Monday, Oct 23 2017
All Cities
Choose Your City
'Today Siberia is a vast region of bustling metropolises and magnificent landscapes'
A. J. Haywood

Daughter honours her pilot father, killed after safely crash landing US plane in Arctic

By The Siberian Times reporter
16 August 2016

Avelina Antsiferova fulfilled her life's dream when she sat in cockpit of wartime Douglas C-47, 69 years after kissing her papa goodbye for last time.

Avelina Antsiferova with Glen Moss (right) and Igor Spiridenko (first from the left). Picture: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

Before travelling to the Siberian Arctic to see the well-preserved remains of her father Soviet hero Maxim Tyurikov's aircraft, she had said: 'If I can touch this plane, then my life is not lived in vain.' 

The pilot had saved 32 lives with a skilled emergency landing in the Arctic, but then perished after bravely setting out on a trek in atrocious weather to organise a rescue party for the survivors.

Avelina was only six years old at the time, and his death left her an orphan, since her mother had died a few months earlier. 

Douglas

The Douglas has lain in the Arctic wastes since 1947, preserved by the extreme cold. Picture: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

The aircraft was received from the American government under the wartime Lend-Lease Agreement but it suffered problems with both engines as Captain Tyurikov flew it on a polar flight on 23 April 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War. 

All passengers and crew survived the perilous landing but three days later, Avelina's father feared the marooned men, women and children would not be found by rescuers, and he set out on foot to search for the nearest settlement. 

He and his party were never seen alive again, but the rest of the group, who stayed by the American-made aircraft, were rescued after Soviet leader Josef Stalin personally ordered the searches to continue, sending leading pilots from Moscow to hunt for survivors. 

The Douglas has lain in the Arctic wastes since 1947, preserved by the extreme cold. 

Avelina Antsiferova on her way to tundra


Avelina holds father's portrait

Avelina Antsiferova on her way to the crash site. Picture: Enisey TV

'You can understand my deep feelings, when I saw this silver-coloured airplane from above,' said the pensioner, who flew in by helicopter with a Russian-American team which has now dismantled it before reassembling it in regional capital Krasnoyarsk.

'It was like a bird lying outspread in the tundra. All my feelings awakened in me. There was quite a cool, northern wind. This is the far north, after all, and we even saw a reindeer running in the tundra far away. 

'I climbed into the cabin, where my father had been at the helm.'

Seven decades after last seeing her father, she sat in his cockpit from where he had piloted a safe emergency landing at the climax of an exhausting five hour flight in appalling conditions with first one and then the second engine malfunctioning.  

'I touched all this, I felt everything,' she said. 'All this was so dear to me. I had dreamed for so long of seeing his plane, but I was so lucky to be able to get inside it. It was such an emotional moment. 

Cockpit


Cockpit


Inside the plane

'I climbed into the cabin, where my father had been at the helm.' Picture: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

'I had been waiting for this moment all my life. Over the years I studied the story of my father, and searched through the documents in archives. I am so very proud  of my father. 

'He was very experienced pilot, and he managed to land this plane, so that no-one was injured. There was also 850 kg of cargo on board, which also remained safe. He managed to land in this tundra on one working overheated engine. 

'Yet in four days with no sign of rescuers, he and two other men from the crew (mechanic Viktor Pismarev, 33, and radio operator Alexey Smirnov, 34) went to search for the nearest settlement. 

'The story is that there were five amnestied prisoners among the passengers. Initially father did not want to take them onboard. And after the landing, they started to get resentful and threatening, demanding a search for help. So three members of the crew, headed by my father and some passengers, went to search for a settlement.'

Avelina Antsiferova and Dmitry Skobelev

Avelina Antsiferova and Dmitry Skobelev, son-in-law of Tatyana Smirnova, daughter of radio operator Alexey Smirnov. Picture: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

In truth, they did not know their location. 'My father took the map and the compass,' she said. 'He left the flare gun to the second pilot, Sergey Anoshko (aged 24) who stayed with the main part of passengers near the plane.'

She said: 'When papa's group went out, a blizzard started and did not stop for about ten days. So they were lost there.'

The remains of the rest of the group have still not been found, but Avelina's father's body was discovered six years later. He was identified because his daughter, then six, had inscribed a book he had with him. 

'Only in 1953 the remains of my father had ben found. A reindeer herder was there with his deer and suddenly found him. There were documents and a notebook with my name - Tyurikova Avelina, I had written it there. So my father was identified. 

joint Russian-American expedition sets out to bring home crashed wartime Douglas C-47 from tundra


 joint Russian-American expedition sets out to bring home crashed wartime Douglas C-47 from tundra


Engine

'When the search operation has started, the main hunt was around Khatanga, as the plane was due to land there first.' Pictures: The Siberian Times, Kirill Skurikhin

'He was buried at Troitskoye cemetery (Krasnoyarsk) with full honours, next to my mother. She had died six months before my father disappeared. My brother Vladislav was two years old then. So we left with our grandparents. 

'The passengers wrote a letter to my grandmother Maria and grandfather Dmitry Tyurikov, thanking them for what their son did. My grandparents were about 60 then, but grandfather Dmitry died soon, the grief was too much for him.

'So we were left with grandmother Maria then. My father was not her own son, he was her step-son. She raised him since he was two years old. And she raised us too.'

Avelina revealed other intriguing aspects of the search that finally saved those who had stayed beside the plane, including Stalin's personal intervention. 

