12, 1937 at 18 hours 15 minutes Moscow time, from Schelkovsky airfield,
not far from Moscow, launched a four-engine aircraft with a number N-209 for flight over the North Pole in the United States. The
N-209 was supposed to land in Fairbanks, Alaska, bringing a commercial
cargo there, and thereby proving the possibility of establishing regular
trade ties between the two Great Powers in the shortest possible way. Simultaneously, this flight was to be demonstrated by I.V. Stalin
is able to deliver a bomb strike across the American continent through
the Arctic in the event of a war between the USSR and the United States
of America. Confirmation to that is the choice of an airplane to fly over the pole. It was a new long-range bomber DB-A, capable of taking on board up to 5,000 kilograms of aircraft bombs. At the destination, the N-209 did not arrive and his search, undertaken by the Soviet and American sides, had no results. Nine months later, the Government of the USSR decided to terminate the search and count the crew as dead.
There is still no answer to the question of where the plane and its crew were gone. But the facts pointing to the fact that the chances of success of the flight was not enough, it is enough.
NO ONE OF MEMBERS OF THE CREW IN THE ARCTIC IS FLY.
The last photos of the crew of the N-209 . Left to right: N.Ya. Galkovsky, N.G. Kastanaev, S.A. Levanevsky, G.T. Pobyzhimov, N.N. Godovikov, V.I. Levchenko.
Sigismund Levanevsky – the commander of the aircraft and the first pilot. He was the first in the USSR to have the idea of flying over the North Pole. Born in St. Petersburg on May 2, 1902, in the family of an impoverished Polish nobleman. He graduated from the Sevastopol School of Naval Aviation . In 1933 he began to work in the Main Directorate of the North Sea Route. He
flew on single-engine light hydroplanes over the territories of
Chukotka and Yakutia, several times over the American territory of the
Alaska Peninsula. Its
air routes almost did not cross the Arctic Circle, the conditional line
of which passes through the northern latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes. Over
the ice expanses of the Arctic Levanevsky never flew and therefore had
no experience of flying in severe Arctic weather conditions. In
August 1935 he managed to obtain permission for a flight on the
USSR-North Pole-US route on a single-engine ANT-25 aircraft, together
with navigator V. Levchenko and second pilot G. Baidukov. In the flight over the Barents Sea, a leakage of engine oil from the engine was detected, and the crew had to go back. In
the Kremlin, at the reception of Stalin, the whole blame for the
unsuccessful flight Levanevsky blamed on the designer of the airplane
A.N. Tupolev. Without restraining his emotions, he called him a pest and resolutely stated that he would never fly on his planes . The incident in the Kremlin characterizes Levanevsky as a man who could have unpredictably lost control of himself. His propensity for inadequate behavior is confirmed by other facts.
In 1933 the American pilot James Mattern (James Mattern) attempted a round-the-world flight, but had an accident over Chukotka. Levanevsky was instructed to deliver the American to his homeland, to the United States of America. When
carrying out this rescue mission, Levanevsky almost shot the sailor
just because he dared to take the chocolate from the emergency supply of
the crew of the aircraft. .
1935, at the first attempt to fly over the North Pole from the engine
of the ANT-25 aircraft, engine oil was thrown directly onto the
windshield of the aircraft. Levanevsky
gave the order to reverse the course, but Baidukov, the test pilot of
this aircraft, who knew the car well, began to convince the commander
that the oil was thrown out because of its overflow into the oil tank
before the start, that in the test flights of the ANT-25 this happened,
and this phenomenon should soon cease. Levanevsky,
not listening to the arguments of the second pilot, took out a personal
weapon, put the barrel of the revolver against Baidukov’s body and
shouted: “I order to turn. Otherwise I can not vouch for myself “. On the way back, the leakage of engine oil from the engine really stopped .
In 1936, Levanevsky and navigator V. Levchenko flew from America to the USSR on a seaplane purchased in the United States. Hydroplane made a planned landing on the water in the Ambarchik Bay on the northern coast of Chukotka. When towing to the pier, the plane struck lightly on the side of the steamship “Lenin” at anchor and received minor damage. An eyewitness of the accident polar pilot AA. Kasha recalled that Levanevsky immediately took out a pistol and threatened to shoot all the towboats .
who knows, maybe during the N-209 flight, somewhere outside the North
Pole, a conflict arose between Levanevsky and the crew members, and the
emotionally unbalanced airplane commander again grabbed for the weapon. The possibility of a conflict situation existed. It was laid in the process of preparing for the flight and could be realized in critical flight conditions.
In the characterization of Levanevsky, written by the chief of the
Main Directorate of the North Sea Route at the request of the
Governmental Commission for the N-209 flight, it was stated: he has a
morbid sense of self-esteem, unreasonable arrogance, and a propensity
for impulsive behavior.
Nikolai Kastanayev is the second pilot of the N-209 aircraft. In 1926 he graduated from the school of military pilots in the city of Borisoglebsk. Since 1929 – pilot test, worked in various research institutions, and since 1935 – at the aviation plant No. 22 . Kastanayev took part in the tests of the DB-A aircraft, knew its material part and the aircraft’s shortcomings during piloting. I never flew in the conditions of the Far North, nor in the Arctic. He had a poor preparation for flights in continuous clouds .
Victor Levchenko is the navigator of the N-209 aircraft. In 1925 he graduated from the Frunze Naval School in Leningrad, was sent to serve in the Black Sea Fleet. In 1929 he graduated from the military school of naval pilots in Sevastopol, having received the navigator’s diploma. Studying in this school, he met S. Levanevsky. In 1932 he took part in the North-Eastern Polar Expedition under the leadership of the famous explorer of the Far North, N.I. Evgenova. Since 1933, as a navigator, he flew with Levanevsky over the territories of Yakutia, Chukotka, and Alaska. Friendship has developed between them . V.Levchenko had no experience of flying in the severe weather conditions of the Arctic.
