Russian pilots wave to the photographer from their airplane that crashed on Miscou Island on its way from Moscow to New York.

On April 28, 1939 an Atwin engine Russian monoplane attempting the first non-stop polar flight from Moscow to New York and the World’s Fair, ran into fog over Labrador. Becoming disoriented, and running out of fuel, the pilot successfully crash landed the plane on Miscou Island in Northern New Brunswick, Both the pilot, Brigadier-General Vladimir Kokkinaki, and the co-pilot, radio operator and navigator, Major Mikhail Gordienko survived.

New Brunswick Provincial Archives
1939-04-28
Miscou Island, New Brunswick, CANADA
PANB P20-318
© 2008, New Brunswick Provincial Archives. All Rights Reserved.


South of Labrador the going got tough. Great clouds stacked up along the course with their bases almost on the water. Hardbitten Vladimir Kokkinaki, Brigadier-General of the Russian Air Force, Hero of the Soviet Union, went on instruments. Higher and higher he climbed his red two-motored bomber, of a type used by Russians fighting for Loyalist Spain. Dirty grey mist still dripped dismally off wing and windshield. Nineteen hours out of Moscow, with all the Atlantic behind him, he was tired. But New York City, his destination, was only five hours’ flight ahead.

At 27,000 feet he and his navigator, husky, thin-haired Major Mikhail Gordienko, were using oxygen. Doggedly Hero Kokkinaki held his red ship, the Moskva, on its course. Near sundown, with no sight of sky or sea, his radio was frying with static like a pan of pork chops. Hopelessly lost, he turned Moskva back on its course. Finally with little more than two hours’ fuel in the tanks, with oxygen running low, he fainted. Gordienko took over.

It was a long letdown. Moskva finally broke out over a small island. For 45 minutes, wide-mouthed Gordienko circled, looking for a good field. There was Read More
South of Labrador the going got tough. Great clouds stacked up along the course with their bases almost on the water. Hardbitten Vladimir Kokkinaki, Brigadier-General of the Russian Air Force, Hero of the Soviet Union, went on instruments. Higher and higher he climbed his red two-motored bomber, of a type used by Russians fighting for Loyalist Spain. Dirty grey mist still dripped dismally off wing and windshield. Nineteen hours out of Moscow, with all the Atlantic behind him, he was tired. But New York City, his destination, was only five hours’ flight ahead.

At 27,000 feet he and his navigator, husky, thin-haired Major Mikhail Gordienko, were using oxygen. Doggedly Hero Kokkinaki held his red ship, the Moskva, on its course. Near sundown, with no sight of sky or sea, his radio was frying with static like a pan of pork chops. Hopelessly lost, he turned Moskva back on its course. Finally with little more than two hours’ fuel in the tanks, with oxygen running low, he fainted. Gordienko took over.

It was a long letdown. Moskva finally broke out over a small island. For 45 minutes, wide-mouthed Gordienko circled, looking for a good field. There was none. As night fell he took the best he could find. With wheels up, Moskva porpoised off a knoll, slammed down on her belly just beyond. Kokkinaki came to as the ship shuddered to a stop.

A French-Canadian villager told the tired and shaken Russians where they were by pointing to the spot on their map: Miscou Island, off the coast of New Brunswick, 700 miles short of New York, 3,900 miles from Moscow. Thus, last week after 23 hours and 36 minutes in the air, ended what had come close to being the longest east-west transatlantic flight. At Floyd Bennett Field, N. Y., where a crowd of 5,000 waited in a drizzling rain, a Russian Embassy attachè announced the news when it came in by telegraph. Twelve little girls with garlands of flowers for the transatlantic heroes laid them down and went home.

© 1933, Time. All Rights Reserved.

Air France passengers disembark from plane diverted to Moncton International Airport on September 11, 2001.

As a result of Operation Yellow Ribbon, 255 aircraft were diverted to 15 different airports across the country. One of those airports was Moncton International.

Moncton Times-Transcript
Don McClure Aviation Historical Gallery, Moncton International Airport
2001-09-11
Moncton, New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2001, Moncton Times-Transcript. All Rights Reserved.


