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Introduction to these stage notes
These notes about the 14 stages and the exact flight plans are based on the book “Im Grossflugzeug nach Peking” written by Dr. Robert Knauss and published in 1927, a year after the actual flight. Knauss was the leader of the ‘expedition’ and describes the flight in detail.
The 14 stages of Viperstrike’s flight are not always exact reproductions of the stages of the real flight, since the original planes may have been slower than the Junkers 52 used in the sim flight but the crews set out very early in the morning, mostly at first light and were flying until dark and even into the night in some cases so they could cover considerable distances.
Navigation was a pretty basic affair in those days. Radio navigation was in its infancy and they were forbidden to have wireless radio on board anyway. So they used mostly compass and maps (they had a separate compass/map table in the cabin so the compass would not be irritated by the other instruments in the cockpit). This meant they had to fly low so they could recognize the landmarks. Over very long stretches they followed the railway lines to the east, which also meant that if anything happened to them they could at least expect a train to come along and help them eventually.
I hope you will enjoy if not all then at least some of the stages!
Notes for Stage 1 / Berlin-Königsberg Departure from Berlin-Tempelhof at midnight on July 24th 1926
Followed the navigation lights (rotating red neon lights all the way to Königsberg, set up in 10-25km intervals) because Berlin-Königsberg was an established regular flight route.
Because of bad weather they had to use the gyro-pilot (like an AP) To ensure accurate readings they had a second compass on the navigstion table in the cabin of the plane.
First dawn over Pomerania, then passing Danzig (Gdansk) on their right.
First landing in Königsberg to take on fuel. (Historically this was just a short stop – they continued all the way to Moscow on that first day)
Notes for stage 2 / Königsberg – Smolensk Passed the border to Lithuania at 7.30 am
Note a difference in agriculture – „wide untarmaced village streets, fallow land and wilderness predominant“
West of Kowno/Kaunas rain and fog over the forest, flying low above the treetops
Over Kaunas airfield they glide down to 20m and drop a bouquet of flowers with ribbons as greeting to Lithuanian aviators
From here they follow the old heerstrasse (military road) today E262/A6 and pass over trenches, craters and gun positions from WW1. They stay on the northern bank of the Düna (southern bank was Poland) and cross into Russia near Drissa (today Werchnjadwinsk)
In this area they are passed by the regular „Deruluft“-flight from Moskow to Berlin (has been operating for 4 years at the time of the flight). Deruluft, from Wikipedia: „Deruluft (Deutsch-Russische Luftverkehrs A.G., or Deruluft) was a joint German-Soviet airline, established on 11 November 1921. Deruluft opened its first permanent airlink between and Königsberg (via Kaunas and Smolensk) on 1 May 1922. It started a new route between Berlin and (via Tallinn) on 6 June 1928, and maintained both routes until 31 March 1936. Deruluft was a successful business, but terminated on 31 March 1937 due to the changed political situation.“
Around lunchtime landing in Smolensk. Refuel and have a glass of Russian Tchai from the Samovar in the „Deruluft“ waiting room.
Notes for stage 3 / Smolensk – Moscow After a 2 hour break in Smolensk they take off again
They pass over the battlefield of Borodino (WP1) and remember the Battle of Borodino where in 1812 Napoleon opened the way to the occupation of Moscow. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Borodino
They follow the Moskwa River into Moscow, describing walled monasteries on the hillsides and manor houses with impressive parks along the way
The first thing they describe seeing is the golden cupola of the Redeemer Cathedral and the Kreml
They are met in the air by an escort of „Deruluft“ and „Dobroljet“ (operated flights from Moscow to the Caucasian region of southwest Russia) planes which accompany them to Khodynka airfield. This doesn‘t exist any more but WP2 is on the old site and close examination of satellite imagery still shows where the airfield was.
Satellite view: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khodynka_Field
They are greeted by various dignitaries of the Russian aviation authorities and the German embassy. The flight continues the next morning.
Notes for stage 4 / Moscow - Kasan Flight leaves on the morning of the 25th of August at 3.40 am
They are joined by two Russian pilots who Luft Hansa have invited along. Kauss calls them excellent pilots and good company.
The clock has to be changed forward by one hour, something Knauss says they had to do on almost every stage since the were flying eastwards. They reached the point with the biggest time difference in Charbin, which was 8 hrs ahead of Berlin time.