Nikolay Galkovsky – boardwriter N-209. Until
1928 he served in one of the parts of the hydroaviation in the city of
Sevastopol, then was sent for service to the Moscow Air Force Research
Institute. He had a reputation as a highly qualified specialist. He was the flagship radio operator at the festive aviation parades. In 1934 he participated in the flight on the route Moscow – Kiev – Vienna – Paris – Lyon – Strasbourg – Prague – Moscow . The crew of the N-209 was enlisted a few days before the flight . For this reason, the new radio equipment of the aircraft did not manage to master perfection. In the Far North and the Arctic never flew.
Nikolay Godovikov – the first flight mechanic N-209. The oldest in age in the crew. Since 1915 he began to serve in the hydroaviation of the Baltic Fleet. After 1920 he worked in Moscow aviation plants. He
received a diploma of a mechanical engineer, he proved himself to be a
high-class specialist in aircraft engines by his work. Participated in the factory tests of the aircraft DB-A and knew his engines well . Some of the engine’s failures Godovikov could determine even by ear during his work. The crew of the N-209 was enlisted on the recommendation of Kastanaev . In the Far North and the Arctic did not fly.
Grigory Pobezhimov – the second flight mechanic N-209. In 1927, as part of the expedition, Krasinsky flew as a flight mechanic to Wrangel Island. In 1935-1937 he flew as a member of the crew of the Hero of the Soviet Union V. Molokov. In 1936, they flew the territory of the Far North along the ring route with a total length of 31,000 kilometers. Pobyzhimov was considered one of the best mechanics of northern aviation, but he did not fly directly to the Arctic. The crew was included at the direction of the Main Directorate of the North Sea Route . With the design of the engine M-34RN and its maintenance Pobyzhimov had not previously encountered. Three months, allocated to him for studying the motor, was clearly not enough.
the above, it follows: firstly, the radio operator and the second
flight mechanic practically did not have time to master the aircraft
equipment well; secondly, all the crew members of the N-209 had no experience of flying in the Arctic. The
Arctic is a region of the Arctic Ocean covered with ice all the year
long with thickness of two to four meters or more, which does not have
any islands on all its boundless ice space, with meteorological
conditions more severe than in the Far North. The
Far North in the thirties of the twentieth century included the
territories of the mainland of Russia located to the north of the Arctic
Circle, as well as the nearest islands and seas of the Arctic Ocean
adjacent to the mainland. The Far North in its geographical location has never been and still does not belong to the region called the Arctic.
THE AIRCRAFT HAD A SERIOUS DISADVANTAGES.
was a long-range bomber developed by specialists of the Zhukovsky Air
Force Academy under the leadership of the chief designer of the project
VF. Bolkhovitinov. When he found out that Levanevsky decided on this machine to fly over the North Pole, he was categorically against this idea. The
aircraft was built in a single copy, passed factory tests, which
revealed serious design flaws, and their elimination required time. But Levanevsky did not want to wait, he used his connections and support of Stalin. From the Kremlin Bolkhovitinov was given a strict order – to immediately prepare a DB-A plane for the flight. The aircraft was assigned the designation N-209. “N” is the initial letter of the word NORD, that is, the North. 209 – the serial number of the aircraft when it is registered in the register of the Main Directorate of the North Sea Route.
Aircraft N-209 .
the DB-A aircraft removed all weapons, to expand the review changed the
design of the front cabin (in it during the flight should have been the
navigator and the radio operator of the crew). Instead
of the direction finder APR-3, which had an automatic mode of radio
direction finding provided by a small electric motor, the radiocharacter
of the American firm “Fairchild” was installed with manual
direction-finding of radio signals , , . Such
a replacement was due to the fact that during the flight over the
Arctic, in very cold temperatures, the electric motor of the direction
finder could simply freeze and for this reason refuse. Radio
Fairchild, because of its high cost, was used on Soviet planes is
limited, so specialists who mastered the work with it were not enough.
The radio-compass of the firm “Fairchild” .
On the right is a frame rotating antenna receiving a signal; on
the left, the device (a is the handle for rotating the antenna, c is
the indicator for determining the direction of the received signal).
The location of the rotating rotating antenna on the N-209 .
DB-A aircraft was equipped with four M-34RN engines (“R” – gearbox, “N”
– with a supercharger), to any of which in flight conditions, the air
mechanic could freely access the internal space of the aircraft wing and
inspect it and make minor repairs. The
presence of a reducer and a supercharger at the engine made it possible
to increase the flight altitude, however, serious problems with the
supercharger were encountered during testing. There
were cases when, through substandard seals, oil was sucked into it, and
at a height at a negative temperature, condensate appeared in it, which
affected the stable operation of the motor and could even lead to its
M-34RN engine was of considerable weight, and structural measures were
taken to alleviate it, after which, under the designation M-34RNB (“B” –
lightened), the modified engines were installed on the N-209 aircraft. Another drawback of the engine was its lack of a mechanism for
vane flapping, that is, turning it to the incoming air stream to reduce
air resistance during an emergency stop of the motor , .
the Arctic flight, it was expected that the propeller blades could
undergo icing, and the ice fragments dropped from them by centrifugal
force during the rotation of the screws, like shells of a large-caliber
machine gun or an air cannon, could riddle the fuselage, making the
subsequent flight of the aircraft impossible. Therefore,
to prevent the formation of ice, a special system was installed with a
forced supply of alcohol to the propeller blade, but this system
functioned only when the engine was running. Systems against the icing of the surfaces of the wings, fuselage and tail plumage were not at the plane.
