, from where the plane flew to Seward in Alaska. The population of Seward came out to meet the crew of the Soviet aircraft.

Flight "Country of the Soviets" followed the seal of the world. Most newspapers and magazines sincerely welcomed the heroism of the Soviet pilots. But not all correspondents believed in the success of the flight, since it took place in late autumn and along an unexplored route of enormous length.

"Country of the Soviets". Flying across three continents

The next landing was planned in Sitka (Alaska), from where the plane was supposed to go to Seattle. However, on the way to him, he made an unexpected landing in the town of Waterfall because of a defect in the left engine. At the request of the crew, an American engine was sent from Seattle, and flight engineer D. Fufaev had to replace the faulty engine with a new one. It should be noted that the engines on the plane "Land of Soviets" were German. As it turned out, they didn’t work: in this flight, the BMW-VI more than once let the crew down. Even in Irkutsk, one of the engines had to be changed, which took three days. In Seattle, the plane was converted into land for the flight already over the mainland of North America.

How the heroes were met by the “Country of the Soviets” crew in San Francisco, where the plane flew in the afternoon and where thousands of city residents were already waiting for it. The pilots were literally covered with flowers. This is what our newspapers of the time wrote about the reception of Soviet pilots in Chicago. “New York, October 25 (TASS). From Chicago, it is reported that at a meeting of the “Country of the Soviets”, the USA military aircraft rendered all military honors to the Soviet crew ”. “New York, October 27 (TASS). Ford telegraphed in Chicago that he had sent a plane for the “Country of the Soviets” air escort, departing on Monday to Detroit (the place where Ford automobile and aircraft factories are located). ”

The last leg of the flight ended at the New York-based Curtiss Field airfield in the town of Valley Stream on Long Island. On November 1, 1929 of the “Country of Soviets” on 16 hours 12 minutes, escorted by two three-engined Fords, appeared over the airfield and, making two laps over the airfield, made an impeccable landing. Among those who met the Soviet plane was an American pilot, Colonel C. Lindberg, who became famous for his transatlantic flight in 1927 from America to Europe. Therefore, at first, the crew of the “Land of Soviets” thought that people came to see their national hero. But Lindberg himself said that they were mistaken, that thousands of Americans had gathered to greet them, the Soviet aviators who had made such a bold and long flight.

Thus, the grand Moscow-New York flight was completed, which lasted 72 of the day, of which the flight was 24 of the day. In the air, the plane stayed 141 for an hour 31 for a minute and flew during this time 21 242 kilometers, including 7950 kilometers above water, with an average speed of 145,6 kilometers per hour.

American aircraft designers and pilots were amazed at the high quality of the Soviet aircraft that made this most difficult flight, and frankly expressed their admiration. As for the Soviet public’s assessment of the flight, it was best of all expressed in our press. The head of the Air Force of the Workers 'and Peasants' Army, P. Baranov, analyzing the results of the flight, wrote that, if we deduct the time spent on changing and repairing the motors, the average flight speed would be 840 kilometers per day, while the flight of De Pinedo from Italy to America flowed at a speed of 360 kilometers per day, Aroschara from Paris to Tokyo - 440 kilometers and a round-the-world flight of American military aircraft - 165 kilometers.

Evaluating the results of the flight "Land of the Soviets", it is impossible not to emphasize the natural difficulties that the crew had to face. The flight took place in the deep autumn, for more than twenty thousand kilometers the fogs alternated with storms and storms, three quarters of the way lay over deserted swamps, taiga, seas and rocks.

It should be noted the technical side of the flight. B. Sterligov recalled; “Then we still flew without such conventional means as autopilot, radio compass, radar, and even without parachutes. For navigation, we had magnetic compasses, hand-held aviasextants, rather primitive devices, and topographic maps, mostly outdated and of the most random scale ... In aviation, the radio was not yet used, and for communication on the offshore sector from the ship and the ports was developed and tested a special telegraph radio station. Navigator had to master the work on the key and the reception of at least 100 characters per minute. In flight over Siberia, radio communication was not provided for the simple reason that there was nobody to keep it with. ”

The feat of the crew of the "Country of the Soviets" was highly appreciated by the leadership of the country. All of them were awarded the newly established Order of the Red Banner of Labor. For S. Shestakova it was the second highest award. He was awarded the first one (the Order of the Red Banner) for flying to 1927 from Moscow to Tokyo and back.

The fate of the participants in the flight was different. S. Shestakov commanded a squadron of heavy bombers in the Far East for some time; in 1935, he was elected a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. During the Great Patriotic War he commanded the bomber and then the fighter regiment. In one of the air battles during the Battle of Kursk, Colonel S. Shestakov was shot down.

B. Sterligov grew to the chief air navigator. F. Bolotov became a test pilot. D. Fufaev devoted his life to the development of aviation technology. It is worth noting that the memory of the first flight of the Soviet aircraft "Country of Soviets" from Russia to America is carefully stored in the United States. In 1986, in the Nassau district near New York, a special stand was opened at the local national aviation cradle museum dedicated to the flight of the crew of the Land of Soviets. Much for the organization of the stand did a member of the municipal council of the nearby town of Glenkov C. Dobrescu himself a former aviator.

