Rimantas Antanas Stankevičius (July 26, 1944 in Marijampolė, Lithuania – September 9, 1990 in Salgareda, Italy) was a Lithuanian cosmonaut who test flew Soviet space shuttle Buran and its test vehicles. He was killed in a crash of his Su-27 fighter plane during an airshow in Salgareda.
In 1966 he has graduated from Chernigov Higher Aviation School. After that he served as an USSR pilot in Germany, Egypt, Turkmenia. In 1975 Stankevičius became a test pilot. He has accomplished spin testing of MiG-29. He flew 57 types of aircraft and had over 4000 hours of flying experience. In 1982 he was graded as a 1st class test-pilot.
In 1979 he was assigned to prepare for 11F35 (Buran, USSR space shuttle). In February 1982 he passed all the required exams and became the first Lithuanian cosmonaut. After September 1984 he trained to fly the space shuttle Buran. Stankevičius accomplished 14 test-flights with Buran's counterpart BTS-02 aircraft and 6 taxi tests with Buran. He was both the pilot and the commander of the space shuttle.
In 1990 Rimantas Stankevičius participated the Everett Air Show with a Su-27 fighter jet. Soon after his return home, he went to Italy to replace another USSR pilot in Salgareda Air Show. On September 9, during a flight in the show in a Su-27 he started a loop in a lower altitude than he estimated and made an unintentional touchdown. He had an option to eject from the aircraft, leaving the plane to crash into the crowd, yet he chose not to and died in the crash, saving lives of hundreds of peoples at the show. The crash resulted in only one fatality aside from the pilot.
Stankevicius, along with Soviet Cosmonauts Igor Volk and Sergei Tresvyatskiy worked closely with Americans in the late 1980s to improve relations during the Cold War. The three were involved in, what is believed to be the first tandom flight with Soviet SU-27 fighter planes and American F-16's in history in July, 1990 (before the break up of the USSR) at the Opening Ceremonies of the Goodwill Games in Seattle. The three also flew the first Americans, (8 members of the Organizing Committee of the 1990 Goodwill Games) since World War Two in an Aluetion 62 from Seattle to Petropovlosk, USSR in 1989. Petropovsosk was one of the most important and secretive air and submarine bases in the USSR. ref ISBN 1-883697-67-0 "Who the Hell is Bob?" pages 255-260; 278-280
Stankevičius is buried in Kaunas, Lithuania.
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