A major drawback was the lubrication system of the extreme engines. When there were 60 kilograms of oil remaining in the oil tanks of these engines, its entry into the engines ceased . Refueling
the oil tank during the flight was impossible, because the filler neck
of the tank was on the outer upper surface of the wing of the aircraft.
Fulfillment of refueling operations on the N-209 aircraft before its flight .
The location of two oil tanks in the wings of the N-209 ,
(section Е-Е, figure 7 – fuel tank).
oil tank had an internal impenetrable partition dividing it into two
isolated compartments, each of which contained 240 kilograms of
lubricant. To lubricate the engine, oil was used only from one compartment, connected to this motor.
DB-A aircraft had a number of significant observations related to its
piloting, which, due to lack of time, were not eliminated, and the N-209
aircraft inherited them. These shortcomings in the management of the aircraft predetermined his death in the future. The most serious of them were :insufficient controllability and longitudinal stability. The aircraft could spontaneously begin to gain altitude or decrease;insufficient efficiency of the ailerons (rolls), as well as rudders direction and height; to control them by means of the steering wheel and pedals, the pilot had to make great physical efforts;when
the effect of “chatter” occurs, when the airplane enters the streams of
turbulence of air masses, the effectiveness of the aircraft’s
feathering is sharply reduced. Loads
on the levers and controls were many times increased, a prolonged
flight in such conditions was not possible, because the pilot was very
physically exhausted, and, in the end, completely lost control of the
machine; The plane went into an uncontrolled flight mode.
Levanevsky knew about these unresolved remarks, but he did not cancel his decision to fly to the N-209. He
was well aware that if he refused to fly, he would completely lose the
confidence of Stalin and the Soviet government with all the negative
consequences for his career. The lives of the other crew members flying to the unprepared vehicle, the aircraft commander did not think. It
seems that Levanevsky considered the crew of the N-209 as a one-time
instrument, which is necessary for him to achieve two of his personal
in order not to stand up, to realize his dream of flying over the pole,
even if it was the third after the crews of Chkalov and Gromov who had
outstripped him. Secondly,
to justify by this flight the appropriation of the title of Hero of the
Soviet Union in 1934 for his participation in the rescue of the crew of
the Chelyuskin steamer. According
to the recollections of people who knew Levanevsky, he was painfully
aware of not deserving a high award (no one from the ice camp was
evacuated, because his plane suffered a plane crash over Chukotka, and
Levanevsky himself had to fall). He
also knew that in the environment of the polar pilots of that time he
was called a “loser” , and it was necessary for the very proud
Levanevsky to prove the opposite by this flight.
Failure of the crew to the flight.
The work on preparing the aircraft for the flight was carried out at an accelerated pace. The
second pilot, Kastanayev, who was carried away by the idea of
Levanevsky to fly over the North Pole on this car, in his reports on
the preparatory flights of the N-209 gave basically only positive
conclusions, deliberately concealing flaws in order to prevent the
cancellation of the flight for technical reasons . Such actions can be qualified as a serious malfeasance, the
consequences of which led to the death of the aircraft and its crew, as
well as to the significant material and financial costs of the Soviet
state for organizing the search for the disappeared N-209.
attitude to the preparation for the flight is simply shocking: he
almost did not appear on the aerodrome, he was no more than three times
in trial flights. This
was clearly not enough for the commander of the aircraft to acquire the
skills of piloting a heavy four-engine aircraft, especially since he
flew only on single-engine light seaplanes. The take-off and landing of the N-209 was always carried out only by N. Kastanaev. Levanevsky practically did not communicate with crew members. When the appearance on the aerodrome, a handshake greeted only Levchenko and Kastanayeva; The airborne dispatcher and the flight mechanics honored the greetings with a dismissive nod of the head. At lunchtime Levanevsy and Levchenko sat at a separate table, and the rest of the crew after another . This behavior of the commander of the aircraft did not contribute to the unity of the team. Before flying over the North Pole, the N-209 was supposed to perform a test non-stop flight of at least 2,000 kilometers. It
would be most logical to do it in the northern direction, for example
to Arkhangelsk, or even to the Barents Sea, testing a heavy car and
checking the preparedness of the crew for flight in the northern
meteorological conditions. But Levanevsky did not want to risk and chose the southern
direction, with more favorable weather conditions of the flight, which
provided a positive result of its performance and, as a consequence, the
admission of the aircraft and crew to the flight through the pole.
After the test flight between the commander of the aircraft and some members of his crew, mutual claims arose. Levanevsky
was very dissatisfied with the new boardwriter N. Galkovsky, who only
five days before the flight replaced the radio operator LL in the crew. Kerber, arrested by the NKVD. Time
for Galkovsky, to get acquainted with the latest radio equipment N-209
was not, and for this reason during the test flight, he did not always
manage to correctly detect the radio bearing. Also,
Levanevsky was dissatisfied with the second pilot N. Kastanayev, who,
in the absence of the visibility of the ground, ran the aircraft
uncertainly, and when asked why he included Kastanayev in the crew, the
airplane commander cynically replied: “… it was all the same to me
with whom to fly, proposed his candidacy, and I agreed “. Kastanayev
after this flight to the South also spoke quite definitely: during the
flight Levanevsky almost did not drive, he only commanded; he called him a Belorussian and expressed a lack of confidence in him. Bortmehanik
N. Godovikov told close friends that Levanevsky himself never took off
and all the functions of controlling the aircraft shifted to Kastanaev; With the crew kept himself constantly alienated and arrogant .
