Valery Chkalov died in a crash while test-piloting a plane in 1938.
Evan Petcoff and his family drove from their home in Walnut Grove to see a record-setting Russian airplane 75 years ago, and the 14-year-old boy was more than impressed.
He was inspired.
Petcoff wasn’t able to catch a glimpse of the aviators following their unexpected arrival at Vancouver’s Pearson Field on June 20, 1937. Still, their achievement had something to do with how Petcoff wound up as a member of an American bomber crew during World War II.
“I was a B-29 flight engineer,” Petcoff said Wednesday morning after placing a flower at the Transpolar Flight Monument. “I think (the Chkalov flight) stimulated that a bit.”
Petcoff, 89, was one of a handful of Vancouver-area residents who’d seen the ANT-25 aircraft in 1937 and were able to return for Wednesday’s 75th anniversary ceremony.
The event at Pearson Air Museum celebrated the moment when pilot Valery Chkalov, co-pilot Georgy Baidukov and navigator Alexander Belyakov returned to the ground at 8:22 a.m., ending a record-setting flight of 63 hours and 16 minutes.