This week, Southwest Washington marks the anniversary of the historic flight that touched down 75 years ago, bridging Russia and the United States.
When Valery Chkalov and his crew staggered out of their experimental plane, they were exhausted and freezing after a 63-hour flight over the Arctic. They'd survived one of the most hazardous flights in history to that point -- and the first non-stop journey over the North Pole.
Clark County Treasurer Doug Lasher is President of a committee that's helping organize an anniversary celebration.
Lasher said, "They were without a defroster. It got very very cold in their cockpit. They had ice forming on their instruments."
Only 11 gallons of fuel remained in a plane whose fuel made up over half its weight upon takeoff. Knowing they couldn't make their planned landing in San Francisco, the crew considered Portland's Swan Island. But, spooked by the swarm of onlookers gathered to see them land, they opted instead for Vancouver's Pearson Field, where a smaller crowd waited to receive them.
The anniversary will be marked with a full day of events at Pearson on June 20, starting at 8:22 a.m., the moment the plane landed. The aviators' families are traveling from the former Soviet Union for the ceremonies.
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