Airfield to celebrate anniversary of Chkalov flight

Commemoration to cheer 75 years since Russian plane's transpolar journey

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter



If you go

What: Public celebration of 75th anniversary of the Chkalov flight.

When: 8 to 9 a.m., Wednesday.

Where: Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St.

A floral tribute at 8:22 a.m. Wednesday will mark the moment when three Russian aviators landed at Vancouver 75 years earlier to end a record-breaking flight.

That will be part of a one-hour public ceremony at Pearson Air Museum noting the unexpected arrival of Valery Chkalov on the morning of June 20, 1937.

The Russian pilot, along with co-pilot Georgy Baidukov and navigator Alexander Belyakov, had just finished history's first transpolar flight. They set an aviation record by flying nonstop for 63 hours and 16 minutes from an airfield near Moscow, over the North Pole, to Pearson Field.

The single-engine ANT-25 was supposed to land in San Francisco, but was running low on fuel.

The Russians were greeted by Gen. George C. Marshall, commander of Vancouver Barracks.

The commemoration will be hosted by the museum and the local Chkalov Cultural Exchange Committee.

Local participants will include Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt; Laureano Mier, manager of the air museum; and Elson Strahan, president and CEO of the Fort Vancouver National Trust.

Yuriy Gerasin, Russian consul general based in Seattle, is scheduled to represent the aviators' homeland.

Chkalov's descendents have visited Vancouver over the last couple of years to set up anniversary events, but won't be able to make it Wednesday. Doug Lasher, president of the cultural exchange committee, said the family ran into scheduling issues and funding shortages.Lasher is planning to leave for Russia later Wednesday to attend a similar 75th anniversary event Saturday in Nizhny Novgorod.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558;;