“People need to remember history in order to better understand the present day and tomorrow's day,” Ch. Dobrescu explained his active work in collecting information about the Land of Soviets aircraft and its crew members. The flight of the heroic crew in that distant 1929 year remains and should remain in the history of world aviation, in the memory of our people. This flight confirmed the high class of Russian aircraft manufacturing, witnessed the skill and courage of the crew who built the bridge between the two continents.

Danilenko V. Moscow - Far East - New York // Far Eastern Travels and Adventures. 1982. No.9. C. 77-108.
Salnikov Yu. For the first time through three continents // Aviapanorama. 1999. No.6. C. 76-78.
Matulevich B. They applauded the world // Civil Aviation. 1994. No.11. C. 33-35.
Mirmovich A. 85 years of flight of the plane "Land of Soviets" // Khabarovsk Express. 2014. No.38 (1098).

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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 19 August 2015 05: 54
    The Age of Great Flights! Conquerors of the Fifth Ocean ...
  2. bionik
    bionik 19 August 2015 06: 20
    The feat of the crew of the “Country of Soviets” was highly appreciated by the country's leadership. All of them were awarded the newly established Order of the Red Banner of Labor. U. I stayed at home like this from my grandfather. The first type. "Triangle".
  3. qwert
    qwert 19 August 2015 07: 08
    Sex around the world. Cool.
    The flight is known for much less flights ANT-25.
    But in vain.
  4. Aleksandr72
    Aleksandr72 19 August 2015 07: 20
    It is difficult to relate to these flights from the point of view of afterthought and evaluate them unambiguously: on the one hand, ultra-long-distance flights showed the growing power of Soviet aviation and the capabilities of the aviation industry, the technical perfection of aircraft and the level of training of pilots; on the other hand, they gave rise to complacency both among the political leadership and among aircraft designers, who, in pursuit of records, have forgotten that airplanes are not created to fly "higher, faster and further", but to transport people and goods, to fight eventually. As a result, Soviet aviation, which was rightfully in the lead by the mid-30s, by the early 40s had already yielded these positions, in particular, military aviation was mainly equipped with outdated types of aircraft - even the latest modifications were already inferior to massive foreign models. which Spain clearly showed. And the training of mass pilots, navigators, etc. was far from up to par, as shown by Khalkhin-Gol.
    I have the honor.
    1. lelikas
      lelikas 19 August 2015 11: 39
      There is an opinion that they (flights) still gave "impetus" to the creation by the states of their strategic aviation.
    2. Gamdlislyam
      Gamdlislyam 19 August 2015 12: 30
      Quote: Aleksandr72
      It is difficult to relate to these flights from the point of view of aftertaste and evaluate them unambiguously

      Dear Alexander Grigoryevich, in this flight there was more politics than sports or technical achievements. The plane was almost half assembled from imported components (well, roughly, like the now-produced passenger Sukhoi). At that time, the USSR and the USA did not have established diplomatic relations. The USA did not recognize the USSR. There were many barriers and restrictions in trade and economic relations. Therefore, the leadership of the USSR used all possible means to breach the blockade of the USSR.
      This flight was just organized for this purpose. If we turn to history, we find that the economy of the country of the Soviets, 8 years after the devastating civil war and WW1, was only reviving. 1929 is the first year of the five-year plan. The country was just transitioning to a new economic system - a planned economy. Factories and factories, the very ones that gave our fathers and grandfathers the opportunity to win the Great Patriotic War, were just beginning to be built.
      Soviet aviation in the mid-30s was not a leader (not to fat, I would have lived). They tried to compensate for the backlog by quantity. But some achievements in the field of aviation were used both in the propaganda of the socialist system and on the diplomatic front. And to some extent it was possible. This bore fruit in building the country's defense capabilities.
      February 4, 1931 I.V. Stalin said prophetic words: “We are 50-100 years behind advanced countries. We have to run this distance in 10 years. Either we do it, or they crush us. ”
      So this flight was not some extraordinary world event (such as the launch of the first satellite or the flight of Gagarin Yu.A.). Such flights in different countries were already enough. But for our country (in isolation) it was an outstanding achievement.
  5. swertalf
    swertalf 19 August 2015 09: 56
    The only surviving aircraft ANT-4 (TB-1) is on display at the Civil Aviation Museum in Ulyanovsk (in polar colors)
    1. Gamdlislyam
      Gamdlislyam 19 August 2015 12: 36
      Quote: swertalf
      The only surviving aircraft ANT-4 (TB-1)

      Dear colleague, this is not TB-1, but G-1 (the first cargo plane). They were remade by the ANT-4 (TB-1) removed from armament and transferred to the Civil Air Fleet.
  6. castle
    castle 19 August 2015 17: 54
    Good health to all.
    If so, then let’s.
    Let's look at the achievements of non-Soviet women who flew not because of politics, but because of a love of aviation:
    AMELIA EARHART - Emelie Earhart. May 21, 1932, the flight on a Lockheed Vega aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean. By oneself.
    AMY JOHNSON - Amy Johnson (London-Karachi) May 5, 1930 (find the plane)
    BERYL MARKHAM - Beryl Morkhom (airplane Percival Vega Gull). Flight from Britain to the USA on September 4, 1936
    I must say that not only women flew. Yes, and the Bell P-39 Airacobra, was a Lendlease aircraft.
    1. bionik
      bionik 19 August 2015 23: 06
      AMELIA EARHART - Emelie Earhart. I read about her long ago in the magazine Around the World, Missing somewhere in the Pacific Ocean on her Lockheed Electra.