On leaving Moscow they follow the railway line to Arzamas. Soon after leaving the city they encounter endless forests and swamps, interspersed with small settlements and peat cutting sites.
Near the town of Murom (WP1) on the river Oka the sky is clearing up. Behind Arzamas (WP2) the forests are thinning out and there is more agriculture. Knauss describes yellow, black and green fields surrounding each village.
At Kasan they encounter the river Volga.
Kasan was then the capital of the Autonomous Tartar Republic and Lenin’s birthplace.
Since it is summer they accept an invitation to have tea and sandwiches on the shady terrace of the airport building which is constructed entirely of wood. After two hours they continue their flight.
Notes for stage 5 / Kasan-Kurgan Weather: Knauss gives little information, only that it gets worse behind Jekaterinburg but since he talks about ‘good visibility’ earlier it must have been quite good before.
After a two hour break the flight continues. The planes are slowly approaching the Ural mountains.
At Poljany (WP1) they cross the river Wjatka. The more they approch the Urals the forest gets denser.
At 14.45 they fly over Sarapul (WP2) where they can’t land because the airfield is flooded. After flying over dark pine forests in hilly terrain they reach Krasnoufimsk (WP3)
Their landing and stay here make quite entertaining reading. It also becomes clear why they landed at a different place on their return flight. The airfield is described as a rarely used narrow meadow with steep wooded hills to one side and a railway dam with telegraph poles on the other. After chasing off a herd of cows from the airstrip they managed to land only to be immediately surrounded by the local population who arrived on foot, horseback or horse-drawn cart. Some narrowly avoid running into the propellers. The crowd makes it difficult to make the necessary arrangements for refueling and maintenance of the planes. Knauss describes the people as “truly Russian” with the women wearing bright headscarves over their Sunday best dresses and the farmers with high boots and colorfully embroidered linen shirts.
They enter town on horse-drawn carriages on bad deeply rutted roads for which they seem to be well suited. Knauss describes the roads as wide, unsurfaced, full of cows, pigs and chicken deeply muddy after rain and dusty and bumpy in the dry season.
They have a filling meal at the farmers cooperative.
Since they want to leave early next morning, the spend the night (3hrs!) on board the planes.
At 2 am D 903, the first plane, tries to take off. The mud clings to the wheels of the plane and slows it down so that it keeps bouncing back on the ground. A sudden gust of wind forces it to land in a nearby field after jumping a gravel pit 30m wide. Soon after D 901 suffers a similar fate. The two planes at a weight of 6 tons each now have to be pulled back 2km to the airfield (the wheels have sunk into the mud, so they can’t be moved with the propellers). Two Ford tractors can’t move the planes either and only by using the propellers and the tractors at the same time they can be moved. This is highly dangerous since the tractors are very close to the spinning propellers. Finally trees have to be felled and the railings of a bridge have to be knocked down to allow the return to the airfield bypassing the gravel pit. This takes all day and with the help of the locals using shovels and hoes the airfield is extended by another 300m. They spend another night in
hammocks in the planes and finally take of to Jekaterinburg (then called Sverlovsk) at 3.30 next morning.
On the way they cross the Ural mountains which Knauss reports not to be real mountains but more large hills as in the Black Forest. Jekaterinburg became known for the murder of the Czar and his family during the revolution.
There is a change in weather as they enter the plains behind Jekaterinburg. There are many neat old farming villages and fertile fields. At noon on July 27th the land in Kurgan. Its large airport was the main base for Admiral Koltschaks airforce who fought against the revolutionaries in the revolution. Most of the buildings had been torn down and on taxiing one of the planes sinks into the mud and is “carried rather than rolled” into position by an enthusiastic crowd.
They are met by German beer brewers, former prisoners of war who have decided to stay on after the war.
Notes for stage 6 / Kurgan-Omsk Weather: No information, but apparently good visibility After 4 hours of refueling and maintenance they take off from Kurgan. The fly across the lowlands of western Siberia which extends to the river Jenissei. The countryside is covered with woods, meadows and fields. Knauss describes many circular lakes which can be seen from above.
At 14.20 they fly over Petropawlowsk. A smoking fire is lit at the airport to help them with navigation.