a result, there was no monolithic team in the previous flight, and
Levanevsky is fully responsible for this – both by his behavior towards
the participants in the flight, and by his attitude towards the very
process of preparing for the flight. For
example, instead of taking part in the training flights of the N-209,
gaining experience in managing it and establishing coordination between
the crew members, Levanevsky went to Sevastopol to conduct test flights
of seaplanes purchased abroad . The crew of the aircraft was preparing to fly without a commander. TAKEOFF.
plane was standing on a special twelve meter high concrete slope,
rolling down from which, he had to speed up the speed necessary to tear
off the machine overloaded from above the norm. The
total weight of the aircraft was 34,700 kilograms, including 16,400
kilograms of fuel, 960 kilograms of lubricating oil for engines. Among
the escorted crew of the N-209 were representatives of the government,
the army, the Soviet press, there were well-known pilots, chief
Before takeoff .
The mood of those present was festive, except for the crew members of the aircraft. Kastanayev,
the second pilot, trying on warm boots prepared for the participants of
the flight, joked sadly: “There will be something to run on the ice
from the bears,” and later he said “there is no confidence in the
success of the flight, we did not train very much.” Navigator
Levchenko and air mechanic Godovikov, saying goodbye to Georgy
Baidukov, told him independently the same phrase: “Farewell, Egor, we’ll
never see each other again.” Levanevsky,
heading for the plane, told his friends that on this flight he would go
to the end and would not return under any circumstances . Then
he smiled sadly, perhaps remembered that he was a hereditary Polish
nobleman, and mentally pronounced himself a verdict: “either the pan, or
the crew members took their places, one of the first conquerors of the
North Pole, G. Baidukov, was unpleasantly surprised to see that
Levanevsky was in the right seat of the plane, and the left armchair of
the crew commander was occupied by Kastanayev, which meant that the
co-pilot would take off. ], . In his terms, it was wrong. Perhaps Bajdukov’s response to this act by Levanevsky would have
been different if he had known that the commander of the N-209 could not
fly up or land on this heavy, four-engined aircraft.
The engines were started. The start signal was given, and the car rushed forward. The takeoff of the aircraft was photographed on film . Kastanayev, to tear off the overloaded machine from the ground, gave the engines maximum load. The time of dispersal of the aircraft and its separation from the aerodrome take-off strip was 35 seconds . Within 30 seconds, the N-209 took off in normal mode.
Takeoff N-209. A shot from newsreels . The engines work flawlessly.
The last five seconds take off. A shot from newsreels . A smoky trail from the rightmost engine is clearly visible.
The reason for the appearance of a smoky trace has a technical explanation. Before
the detachment of the aircraft from the runway at the maximum mode of
operation of the engines, the seal of the supercharger of the rightmost
outboard motor was destroyed, and then the lubricant oil was sucked into
it from the crankcase of the engine (such a defect had already occurred
during test flights of the aircraft). The
oil, mixed with the fuel-air mixture in the supercharger, began to flow
through the intake pipe into the combustion chambers of the motor, and
this process occurred constantly throughout the flight, resulting in an
increased consumption of lubricant by the rightmost engine N-209.
The principle kinematic scheme of the supercharger .
N-209 REACHED THE NORTH POLE.
to the penultimate telegram received by the headquarters of the flight
on August 13 at 1340 hours Moscow time, the N-209 aircraft flew over the
North Pole over a continuous cloud, having a flight altitude of 6,000
such an altitude, the crew, of course, worked in oxygen masks, in which
oxygen came from cylinders installed stationary on board the aircraft. The
work of the engines in flight was controlled by the flight mechanics by
special devices that were located in their workplaces, one of which
monitored the work of the right-wing motor group, the other – the work
of the motor group of the left wing.
instruments for monitoring the operation of engines on a four-engine
aircraft on the instrument board of flight mechanics (recommended) .
1 – tachometers, 2 – manometers, 3 – gas analyzers, 4 – four-point indicators of pressure and temperature.
after the flight through the pole, the mechanic Godovikov fixed the oil
pressure drop to zero in the rightmost engine by the indicator, while
the engine continued to work in the established mode, according to the
tachometer readings. The mechanic immediately reported this to Levanevsky. On
the question of the commander of the aircraft, what caused the pressure
drop, Godovikov said shortly: “The malfunction in the oil system. A specific reason can be said after inspecting the engine. ” But
to conduct an inspection of the motor at an altitude of 6,000 meters,
portable oxygen equipment was required, which was not available on the N-209 , . Consequently,
Levanevsky needed to be reduced to a height at which mechanics could
perform the corresponding work, which meant the entry of the aircraft
into continuous clouds. Pilots and flight mechanics perfectly understood that without lubrication engine failure is inevitable; it’s only a matter of time. The
plane began to decrease, but a few minutes after the start of this
maneuver, a new report was received from the flight mechanic: “The
number of turns of the rightmost outboard engine fell to zero. The motor stopped. “
Due to the failure of the right-hand extreme engine, the effect of asymmetric thrust appeared , , . The plane began to turn and roll to the side of the stopped motor, and the front part of its fuselage began to sink down. As
a result of the turn, the N-209 flew gliding to the left wing, which
increased the drag of the aircraft, and reduced its speed, and this
could lead to the stalling of the N-209 in a tailspin. To
parry the negative effect of asymmetrical thrust of engines, Levanevsky
and Kastanayev used steering controls for the direction (turn) and
rolls (ailerons). Levanevsky
ordered the radio operator Godovikov to prepare for the transfer to the
headquarters of the information about the situation, and the navigator –
to try to find the coordinates of the location of the N-209 on the
route along the solar indicator of the course before the aircraft
entered the clouds. Because of the rapid decline and unstable flight of the aircraft navigator could not cope with the task.
