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Sunday, May 22, 2016


Stalin's Route
I'm reading The Shipping News by Anne Proulx and on page 209 she writes:
"Vikings down the cracking winds, steering through fog by the polarized light of sun-stones."
Sun-stones? There are rocks that are called sun-stones, and you might be able to use them for navigation. Reading about them leads to the solar compass, which leads to flying over the poles (where magnetic compasses are not much help), which leads to the first flight across the Arctic ice cap. And since navigation is complicated and airplanes are thrilling, we'll put aside solar navigation for now and focus on the airplane.

ANT-25 at Pearson Field
     That first transpolar flight was made in 1937 by three Russians flying an ANT-25. The ANT-25 was very large, single engine monoplane, built specifically to set long distance records. It had huge fuel tanks and a relatively tiny engine. Top speed was like 120 MPH. Empty it weighed four tons, loaded with fuel it weighed eight. Power to weight ratio was one horsepower to 20 pounds. A modern Cessna 172 has a ratio of one to 15.
    They built a special runway in Moscow for it. Two and half miles long and sloped, though I can't imagine they could put enough slope in a runway that long to make any difference.
    And then they flew it to the United States (see flight path above). They were hoping to make California, but problems with the aircraft led them to say Oregon is far enough. They were going to land at Swan Island but when they flew over they saw a large crowd of people and mindful of what happened to Charles Lindbergh when he landed in Paris*, they opted for the military airfield across the river in Vancouver: Pearson Field.
    In 1974 some Russian fishermen paid a visit to Pearson Field. Their hosts were embarrassed enough by the lack of a monument that they had one erected.
    "In 1989, Tupolev design bureau built an ANT-25 replica for Monino aviation museum."

Fiddler's Green has a few stories about the ANT-25.
Diesel Punks dot org has a pretty good photo essay.

* "A crowd estimated at 150,000 spectators stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for "nearly half an hour". While some damage was done to the Spirit (especially to the fine linen, silver-painted fabric covering on the fuselage) by souvenir hunters, both Lindbergh and the Spirit were eventually "rescued" from the mob by a group of French military fliers, soldiers, and police, who took them both to safety in a nearby hangar." - Wikipedia

1 comment:

Ole Phat Stu said...

Nice polar projection map!
SWMBO is going on an expedition next month,
counting the polar bears on Spitzbergen (=Svalbard) :-)