Chkalov flight's 76th anniversary to be observed

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National Park Service Ranger Luda Leksunkin will offer a bilingual lecture Saturday to celebrate the 76th anniversary of the record-setting Chkalov flight.

The lecture, in English and Russian, will be at 11 a.m. in the Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St.; it is free to the public.

Valery Chkalov and two crewmen landed in Vancouver on June 20, 1937, after flying nonstop for 63 hours and 16 minutes from an airfield near Moscow.

"I've been passionate about Chkalov's story since I began working in this park," Leksunkin said in a news release from the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. "Chkalov's character, leadership, and unprecedented skill and precision were integral to his aviation accomplishments. His feats are relevant to all Russians and Americans, but are especially important to me and to this community, because his flight-- the first flight across the North Pole -- landed right here at Pearson Air Field."

When Clark County residents were asked the primary language spoken in their homes in the 2000 U.S. Census, 6,115 indicated it was Russian.

"There are many historical ties between this site and Russia," Fort Vancouver Superintendent Tracy Fortmann said.

It includes "Fort Vancouver's partnership with the Russian American Company in the fur trade era, to the two Soviet flights that landed at Pearson Field. The Chkalov flight, particularly, established a lasting connection between the United States and Russia," Fortmann said.

An earlier visit by Soviet aviators was in 1929, when Semyon Shestakov and three crew members landed here to fix an oil pump.