to the latest radiogram received in Moscow on August 13 at 14 hours 32
minutes, the N-209 dropped to an altitude of 4,600 meters, and flew on
three engines in a continuous cloudy conditions. At
this altitude, oxygen was not enough, but to fall even lower Levanevsky
and Kastanayev, perhaps, did not dare – were afraid of a strong icing
of the aircraft. Both mechanics went to the engine. During
his examination, Godovikov and Pobezhimov got progressive signs of
oxygen starvation: nosebleeds, severe weakness, dizziness, fatigue. Despite
this, due to the lack of rotation of the propeller from the oncoming
air flow, they were able to determine that the engine stuck. Bortmehaniks
could not have known that during the take-off of the aircraft, oil was
sucked into the supercharger, because of which the amount of lubricant
in the oil tank of the rightmost outboard engine decreased steadily, and
when it reached its critical value of 60 kilograms, the oil pump
stopped supplying oil from the tank to the lubrication system motor. The lack of lubrication parts of a powerful aircraft engine M-34RNB, quickly led to its jamming.
Scheme lubrication engine M-34RNB .
The mechanics came to the conclusion that it was impossible to repair the engine in flight. They
also understood that even if the plane makes a successful forced
landing on the ice, then without such spare parts, special tools and
tools, such complicated repairs in the Arctic conditions are not
results of inspection of the engine had to be reported urgently to the
commander of the aircraft, but they did not have time to do this. From lack of oxygen, they lost consciousness, and then within 15 minutes, their death occurred. In
the last moment before his death, for a few seconds, Godovikov regained
consciousness, and, with difficulty moving his frostbitten lips,
whispered: “Farewell. I knew that flying was madness. ” Near the dead frozen engine lay the breathless and rapidly cooling bodies of the flight mechanics Pobozhimova and Godovikova.
With every minute of the emergency flight, the situation with the control of the aircraft was seriously complicated. Firstly,
there was the effect of “chatter”, which manifested itself in the form
of vibration and sudden shots of the aircraft in different directions,
especially up and down the height by tens of meters , , . Secondly, at an altitude of 4,600 meters the icing of the aircraft began , . For
example, at the plane of Chkalov, Baidukov and Belyakov, flying the
North Pole in June 1937, it began at an altitude of 5,700 meters . Throughout
the length of the outer main antenna of the radio transmitter N-209, a
solid and massive ice crust formed, which, as a result of the “chatter”,
cut off the antenna.
The location of the main radio antenna of the N-209 aircraft .
radio operator tried to catch on radiopolukompasu bearing on Soviet or
American beacon-finding but also the scope of the rotation mechanism
froze, so much so that the radio operator broke the rotation lever of
the loop antenna. To restore radio communications,
Galkovsky and navigator Levchenko left the front cabin and headed for
the rear of the fuselage of the plane, to use the winch to discharge the
The exit antenna of the aircraft .
(1 – working part of the antenna, 3 – weight, pulling it out of the plane).
either in the emission channel of the antenna an ice cork was formed,
which did not allow it to be released, or the discarded antenna was
almost immediately cut off due to the powerful turbulence of the air
flow. The breakage of the antenna was quite possible. For
example, according to the recollections of the well-known navigator
Valentin Akkuratov, during the night flight to the pole in October 1945,
a similar case of the termination of the final antenna occurred on
their plane . Because of the breakage of both antennas, the N-209 completely
lost its radio communication, and this was tantamount to the imposition
of a death sentence on the entire crew, without the right to hope for a
And at this time in the cockpit pilots Levanevsky and Kastanayev tried to hold the N-209 in a horizontal flight. Because
of the “bumpiness”, icing and asymmetrical thrust of the engines, loads
on the levers and controls of the aircraft increased many times, and
both pilots, who were very tired after 20 hours of a complicated flight,
could not control the flight of N-209 for a long time; their physical strength was running out. Disconnect
the leftmost engine and continue flying on two engines at such
altitude, in continuous cloudiness, with “bolt” and strong counter or
side-to-side wind, when the rate of ice growth on all parts of the
aircraft could reach one, two or more millimeters per minute [ 34], it would be very dangerous. Two engines would not have the power to keep in the air a very icy airplane; he simply fell down with a stone . Therefore, uniquely, the N-209 continued to fly on three engines, but with a rapid decrease in altitude. The plane progressively passed into the regime of unguided flight, in which forced landing was generally unworkable. The final of this drama behind the pole was a swift and deadly airplane strike on the Arctic ice. The fuel remaining in the gas tanks, detonated. During the explosion, the wreckage of the aircraft was scattered several dozen meters from the place of fall. There was no one left alive. Where did the plane crash?
It is impossible to answer exactly this question. It is known that the plane flew over the North Pole over a continuous cloud cover; in that period of flight over an airplane in the cold, crystal-clear and bright blue sky, the sun was dazzling. A
magnetic compass and a gyroscopic semi-compass in the vicinity of the
pole did not work, but navigator Levchenko on the device, called the
solar pointer of the course, determined the further direction of the
flight – it is necessary, according to the flight plan, to fly along the
148 meridian of the western longitude. Following this course, the plane would necessarily have flown to the airport of the city of Fairbanks. However,
52 minutes after the flight of the pole, the plane was already in a
continuous cloud, carrying out a flight on three engines. The
lack of visibility of the sun meant the inability for the navigator to
determine and adjust the further course of the aircraft. The
absence of data on the flight speed of the N-209 in cloud conditions,
the speed and direction of the wind, the rate of change in flight
altitude and icing of the aircraft structure, and the absence of many
other parameters, do not allow us to calculate mathematically the place
where the aircraft falls. One
can only assume that the N-209 crashed at a distance of no more than
200 kilometers after the pole’s conquest, on the 148 meridian of the
western longitude with a deviation from it either to the right or to the
left, but not more than three degrees. The fall of the aircraft took place very quickly in time. Search works in that area of the Arctic were not conducted.
