A Bolt from the Blue
On the cloudy morning June 20, 1937, General Marshall enjoyed his leisurely Sunday morning coffee with his family when the telephone rang. “Sir,” an alarmed guard at Pearson Air Field shouted into the phone, “Sir, it’s that red plane – that Russian plane, Sir!” The General was concerned and confused, asking the young soldier to explain. “Sir! It’s landed on our field! Sir!”
Thus began a long and congenial diplomatic relationship with Russian aviation, the people of Vancouver and the people of Moscow and Chkalovsk, Russia. Pearson is home to the only monument to Russian achievement in the United States.
Join the National Park Service, representatives from the Russian Consulate in Seattle, and our partners at Pearson Air Museum at 10:00 am on Saturday, June 18, 2016, for a special program celebrating the 79th anniversary of Valery Chkalov's landmark transpolar flight from Moscow, Russia, to Pearson Field, and its significance to our community. The program will be held at Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth Street, Vancouver, WA 98661.
After the program, please visit the Bookstore at the Visitor Center for some special items relating to this extraordinary event.
Items in this “Russian Collection,” including hand carved toys, Matryoshka (or nesting) dolls, lacquer pins, barrettes, boxes, and birch bark boxes are all handmade and intricately hand painted in Russia. Each item is a tiny work of art.
Matryoshka dolls were introduced to Russia from China over the “Silk Road” to Nizhny Novgorod in the late nineteenth century and soon after became a famous Russian tradition known throughout the world.
Birch Bark boxes and handcrafts were first developed in the birch forests of the Ural Mountains. Their patterns often reflect rugged mountainous scenes and animals of the forests.
Lacquerware is generally made of papier-mâché and for many it represents a high form of artistic talent. These are intricately hand painted, some reflecting Russian scenes, flowers and often fairy tales. Lacquer painting as an art form evolved from icon painting in Russia.
"As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial this year, we are pleased to once again celebrate this historic flight. Aviators Chkalov, Baidukov, and Belyakov continue to inspire many people today with their courage, tenacity, and truly remarkable piloting and navigation skills," said Bob Cromwell, Chief Ranger and Pearson Air Museum Manager.
The program will include music, brief remarks, and the opening of a new exhibit celebrating the flight titled A RED BOLT FROM THE BLUE. The exhibit was created by historian and writer Mary Rose, designer Rachel Thai, artist Toma Villa, and National Park Service Curators Theresa Langford and Meagan Huff. The exhibit includes artifacts and historic photographs from the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site museum collection, as well as documents recently sent to the park from the archives of Russia's Office of the Foreign Ministry.
Curator Theresa Langford said, "Although the Chkalov flight has been featured in the museum for some time, it is such an amazing story - and a notable part of the history of Pearson Field - that we felt it deserved a larger footprint, with a display of additional artifacts and photographs."