The feat of Alexei Maresyev is known to everyone. However, in the history of Russian aviation there was another pilot who piloted an airplane with a prosthetic leg instead of a leg. Details are in the Rambler article.
Photo: Alexander Kartveli AssociationAlexander Kartveli Association
Alexander Nikolaevich Prokofiev-Seversky was born on June 7, 1894 in a family of hereditary military men. True, his father changed the tradition, carried away by the theater. He had a future ace and borrowed the pseudonym Seversky. In addition, under the outskirts of his father, an amateur aviator, Alexander became interested in airplanes. Although he graduated from the Naval Cadet Corps, he was determined to become a pilot.
Since the beginning of the First World War, it was decided to create aviation units in the Navy. Alexander Prokofiev-Seversky already knew how to fly, but on the orders of Admiral Essen, he finally completed the Aeronautics Courses at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute in order to learn some theory. In 1915 he became a naval pilot and went to his duty station on the island of Ezel, where the Concorde seaplane base was located. It was shot down before dropping bombs on a German destroyer. When the plane crashed, the charges exploded, and Prokofiev-Seversky was seriously wounded. The surgeon had to amputate the right leg below the knee.
But the failure did not break the young pilot. He learned first with crutches, and then with a prosthesis. Prokofiev-Seversky worked as a designer, watched the testing of seaplanes, but dreamed of returning to the sky. Then he took the risk. During the demonstration flights, Alexander Prokofiev-Seversky replaced the absent pilot without permission and flew under the arch of the Nikolaevsky bridge in Petrograd. For violation of discipline he was even arrested, but Emperor Nicholas II personally ordered to allow him to fly. Three days later, Prokofiev-Seversky shot down his first plane.
In total, Alexander Prokofiev-Seversky flew 57 sorties, scored thirteen air victories and became the third ace of Russian aviation.
During the departure on October 1, 1917, he made an emergency landing in the Germans, burned his plane and reached his own on foot. And this despite the fact that in February of the same year he received a serious injury to his already healthy leg.
At first, Prokofiev-Seversky collaborated with the Soviet regime. In March 1918, as an agent for the Navy at the Embassy in Washington, he decided not to return to the country in revolutionary chaos. In the fall of that year, he became a consulting engineer for the United States War Department and an assistant to General Billy Mitchell, who saw the future of aviation in bombers. Now he was just Alexander Seversky. Mitchell liked his ideas. Prokofiev-Seversky developed a bombsight and sold it to the US government for 50,000. With this money, he opened the Seversky Aero Corp company, which was engaged in the production of equipment for aircraft.
In 1923, Alexander Seversky married Evelyn Olyphant, a socialite from New Orleans. However, despite her status, Evelyn herself knew how to fly a plane. The couple brought a dog, which Alexander named Vodka in memory of his former life. The couple often took the pet with them in the air. In 1927, Alexander Prokofiev-Seversky became a US citizen, and in 1928 he was promoted to a major in the US Air Force in reserve.
At the beginning of the Great Depression, Seversky Aero Corp went bankrupt. But in 1931, with the support of millionaire Edward Moore, Alexander Seversky created a new company, Seversky Aircraft Corp, where he was president, designer and test engineer. Many emigrants from Russia and Georgia worked in his company, including aircraft designer Alexander Kartveli.
On September 15, 1935, Seversky set a world speed record for piston-powered amphibious aircraft. And in 1938, the transcontinental speed record.
The Seversky company was noted for the development of the SEV-3, P-35, 2PA aircraft. Also, Alexander Nikolaevich was the first American citizen to fly the latest Supermarine Spitfire fighter.
Although the company ceased to exist in 1939, the ideas and developments of Alexander Seversky influenced the development of military aviation in the United States. In addition, for many years he was engaged in the propaganda of military aviation and wrote the best-selling book “Air Power – the Path to Victory”, where he proved that aviation is a separate branch of the armed forces. Seversky was a consultant to the US Air Force, lectured at the abandoned aviation university, and in 1946 received the Medal of Merit, the highest government award for civilians at the time.
In the last years of his life, he became interested in environmental protection, developed an electrostatic filter for cleaning industrial waste and an environmentally friendly aircraft “Ionokraft”. The inventor and pilot died in New York in 1974, having outlived his wife by seven years.