There is one indirect fact, indicating that the plane fell on the ice. In
the English newspapers in the summer of 1947, a report was published
that Icelandic fishermen fishing near the shores of Greenland discovered
frozen boards from the wooden boxes in which the Russian was burned
“AUGUST. 1937 ». Perhaps,
these were fragments from wooden containers, into which were put the
products of fur for their delivery to the USA by plane N-209. It
is quite obvious that no one would put expensive high-quality Russian
furs in canvas bags, because this would lead to the loss of its
presentation. These fur products were intended as gifts to senior American officials, including the US President’s family.
Papanin Expedition, planted by polar aviation aircraft in the area of
the North Pole on May 21, 1937 and named the drifting station “North
Pole-1”, as a result of research has established that the ice of the
Arctic Ocean is constantly moving along a complex trajectory with
gradual emergence into warmer ones area of the North Atlantic Ocean. There is melting of Arctic ice. The trajectory of ice drift is influenced by underwater sea currents and weather conditions over the surface of the ice cover.
Scheme of the currents of the Arctic Ocean .
Scheme of the main average directions of ice drift of the Arctic Ocean .
above diagrams show that the wooden debris of the boxes could easily
have been carried by ice to the shores of Greenland from the North Pole
area, and the metal parts of the crashed aircraft as the ice melted
gradually sank to the ocean floor. Additional
evidence confirming that the fragments of the boxes could belong to the N-209 is the fact that in the archives of the North Sea Route
Administration there is no information on the death of any other
aircraft, as well as ships in the Arctic and the Far North in August
1937. [53 ].
first – the plane fell in the territory of Yakutia in the Lake
Sebyan-Kuel area, which is at a distance of 2,500 kilometers from the
pole . The
second – the plane flew to the coastline of the American continent and
fell into the water near the Point Oliktok Point between the islands of
Thetis Island and Spy Island at a distance of 2,000 kilometers from the
North Pole.  Third, the plane crashed near the Ellesmere Island of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (750 kilometers from the pole) . In
all three directions, at the end of the twentieth century and at the
beginning of the twenty-first century, search works were undertaken,
which, as might be expected, were not successful. No material evidence of the death of the aircraft and its crew was found. These
search engines, in addition to their belief in their hypothesis, should
first have had a look at the basics of aerodynamics , , . On
three, and even more so on two engines, the N-209 aircraft, which had
serious piloting failures , could not fly 750-2,500 kilometers in
those difficult weather conditions. And
researchers who believe that the plane made an emergency landing on the
Arctic ice, and then the mechanics without having spare parts and
special tools, were able to repair it, after which the plane was able to
take off, we can offer to conduct a simple practical experiment. To
stop your car in winter at an air temperature of -15 or -20 degrees
Celsius, best of all during a strong gusty wind raising snow vortices
that would cause burning and painful injections on open areas of the
skin of the face and hands. Wait until the engine has cooled down to ambient temperature. After
that, completely disassemble it to the last nut, in order to install a
new piston group in it, which naturally does not appear in the trunk of
the car. Then,
frostbitten by the time the fingers, it is necessary to assemble the
motor again, so that after that it also earns, at the same time, do not
forget to fill the engine crankcase with engine oil from the spare
canister, which also does not appear in the trunk of the car. If you can not start the engine, then do not despair, call for mobile communications tow truck. And if your mobile phone is out of the network, I do not even know what to advise in this case. But it does not matter, the most important thing is to personally
verify by experience that the version on the repair of the N-209
aircraft that refused to fly in the ice of the Arctic has failed.
headquarters of the flight in Moscow received 19 radiograms, which, as
they were received, were published in the Soviet media of those years. The
last radio message from the board of the N-209 aircraft, received on
August 13 at 14 hours 32 minutes Moscow time, contained the following
text: “The right-most engine was out of order due to a malfunction of
the oil system. We go in a continuous cloud cover. Heavy. The height is 4,600 meters. Wait. Levanevsky “. In the city of Seattle (Washington, State of Washington), there was also a radiogram No. 19 . It coincided on the main content with the Moscow message, but had at the end of the text a line from the figures: “48 3400 92”. This
digital line is text, but encrypted with the help of a special code
used by the radio operator N-209 to simplify the radio exchange and
shorten the radio communication time during the flight.
A fragment of the binary code with its decoding .
The text of the radiogram adopted in Seattle (from the archive of AA Vartanyan) , . Pay attention to the word “travelo” – this is how the American radio operator recorded the Russian word “hard.”
