On December 16, the famous Flight School in Buguruslan [a town in southern Urals] celebrated its 80th anniversary. It is a legendary alma mater of aviation experts, whose list includes three Heroes of the Soviet Union and eight Heroes of Russia, hundreds of excellent workers of the Aeroflot flag carrying airline and honored pilots.
The names of many of them are still popular today. For example, on September 7, 2010 the crew of Yevgeny Novoselov of ALROSA airline made an emergency landing on the abandoned runway at the airport of Izhma in the Komi Republic which was closed for use. Thanks to the competent actions and courage of the pilots, the lives of 72 passengers and 9 crew members were saved. On August 5, 2019, an Airbus A321-211 of Ural Airlines, taking off from Zhukovsky Airport, an international airport, located in the Moscow Region, was forced to make an emergency landing in a cornfield. It was caused by a flock of seagulls caught in the aircraft's engine. Thanks to pilots Damir Yusupov and Georgy Murzin 226 passengers and seven crew members survived.
Many graduates of the Buguruslan Flight School occupied senior positions in the ministry that supervised the aviation industry, headed regional departments of civil aviation, and guided the assimilation of new technology. Valery Khairyuzov, a pilot who had logged 15,000 hours in the skies of Siberia, a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and the secretary of the Writers' Union of Russia, is known to the entire flight industry. His service record of a writer includes many books about the romantic and difficult profession of an aviator. Today, he shares his impressions of a recent visit to his school as a member of a group of veterans. He also shares recollections of the years he spent there.
"After the traditional visit to the building of the school, we looked into the city garden. Not far from the path, I found a familiar maple tree. In 1961, on my first leave, I took a picture sitting at the fork of the trunk. Now it goes upwards, and it is impossible to reach it even by hand,” says Khairyuzov.
"Everything grows and rises in nature," I thought looking at the sky and remembering myself when I was a senior student. After arriving by the train from Irkutsk, I was woken up by a snarl early in the morning on a bed without any sheets in the barracks. ‘Wake up!’
"With frightened eyes I watched how, poking and pounding with heavy boots, my future groupmates and friends ran down the corridor in their white undershirts to the morning call. In three years, which would later seem like three days, when received our pilots’ certificates and became almost a fam, we rushed down the hill by the railway line and headed for the town garden to celebrate our graduation, first on a bench and then at the Kinel restaurant.
"Leaning against a tree, I looked out over the busy street where we used to march in close formation on November and May holidays and to the public steam baths on Saturdays. Back then, during the first months of our time in the flight school, special attention was paid to foot drill.
"Polished shoes say everything about a cadet," Major Sulman, who was assigned to drill us, used to repeat. "Your boots should be laced up and shine like made of chrome. Your trousers should not bubble at the knees. Your face should be shaved. Wake up and line up in three minutes, walk around the grounds in formation, and into the flight training section with the march of the cadet band. Let me introduce myself. I am Major Zakhar Sulman. Today, we have a combat mission. We will go to the bathhouse. I'll teach you to march. Not to promenade and not to crawl like flies! People look up to you. Remember — you're here to show your manners. How do you walk? How do you salute your superiors? When marching, the arm must go back as far as it will go. At the command "dress!" the head must be turned to the right. At the command "attention!" turn it back to the initial position. Remember, a cadet's head and brain is for thinking."
"And then our company commander Volodya Yermokhin, whom we called the Kremlin officer for his service in the Kremlin Regiment, took on the task of teaching us. He knew how to march like no one else. All his cadet stripes were neatly sewn on his uniform, and his cotton suit fitted him like it was tailored specially for him. Tall, harmonious, and tightly built, he opened all parades in Buguruslan with the flag.
"It was Yermokhin who arranged for us a master's corner in the barracks. Each of us chipped in a ruble and we bought an electric iron, tooth powder, spools of thread and needles. There was even gauze hanging on the wall so that we wouldn't accidentally burn our trousers. After a new haircut and a visit to the baths, my new life began. It was already dedicated to planes and the sky.
Remembering that unforgettable time, I came to the simple conclusion that a cadet was the most dependent person. He could be sent to clean toilets, scrub barrack floors, peel potatoes in the kitchen, collect cigarette butts, sweep walkways, unload wagons, and dig trenches. He depended on the mood of the commnader, the instructor, and the teacher.
