It had a wingspan of 112 feet. Fully loaded it weighed 17,000 pounds. It flew almost 7000 feet in the air.
The year? 1937.
Few historians have paid attention to the advanced aircraft designs that came out of the Soviet Union prior to and during World War II. The fact of the matter is that the Soviets had a functioning high altitude long range aircraft, a rocket powered interceptor and a jet powered fighter before the west did. One of the operational problems with Josef Stalin was his sociopathic paranoia that led him to murder not only ethnic people under the purview of his empire, but his own army commanders and scientists and engineers. Patriotic Red Army commanders were murdered or sent to a gulag to labor on his whim. Often his whim was born of the notion that someone else was trying to undermine him. He didn’t think that when researchers in other nations came up with similar solutions it was due to the hard work they put into finding them. Instead he assumed that his own scientists were simply sharing their work with competitors. He launched into long rants vilipending unpatriotic intellectuals and punished them for crimes only imagined. Needless to say, he shot himself in the foot. He shot himself in both feet in the mid 1930s when he murdered most of his best combat commanders in a paranoid episode. That led to the disastrous defense of the Soviet western border during Operation Barbarossa when over 3 million Nazi troops invaded in 1941.
Russian scientists were often punished by being coerced to create combat technologies in working laboratories far away from German borders in the Ural Mountains. Often these labs were appointed nicely and the scientists had slave labor serving them. They were also shadowed by Russian guards and politburo operatives. The paranoia was thick.
Thusly, the RD-1 was created. This plane could stay aloft for two days without refueling. RD stood for Rekord Dalnosty, or Record Range. The The ANT-25 featured some firsts: an artificial horizon and the world’s first turn and bank indicator. A gyro magnetic compass and a solar course designator helped keep the two pilots on track. The third crew member was a navigator. It had a radio and a bed so one pilot could rest while the other flew. Two of the program directors would later become champion aircraft designers themselves: Pavel Sukhoi and Andre Tupelov.
On the 18th of June 1937, Pilots Valery Chkalov and Georgy Baydukov took off from Moscow and flew north over the polar ice caps, and penetrated into northwestern United States airspace. They flew as far as Portland and Eugene but bad weather forced them to turn back and land at Pearson Air Field in Vancouver. Stalin was ecstatic. The aviation world was shocked. Roosevelt convened his cabinet and decided not to kill the B-17 under development.
A month later, this soon to be ally of the United States staged another record long range flight staying aloft fro 62 hours and 17 minutes, flying from Moscow to San Jacinto. There they were feted by movie stars and dignitaries.
Source: History Channel, Wikipedia, Warandgame,com.