The Americans transmitted
the information they received from Seattle to Fairbanks, where the
representatives of the USSR were located, who were supposed to
coordinate with the American side the actions to ensure the flight. Among them was the meteorologist M.V. Belyakov, whose main responsibility was to compile weather reports for the crew of the N-209 after the flight of the North Pole. He redirected a message to Moscow from Seattle.
sent to Moscow from Fairbanks by the meteorologist M. Belyakov (the
fragment of the code table at the bottom right) .
to the table of codes, the string of digits “48 3400 92” can be
partially decoded as follows: 48 – “landing we will do”, “92” is
“Levanevsky”, but there were no groups of figures “3400” in the table. What did “3400” mean? This is the first and widely known mystery of the nineteenth radiogram.
let’s compare the text of the telegram from Seattle and its text,
redirected to Moscow from Fairbanks, and a sensational discovery awaits
the first radiogram, signed by a man named REED, was indicated by the
code “28 3600”, that is, the altitude of the flight is 3,600 meters. In a telegram signed by V.M. Belyakov – “28 4600”, that is, the altitude of the flight is 4 600 meters. For a distressed aircraft, the altitude difference is significant – 1,000 meters. How can one explain such a discrepancy in the texts of telegrams, and what content should they believe in? This is the second riddle of radiogram No. 19, discovered by the author of this publication.
Attempts were made to decipher the mysterious chain of four figures “3400”. On
the American meteorological map of the Arctic Ocean, divided at that
time conditionally into squares with the corresponding numbering, there
was a square under the number “34”. It was suggested that it was there that Levanevsky decided to perform the forced landing of the N-209 . However, it was not known whether such a map was from navigator Levchenko, and that means “00”. In
general, the square “34” is quite a vast territory, where it is very
difficult to find it without exact coordinates of the landing site of
The squares on the American meteorological map (square 34 is hatched) . There was an assumption that “00” is the approximate time of landing in this square (at 0 hours, 0 minutes). But,
firstly, the plane flew in emergency mode, and at any time there could
be a situation when the H-209 would have to sit ahead of schedule. Secondly,
what time is indicated – either Moscow or Greenwich civil time
(Greenwich Civil Time abbreviated GCT) on the territory of the Alaska
Peninsula. Time zones are different and the time values in them do not coincide.
is an assumption that “3400” meant the indication of a new course – 34
degrees north latitude and 00 degrees west longitude . It is wrong and even absurd. The
plane flew in a solid cloud cover and the solar pointer of the course
did not work, the magnetic compass and the gyroscopic half-compass did
not work. Without these instruments, the navigator could not determine the new course of the N-209. And most importantly, this direction points to Africa, to the province of Naama (Algeria).
NEW VERSION OF DECODING “3400”.
the flight of the North Pole, Levanevsky’s plane was in the American
Arctic zone, and therefore the radio operator made radio contact with
Moscow and radio stations in the territories of the USSR and the
peninsula of Alaska using only the international Morse code, because the
American radio operators did not understand the microphone transmission
in Russian would.
morse code is a different quantitative combination of signs in the form
of a “dot” and a “dash” corresponding to a particular letter or number.
English character Morse code English character
Fragment of Morse code (Morse code) table . Using this table, you can read the text of the radiogram from Seattle.
each other by a pause, the duration of which is equal to the mental
transmission of three “points” by the radio operator, and the words or
groups of digits are separated by a seven-point pause .
can assume that the American radio operator in Seattle could not
understand the length of the pauses between the figures due to
interference in the air, and therefore recorded “3400”. If
this assumption is true, then the string of digits should look like “34
00”, and then the last digital message in the radiogram from Seattle
should look like: “48 34 00 92”, which completely corresponds in its
structure to the two-digit digital cipher used by the radio operator of
the aircraft N-209 during the flight.
The meaning of the group of figures “00” has so far not been objectively explained. You
can try to establish the meaning of this sign by reviewing the last
nineteenth radiogram received by the headquarters of the flight in
Moscow. At the end of her text, the words “… Wait. Levanevsky. “, , which correspond to the digital symbols” 00 “and” 92 “in the radiogram obtained in Seattle. Thus,
“48 34 00 92” can be decoded: “We’ll land the landing (48) because of
the refusal (34), wait for messages (00) Levanevsky (92)”. The content of this text is logical and convincing in its meaning,
and, perhaps, it is the answer to the first riddle of radiogram No. 19.
It should be specially noted that the intention to land does not mean that it was completed. Firstly,
the overcast, which, most likely, spread to the surface of the ice,
would not allow the N-209 to enter the glide path (the trajectory of the
aircraft’s movement at approach to landing). Secondly,
because of the asymmetrical thrust of the engines, icing and “blubber”,
when the load on the controls increased many times compared with the
usual flight conditions, struggling for the survivability of the
aircraft physically exhausted pilots Levanevsky and Kastanayev lost
control of it. There was an indiscriminate fall of the N-209, which stopped the
Arctic ice, which left no chance for the survival of any of the crew
“28 3600” CORRECTED TO “28 4600”.
emergency radiogram received in Moscow was immediately redirected to
the Soviet office in Fairbanks, and it indicated the altitude of the
flight of 4,600 meters. Simultaneously
with the message from the USSR, there came a radiogram from Seattle,
the text of which claimed that the altitude of the flight was 3,600
meters. Representatives of the mission were in a difficult situation. In the Land of Soviets, the first year of mass repression took place; people were arrested and shot on absolutely absurd charges. And
representatives of Soviet Russia in Fairbanks were frightened – if you
redirected the text of the American radiogram with the code “28 3600” to
the headquarters of the flight, then this could cause distrust to them
from the NKVD authorities with unpredictable consequences in the future.
could have been suspected of colluding with US intelligence, and even
recruiting them by the security services of the Alaskan Eskimos, with
the sole purpose of hampering the search for Levanevsky’s crew. Therefore,
the heads of the representative office decided instead of “28 3600” to
indicate “28 4600”, so that there was no discrepancy with the Moscow
report. V.M. Belyakov this instruction was implemented in a telegram sent from Fairbanks to the headquarters of the flight. This is a possible answer to the second riddle of the last radiogram.