Even Seryozha, our barber, taking the hair off our heads, was instructing us in between, ‘There are a few golden words each of you should know ‘Sorry, I'll make it up to you! Yes, Sir! At your orders! Will be done!’ And then he immediately shouted, ‘Don't move your head or I'll expel you!’ That was the worst punishment, to be expelled from the school. The cruelest punishment! The most frequent expulsions were for absence without leave and booze. There were a lot of officers who seemed to be perfect examples for us. Not long before the Shadrinsk Flight School of Navigators [in Shadrinsk, a town to the southeast of the Urals] was disbanded, and the Buguruslan Flight School recruited several dozens of might-have-been navigators. By the New Year, half of them had been expelled. It stuck in my memory that the instructors almost always came to class in fresh ironed shirts. Sometimes they were in leather jackets, and we listened with some envy to the quiet and almost inaudible creaking of the leather. ‘The time will come, and we'll wear the same,’ I thought.
"Then our classes at the Naumovka airfield began. We made the first flights into a zone specially designated for cadets, the first loops and combat turns with the instructors. And we had the first losses when they started to expel some of us cause of inability to fly. It happens when a cadet, for one or another reason, cannot master the flight program. Even a bear can be coached to ride a bike but the lives of hundreds of passengers will be never entrusted to it.
"On July 14, 1962 I made a flight on my own, bought pastries, a pack of Kazbek cigarettes and treated all the smoking instructors who were at the start. Done! I am a pilot. A civil aviation pilot! The next year, I was the first of the flying group to take off on my own in the Antonov AN-2 plane. While my Irkutsk peers were watching their last pre-army dreams, as a lieutenant of the reserve I could already command them, ‘Fellow pilots, wake up! March to the formation!’
"Thank God, everything happened quicker in my case. I no longer had to puzzle over where to apply to and what I would do next. Everything was settled for many years ahead. The skies became the place of my work.
The pilot certificates were handed out to us to the sounds of a brass band by Sergey Florinsky, the head of the flight school. Then we hurriedly entered the barracks, took our bags, sat for a moment before the trip [Russian tradition to sit down for a while before any destiny-making trip] and left the barracks with the song ‘Taiga Waltz’ performed by Maya Kristalinskaya.
You came to us by the taiga path / You were met on my way, went its lyrics.
"Later I understood that in the operational squadron the dependence on circumstances and the aviation procedures existing at that time remained the same. I would even say that it increased. You had to set up sail to every wind, keep your ears open and not speak your thoughts out loud. Many people remember the case when Boris Bugayev, the Minister of Civil Aviation of the USSR, fired his deputy Boris Grubiy for thinking out loud and sent him to be a co-pilot on an Ilyushin IL-86. When becoming a pilot, I learnt that havoc, just as in the taiga, can happen at any moment. On the platform, in the navigator's lounge, or at the weather station when you were signing your flight assignment, an inspector could come up to you and check your uniform, your flight paperwork, or anything else. Erik Rastoshansky, one of my commanders, had glued into his workbook the photographs of all the inspectors of the department with their names and surnames.
"After receiving their civil aviation pilot certificates, the young guys were leaving Buguruslan for a new unexplored life. Now, it is possible to say with good reason that I got into aviation in its heyday. At that time, pilots were loved. More than that, they were worshipped. And not just for the beautiful uniform. I think, above all, for a reason. It seemed to people that pilots could do anything. For example, to pick up passengers and deliver them in a couple of hours to a remote village. To put out fires from the air, to bring a doctor, and to deliver a sick child to the city hospital. Within minutes, a pilot can use a helicopter to install or remove a pipe and roll out wires between pylons. He can find a lost person. A clear passage for ships through the ice. To deliver supplies for geologists in the taiga. To pull out hogweeds from aircraft and to exterminate locusts. And a lot of other things. A pilot can establish air communication with almost any settlement. To be there where speed was needed and where hours and minutes are of high importance. Where accuracy, dexterity and quickness were required. People are not born that way. They were taught that way. They became that way by absorbing the experience of previous generations.
For us who wished to fly in the Siberian sky, the Irkutsk airport and the 190th flying squadron, which I joined after graduating school, became this place.
Our destinies are the destinies of hundreds of people to whom Buguruslan opened doors to the sky. The people who achieved a lot in their profession and did a lot for the development of the Russian aviation.
“Buguruslan, you are always in my heart!"