At 16.07 they arrive at Omsk, then a city of 130 000 inhabitants. With its modern grid of streets it is decribed as “neat” by Knauss. The airport is in good condition and has 3 wooden hangars, with a fourth under construction.
There isn’t much on this stage in the book (about one page) since it’s only part of the IRL stage.
Notes for stage 7 / Omsk-Nowosibirsk Weather: first fair, then headwind, thunderstorms in the distance. 28Th: a sunny morning
As they continue the flight towards Nowosibirsk the weather takes a turn for the worse. There are dark clouds with lightning ahead and the wind turns into a headwind. They follow the railway line over the dark plains. The only lights they can see on the ground are the campfires of the sheperds.
The planes can only identify each other by the glowing exhaust pipes with their blue flames. To stay in touch the two planes exchange light signals at regular intervals. Near Barabinsk station (WP1) they land for the night on a temporary airfield lit by bonfires. At the end of this stage on the 27th (Krasnoufimsk-Barabinsk) they had covered a distance of 1440km, the same as Berlin-Naples.
They sleep in the planes. Fuel is delivered by horse and cart in the morning and they take several hours to fill the tanks because they have to use handpumps. Meanwhile the pilots walk along the runway, checking for obstacles (like firepits dug by sheperds) and horses which have to be moved off the runway. They use bits of paper, empty tin cans and branches to mark the way.
On the 28th, a sunny morning, they continue towards Nowosibirsk. Before they cross the river Ob, they fly across a plain covered in sweet and saltwater lakes. They arrive at their destination after 2hrs. This airport is run by the Russian (Red) Airfleet. Knauss includes an excerpt from a local newpaper report: “..we are invited to view the planes. We enter the passenger area. Comfortable and clean. Ten windows, small tables, wonderful toilet.”
Wasn’t sure about which airport to use for Nowosibirsk, but chose UNNE since it is right next to the railway line which they seem to have followed for most of the flight.
Notes for stage 8 / Nowosibirsk-Krasnojarsk Weather: sunny, cloudless skies On continuing their flight, they cross the railway line to the Kuztnezk Basin, an important coal mining region. To make Russian industry less vulnerable in a war, Stalin moved many important industries here, plans for which Knauss mentions in his book.
They still follow the track of the Transsiberian Railway and encounter the first really dense forest since Kurgan, “a mixture of deciduous and dark pine trees as far as the eye can see.”
At Taiga (WP1) a railway line to Tomsk branches off. In clear, sunny weather they reach Mariinsk (WP2) at 16.00. They pass over Atschinsk (WP3) the forest has been replaced by agriculture but before they reach the Jenissei River the forest is back. Near the river, Knauss is reminded of the landscape of Germany, with the river flowing through densely wooded hills, with red sandstone cliffs on its shore.
As Knauss puts it, “in festive mood” from all the pleasant sights they land in the evening sun on a green airfield to a friendly reception by the local population. Members of the local youth organization, both boys and girls, pump the fuel into the airplanes.
The crew are invited to an evening feast on an island in the river, which can only be reached by motor launch. Knauss excuses the pilots early on, so they can get enough rest and he stays to the end “to be rewarded by delicious Jenissei-sturgeon”. After 2 hours of sleep they take off again towards Irkutsk.
Notes for stage 9 / Krasnojarsk-Irkutzk Weather: Sunny, hot Early in the morning they take off from Krasnojask, circle once low over the roofs of the town to “wish the locals a good morning” and are on their way. The route to Irkutzk doesn’t follow a straight line, since they continue to follow the railway line and can avoid the mountains this way. After Kansk (WP1), where they cross the river Kan, they once again fly over densely wooded Taiga. Knauss muses on the animals living there: deer, moose, boar, wolves and bears. Fox, badger, and above sable are hunted for their furs.
The the air they fly through smells of smoke and they have the cabin windows open even though they fly at 1000m altitude because of the summer heat. Knauss reflects on the waste of the natural resource wood through the yearly forest fires in this area and expresses hope that airplanes can help fight these fires in the future.
At 10.35 they land in Nischne-Udinsk (WP2) for refueling. (This airport still exists and can be seen on satellite imagery but is not available in the sim. WP2 is exactly above the runway). It is very hot and they have tea in the shade of the airplanes’ wings.