The question naturally arises, what was the true altitude of the flight? Most likely, one should believe the text of the American radio message. After
the failure of the engine, Levanevsky’s aircraft began to decrease from
6,000 meters to the height that would allow access to the mechanics of
the engine; and the fulfillment of this condition most likely corresponded to a height of 3,600 meters. Of course, it also felt a significant lack of oxygen, but significantly less than at an altitude of 4,600 meters. However,
the death of the mechanics from oxygen starvation during the inspection
of the stopped engine could have come at this altitude.
August-September 1937, some radio stations received obscure radio
signals or scraps of radio messages of typical content “we do not have
an orientation,” “poor earshot,” “cloudy weather,” “expect messages,”
“difficulties with the radio transmitter,” and the like. However, they could not belong to the N-209 aircraft, who had suffered a fatal catastrophe by that time. Most
likely, these illegible signals and fragments of radio messages
originated from unknown Soviet or American planes that carried out daily
flights in those regions of the Arctic basin of the Arctic Ocean, the
Far North and the northern coast of the Alaska Peninsula, carrying out
planned delivery of cargo, mail or by performing meteorological reconnaissance. In
addition, already on August 14, 1937, the search for the missing
Levanevsky aircraft was organized from the American continent, and it
was likely that fragments of such radiograms could also be recorded from
these search aircraft. Certainly,
each such received radio message was analyzed by the headquarters of
the flight in Moscow with the involvement of experienced polar pilots
and Arctic researchers, highly skilled radio operators and
meteorologists, but this information was always deemed unreliable after a
thorough discussion. There were grounds for this.
For example, the subjectivity of radio operators when receiving messages; they believed that they were hearing signals from the N-209 radio station. Honored polar pilot of the USSR, Hero of the Soviet Union, I.P. Mazuruk,
almost thirty years after the death of the plane, confessed: “I do not
really know radio, but put me and the receiver, in those full of tragedy
days, I would also hear these signals. My faith, hope, stubbornness would give them to me … “. Another example. In
Yakutia, at 4:00 am local time, when it was already on August 14 (in
Moscow it was 22:00, on August 13) took the text of a radio message of
mysterious content: “I’m going to two … I had to go down … I see ice
mountains ahead” [3 ]. However, the phrase “go for two” could relate to a three-engined aircraft, in which one engine refused. In
the Far North for a long time the aircraft of the German production of
Junkers, which had three engines, was operated and received the
designation “YUG-1” in Soviet aviation.
The aircraft of the Soviet polar aviation YUG-1 .
was necessary to decrease” – this is quite an adequate decision of the
pilot, due to the need to continue the flight in an emergency situation.
The phrase “I see the ice mountains ahead”. In
his memoirs, the chief polar flagship, the navigator of the USSR,
Valentin Akkuratov, who had many years of experience in Arctic
exploration, said: “When we returned from the night flight to the pole,
at the dawn we saw ahead of the ice mountains that should not have been
on our route. Then it turned out that cumulus clouds were created in this illusion “. And perhaps the pilot of this unknown aircraft saw a mirage in the form of a mountainous surface of the island or continent. The
polar mirage is an amazing and mysterious natural phenomenon, which is
still fixed in the northern latitudes, but does not have a convincing
scientific explanation. The most famous mirages in the history of the exploration of the
North are Andreev Land, Sannikov Land, Garissa Land, which were never
can not present any official document confirming the authenticity of
the adoption of a particular radiogram after the loss of radio
communication with the N-209. The archive of the flight headquarters disappeared without a trace during the Second World War . Oral
memories of contemporaries of those tragic days are not reliable
sources of information, since human memory has the properties of
forgetfulness and loss of adequate perception of events of past years. Subjective
memories introduce search engines to serious errors, currently
confirmed by the fact that so far no traces of the N-209 accident have
been found either in the vicinity of Ellesmere Island of the Canadian
Arctic archipelago or in the area between the Tethys and Spay islands on
the northern coast of Alaska, nor near Lake Sebyan-Kuel in Yakutia. Therefore, the conclusion of the Governmental Commission of the USSR
on the search for Levanevsky, published in the Pravda newspaper on
August 13, 1938 , is the only fact of official recognition of the
death of the N-209 and its crew near the North Pole due to engine
In August 2017, 80 years have passed since the launch of the N-209 and its subsequent disappearance in the Arctic. The undertaken searches were unsuccessful. Levanevsky’s
flight, which was to be the first commercial flight laying the
foundation for establishing in the future permanent air communications
between the USSR and the USA via the North Pole, had a sad end. The main culprit for the disaster is Levanevsky, who irresponsibly
took part in preparations for the flight, starting with the choice of
an aircraft for this purpose, which had serious piloting flaws and
ending with an arrogant attitude towards the crew members, which did not
help to establish mutual understanding and work out the coordination of
actions between them.
July 2017, another 80th anniversary of another tragic event, connected
with the disappearance of the Lockheed-Electra 10E, was 80 years old. On
this plane, the American female pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator
Fred Noonan, known to the entire civilized world (except for the USSR),
made a round-the-world flight with intermediate landings. On
the penultimate stage of the route, Lockheed-Elektra took off from the
island of Lae New Guinea and headed for the American island Howland in
the Pacific, where it was supposed to land for refueling. On this way the plane with the crew disappeared without a trace; any traces of the catastrophe were not found. But, this is another intriguing mystery of history, which can be
examined in detail in the publication , which indicates the possible
cause of the disappearance of the aircraft and the alleged place of its
death.© Vasily Vladimirovich SapozhnikovSnezhinskApril 15 – October 14, 2017.
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