Fedor Shatrov Vladimir Malkov

Renowned pilots from Moscow, who took part in rescue operation: Fedor Shatrov (left) and Vladimir Malkov (right). Pictures: Severnaya Pochta

A 19 year old radio operator in Volochanka, 180 km from the crash site, and where Tyurikov was heading when his plane came down, was convinced that she had heard this particular plane on her crackling listening equipment.

The searches had been made closer to Khatanga, 305 kilometres away. 'Lidia Torgashina was just 19, but she was sure that she had heard the plane, and that the rescuers were looking in the wrong place,' she said.

'When the search operation has started, the main hunt was around Khatanga, as the plane was due to land there first. So it was believed the Douglas would be found somewhere nearby. 

'The wife of Alexei Smirnov, the radio operator on the plane, had sent a telegram to Stalin, demanding not to stop the searches, as the people could be alive. Stalin agreed and ordered the continuation of the searches and also ordered that renowned pilots from Moscow be sent there.

Douglas


Dismantling Douglas

Avelina saw her father's Douglas shortly before a skilled team began dissembling the aircraft to transport it to Krasnoyarsk. Pictures: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

'Lidia told to the pilots that she has heard Tyurikov's plane somewhere close to Volochanka. She told them that this plane had a special sound and she could clearly distinguish it on the air. No one listened to her except for famous pilot Fedor Shatrov, who had come from Moscow. 

'He took her words into account and as a result the plane was found 180 kilometres from Volochanka.'

Those who remained beside the stricken Douglas had to wait three weeks before they were found. Eventually they were spotted by the crew of a plane piloted by legendary airman Shatrov, a Hero of the Soviet Union, on 11 May.

Two days later a plane with skis landed at the site to ferry them back to civilisation. Rescue pilot Vladimir Malkov described his welcome from the desperate survivors as he landed: 'So many tears of joy. Strangers hugged and kissed their saviors. Unshaven men, women and children were crying.

Maxim Tyurikov

Maxim Tyurikov took the plane down for a rough tundra landing on snow with a depth of 1.5 metres, with considerable damage to the aircraft but everyone on board safe. Picture: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

'Even I almost shed a tear seeing this scene.'

This Douglas C-47 DL SkyTrain (serial number 42-32892, #9118) was produced in Long-Beach, California and passed to the US Air force on 24 February 1943. It was handed over to the USSR under the wartime Lend-Lease agreement on 12 March 1943 at Fairbanks, Alaska with the registration USSR-N238. 

Its wartime service saw it based in Krasnoyarsk, and it was used for ice reconnaissance in the Kara Sea. Then it was passed to Polar Civil Aviation. 

At the time of its loss the plane under Tyurikov's command was on a return flight Kosisty island to Krasnoyarsk with stopovers in Khatanga, Dudinka, and Turukhansk with - officially - 26 passengers onboard.

In fact, there were 32, some without tickets, along with 852 kilograms of luggage. The weather was challenging: densely overcast, cloud at 1,000 metres,  snow and visibility of 1 km.

Pismarev Alexei Smirnov

Mechanic Viktor Pismarev (left) and radio operator Alexey Smirnov (right) got lost in tundra. Picture: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

Problems started soon after departure from Kosisty island: there was a drop in oil pressure in the left engine, and the temperature was rising. The crew could not return to Kostisty because of bad weather and they took the decision to go on to Khatanga and land there. 

Yet due to bad weather they also passed Khatanga  and continued the flight, aiming for the nearest airport at Volochanka. After five hours in the air, the Douglas 'fell into a freezing zone' and the crew changed course in search of better weather. 

They tried to identify their location visually, but could not, as by now it was late night. During the long flight, the right engine now overheated.

Tyurikov took the plane down for a rough tundra landing on snow with a depth of 1.5 metres, with considerable damage to the aircraft but everyone on board safe. In fact, they were 180 km short of Volochanka, a village in the Avam district on the Taimyr peninsula, some 1,770 kilometres north of Krasnoyarsk.

Memorial

A memorial to those who perished has been left at the tundra crash site. Picture: Krasnoyarsk branch of RGO

The plane has remained at its landing site ever since, intact apart from a few missing souvenirs taken by passing hunters and very occasional polar tourists over the decades in this remote territory.

Avelina saw her father's Douglas shortly before a skilled team began dissembling the aircraft to transport it to Krasnoyarsk.

An expedition by the Russian Geographical Society in Siberia, working with air company AeroGeo, are now moving the plane, which will become the centrepiece of a new museum. 

In the group was American pilot and Douglas expert Glen Moss. A memorial to those who perished has been left at the tundra crash site. 

Avelina, a mother of two, worked for 34 years an engineer with the Yenisei River Shipping Line, while her brother Vladislav Tyurikov, was a captain at Krasnoyarsk shipyard.

Comments (3)

And as amazing as all the facts in this article here, there's something else, as well, that was left out but in the CNN article: Maxim Tyurikov's body was found 120 KM (74.5 miles) from the plane. That's a huge distance for that kind of wilderness, especially in such harsh weather conditions. He was a real hero.
Brian, Houston
18/10/2016 03:27
0
0
At last! Someone who undnestards! Thanks for posting!
At last! Someone who undnestards! Thanks for posting!, At last! Someone who undnestards! Thanks for posting!
29/09/2016 03:13
0
0
Time means nothing when the heart is searching for closure. Thank you to everyone who helped Avelina fulfull her life's dream. I hope Avelina and Vladislav can now feel peace and their father, mother and grandparents can rest in peace.
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
27/08/2016 06:59
13
0
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


Features

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR67.89USD57.51GBP75.53Other...