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Across the North Pole for the First Time

The Tupolev ANT-25 airplane was designed in 1933 with a specific purpose – to break a flight distance record.

The furthest flight it performed was from Moscow to San Jacinito, California, via the North Pole – 11 500 km. The pilot Mikhail Gromov and his crew spent 62 hours in the air.

Their flight was scheduled just several weeks after another team tried to set the record in the same kind of aircraft. Valery Chkalov and his crew departed from Moscow, but ran out of fuel and had to land near Portland in the North of the USA. Gromov and his team figured out that every extra kilogram on the board shortens the range for 3 kilometers. Pursuing extra kilometeres they got rid of everything superfluous like extra rations, salt, an inflatable boat for landing on water, rifles, warm clothes, extra oil… This let them to take fuel for extra 1500 km.

One day after the take-off they were passing over the North Pole. When you are above the Pole you cannot use a compass, and the navigator had to go by the Sun only. The deviation of 10% from a straight line would be critical.

They reached San-Francisco, a planned landing spot, but still having enough fuel continued the flight almost to the Mexican border. They tried to land in San Diego, but two cows on the runway – the airplane did not scare them off – made them look for another place. The farmer whose pasture they used for landing at the end made a good business out of it. He fenced about the airplane and started selling tickets to his neighbors for coming close to this miraculous aircraft. Bottled fuel from ANT-25 tanks was a souvenir to buy at the site.

The original ANT-25-1 used for this flight was later used as a target for bombers trainings (sic!), and there is a replica in Monino Airforce Museum.

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