On June 20, 1937, children stopped playing on the railroad tracks near Pearson Airfield and ran home to get their parents. A news photographer fought traffic on the bridge over the Columbia River between Portland Oregon and Vancouver Washington as he rushed to Pearson Airfield. Why? A Russian plane, an ANT-25 had just landed at Pearson.
The ANT-25 plane, piloted by Valery P. Chkalov, Georgy Baidukov, co-pilot and Aleksandr Belyakov, Navigator had just completed the first transpolar flight in history flying from Moscow, Russia over the North Pole and landing in Vancouver, Washington, USA. While Vancouver was not their planned final destination, a critically low fuel tank forced the crew to search for a place to safely land and to protect the plane from eager souvenir hunters. Pearson Airfield was the closest and best solution.
Valery P. Chkalov, daredevil Russian test pilot, confident and handsome captured the hearts of the Russian people then and now. Kelly Sills writes, “ Valery Pavlovich Chkalov, born in 1904 and died in 1938, is the most famous Russian you’ve never heard of. But ask the Russian on the street who is the most famous pilot in their long and glorious history of aviation prowess, and the answer you’ll hear is Valery Chkalov.”