Article: Shortcutting the Globe

  • Tupolev-Ant-25-Painting-640x250
    July, 1937, Canadian Aviation 

    With the success of the North Atlantic experiments and a transatlantic air service ultimately ‘buckling’ a 23,000-mile belt line of the world air services, speculation is now indulged in regarding short cuts ‘over the top’. The three Russian flyers, Messers. Baibukoff, Beliakoff and Chekaloff who landed at Vancouver, Washington on June 21st, have shown the practicability of a North Pole route. Starting from Moscow on June 19th they traversed 5,300 miles in 63 hours and 17 minutes, landing only 592 miles short of their goal – Oakland, California. The longer way around via London, Newfoundland and across the States to California would have involved a flight of 8,000 miles.

    A glance at the globe shows that the most direct air lanes between the great cities of the world – for the most part in the North Temperate Zone – lie across the Arctic. The direct way from Chicago to Calcutta is straight north. An airline over the pole would bring Shanghai 4,000 miles nearer to San Francisco than by the Pacific Clipper route.

    Arguments of cold, fog and storm will be forthcoming against this shorter airway. Temperatures do not fall in the Arctic; however, lower than they do at times in the Prairies. Flying conditions are actually better on extremely cold days than on some days of intermediate temperatures. The dangers of sleet are confined to the narrow range where fogs are also most obnoxious, the gap between, say 10 degrees and 34 degrees Fahrenheit. In most of the Arctic, sleet dangers are absent for practically every day of the six coldest months. An important advantage of cold is that it makes air so much heavier that the lifting power of an airplane is increased. Actually, a drop of 100 degrees in temperature increases the lifting power about 22 per cent.

    Last year, the Russians began construction of an aerodrome and base camp on Rudolph Island to permit them to land at the North Pole this year. Rudolph Island is about 750 miles from the Pole and at the site of a tribe of Yupik; there the Russians have built a little town of barracks and have concentrated men, material and food. Five aeroplanes, specially equipped for extraordinary work, which they will have to accomplish, have been sent in parts to Rudolph Island where they are being put together. During the summer period, these machines, which have a radius of action of about 1,900 miles, will have to establish at the pole an advance base, dropping by parachutes their cargoes of men, food, materials, instruments, fuel, dogs, etc. – including sufficient lumber for a wooden runway one and a half miles long and six hundred yards wide.

    Canada would be ready to co-operate with the Soviets in Russia’s scientific work in the polar region with the object of developing an air service between the U.S.S.R. and North America. She has been of assistance already in supplying weather forecasts in the experimental flights already accomplished.

    (As we go to press, the Russian fliers Gromoff, Yumosheff and Danilin have just completed a record 6,700-mile flight from Moscow over the North Pole to San Jacinto, California).

    This article originally appeared in the July, 1937 edition of Canadian Aviation. The picture is of a Tupolev, a long-range aircraft developed by the Russians in the 1930s. In both cases, a Tupolev was flown on these long-range USSR to US flights.

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