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Russian: Сигизмунд Александрович Леваневский|
Polish: Zygmunt Lewoniewski
May 15, 1902|
August 13, 1937 (aged 35)|
|Years of service||1918 - 1930|
Sigizmund Aleksandrovich Levanevsky (Russian: Сигизмунд Александрович Леваневский; Polish: Zygmunt Lewoniewski) (May 15, 1902 – August 13, 1937) was a Soviet aircraft pilot of Polish origin and a Hero of the Soviet Union (1934).
Life and career
Sigizmund Levanevsky was born to a Polish family in St. Petersburg. His brother Józef Lewoniewski (1899-1933) was a Polish military and sports pilot. Sigizmund took part in the October Revolution on the Bolshevik side, later took part in the civil war in Russia, serving in the Red Army since 1918. In 1925 he graduated from the Sevastopol Naval Aviation School and became a military pilot. In 1930 he was withdrawn to reserve.
Levanevsky became a pilot for the Glavsevmorput' (Main Northern Maritime Route's Administration) - providing ice reconnaissance for shipping convoys in the eastern part of the northeast passage. In July 1933 he achieved his first international fame during the evacuating flight from Anadyr to Nome of the American pilot James Mattern who had crash landed to the west of Anadyr during his attempt to break the record for a solo rtw flight.[clarification needed] The following year Levanevsky and fellow-pilot Mavriky Slepnyov traveled to Alaska to obtain a pair of Consolidated Fleetster transport planes for use in the aerial rescue efforts for the passengers of the crushed steamship Cheliuskin. During the March 24th flight from Nome, Levanevsky's plane was forced down at Kolyuchin Bay on the north Chukotka coast and during landing its skis were ripped off. Slepnyov evacuate him to the operations base at Vankarem but without a plane Levanevsky did not participate in the rescue efforts. However, he would later shuttle the ill captain of the Cheliuskin to Alaska for emergency attention - for which he was awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.
North Pole flights
On August 3, 1935 Levanevsky and a two-man crew (co-pilot Georgy Baidukov and navigator Victor Levchenko) attempted a transpolar flight from Moscow to San Francisco in a prototype single engine Tupolev ANT-25 long-range bomber. A thousand miles into the flight (just north of the Kola Peninsula) the engine developed an oil-leak and Levanevsky chose to scuttle the mission. The following year Levanevsky and navigator Levchenko sought to prove the possibility of an air route between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. via the Alaskan-Bering Strait, and completed a 11,800+ mile multistage flight from Los Angeles to Moscow in a Vultee V-1A floatplane.
On August 12, 1937 a type Bolkhovitinov DB-A (no. N-209, a Dalniy Bombardirovshik-Academy, i.e. Long-range Bomber) aircraft with 6-men crew under captaincy of Levanevsky started its long distance flight from Moscow to the United States via the North Pole. The radio communications with the crew broke off the next day, on the 13th of August, at 17:58 Moscow time when the aircraft encountered adverse weather conditions. The Soviet Government financed two aerial searches for the missing aircraft using purchased US aircraft under the command of Canadian bush and Antarctic pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon in 1937 and 1938. Jimmie Mattern flew a Lockheed 12, "The Texan" from California to assist in the search for his former rescuer in the initial search. After the unsuccessful search attempts all the members of the crew were presumed dead.
In March 1999, Dennis Thurston of the Minerals Management Service in Anchorage located what appeared to be wreckage in the shallows of Camden Bay, between Prudhoe Bay and Kaktovik. There was conjecture in the media that it was Levanevsky's aircraft, but a subsequent attempt to locate the object again proved unsuccessful.