Pearson to celebrate 80th anniversary of Chkalov flight

National Park Service observance will include Russian officials from Seattle

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



If You Go

 What: “From Moscow to Russia: Valery Chkalov and the First Transpolar Flight.”

 When: 10 a.m. Saturday.

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

• Cost: Free.

Russian officials from Seattle will visit Pearson Air Museum on Saturday to celebrate a much more harrowing trip to Vancouver by three countrymen.

The National Park Service will observe the 80th anniversary of Valery Chkalov’s landmark transpolar flight from Moscow to Pearson Field. The 10 a.m. event at Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St., is free.

Participants are scheduled to include representatives from the Russian consulate in Seattle. The program will include a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial to the flight just west of the air museum.

Chkalov, along with copilot Georgi Baidukov and navigator Alexander Belyakov, landed at Pearson Field at 8:22 a.m. on June 20, 1937. Their flight over the North Pole — the first of its kind — took 63 hours and 16 minutes.

“The incredible journey made by Chkalov, Baidukov and Belyakov was more than just a feat of human endurance and a technological achievement; it was a major moment in U.S.-Russian relations before the Second World War,” Bob Cromwell, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site’s chief of interpretation, said in a news release.

In the museum, visitors will be able to tour “A Red Bolt From the Blue,” an exhibit that highlights the history of the transpolar flight.

The display includes copies of flight-related documents that had been in the archives of Russia’s Office of the Foreign Ministry for decades. Officials from the Russian consulate in Seattle gave the collection to the National Park Service after the 2015 Chkalov event, Cromwell said.

This year’s anniversary of the flight will include a selection of paintings featuring Chkalovsk, Russia — birthplace and namesake of Chkalov. They will be displayed in the Friends of Fort Vancouver Bookstore at the Visitor Center, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd.

The paintings were created by artists who live in the Chkalovsk region, on the Volga River in the Nizhni Novgorod province. Founded in 1200 A.D. as Vasilova Sloboda, the community was renamed for the aviator after the 1937 flight. An artist colony evolved there after World War II.