Operation Yellow Ribbon was the name of the operation that Transport Canada created to handle the diversion of civilian airline flights following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade centre towers in New York city. The operation started after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all aircraft across the United States and re-routed incoming international flights to airports in Canada. During the operation, departing flights, with the exception of police, military, and humanitarian flights were cancelled, marking the first time that Canada shut down its airspace. As a result of Operation Yellow Ribbon, 255 aircraft were diverted to 15 different airports across the country. One of those airports was Moncton International.

Throughout the years, many ongoing renovations had been made to the air terminal building at Moncton, including in 1998-99, an international arrivals area to suit the needs of 1999’s Eighth Sommet de la Francophonie. A large landing apron was constructed at that same time at the opposite side of the airport in a location which would later become the site of the new international airport terminal. This landing apron was pr Read More

Operation Yellow Ribbon was the name of the operation that Transport Canada created to handle the diversion of civilian airline flights following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade centre towers in New York city. The operation started after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all aircraft across the United States and re-routed incoming international flights to airports in Canada. During the operation, departing flights, with the exception of police, military, and humanitarian flights were cancelled, marking the first time that Canada shut down its airspace. As a result of Operation Yellow Ribbon, 255 aircraft were diverted to 15 different airports across the country. One of those airports was Moncton International.

Throughout the years, many ongoing renovations had been made to the air terminal building at Moncton, including in 1998-99, an international arrivals area to suit the needs of 1999’s Eighth Sommet de la Francophonie. A large landing apron was constructed at that same time at the opposite side of the airport in a location which would later become the site of the new international airport terminal. This landing apron was pressed into service in a dramatic manner on September 11, 2001 when airspace over North America was shut down following the World Trade Center attacks. A dozen flights with over 2,000 passengers were diverted to the Greater Moncton Airport. In May of 2001, the new, state-of-the-art international air terminal was completed and officially opened in 2002 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Greater Moncton International Airport is the busiest airport in New Brunswick, servicing more than 518,930 passengers per year.


© 2008, Greater Moncton International Airport. All Rights Reserved.

Italian airmen on the wing of a Royal Italian Flying Boat moored in Shediac Bay, 1933.

July 13, 1933 was a truly historic day in the life of the resort town of Shediac. This was the day that Italian General Italo Balbo, Minister of Aviation in Benito Mussolini’s cabinet, and his armada of twenty four Savoia Manchetti S-55 flying boats alighted on Shediac Bay. They were on their way to the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition. This was the first massed flight of aircraft ever to cross the Atlantic.

New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B.
1933-07-13
Shediac, New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2008, New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B. All Rights Reserved.


On the coast of Tuscany, 100 miles northwest of Rome, lies the tiny port of Orbetello. The protecting shoulder of a great mountain (from which Napoleon’s Elba can be seen 40 miles out to sea) guards it from high winds. Long sand spits make the mountain look "like a great ship moored by its three ropes of sand"; more important, they make smooth as a millpond the blue lagoons lying on either side of the town. There in winter fat eels are snared for the Christmas tables of Italy. There in summer wealthy Italian families lounge. And there is the famed seaplane school of the Italian Air Force.

Orbetello hotels were filled last week with females young & old, beauteous & unlovely. They were the women folk of 100 aviators who awaited the signal to start the biggest show ever staged by Italian aviation: the mass flight of 25 seaplanes across the ocean to Chicago and A Century of Progress.

For a few fluttery days the women were permitted to roam the air station arm-in-arm with the flyers. For months the men had been confined in monastic seclusion lest any of them get off mental or emotional balance. Under the fanatical hawkeye discipline of Read More

On the coast of Tuscany, 100 miles northwest of Rome, lies the tiny port of Orbetello. The protecting shoulder of a great mountain (from which Napoleon’s Elba can be seen 40 miles out to sea) guards it from high winds. Long sand spits make the mountain look "like a great ship moored by its three ropes of sand"; more important, they make smooth as a millpond the blue lagoons lying on either side of the town. There in winter fat eels are snared for the Christmas tables of Italy. There in summer wealthy Italian families lounge. And there is the famed seaplane school of the Italian Air Force.

Orbetello hotels were filled last week with females young & old, beauteous & unlovely. They were the women folk of 100 aviators who awaited the signal to start the biggest show ever staged by Italian aviation: the mass flight of 25 seaplanes across the ocean to Chicago and A Century of Progress.

For a few fluttery days the women were permitted to roam the air station arm-in-arm with the flyers. For months the men had been confined in monastic seclusion lest any of them get off mental or emotional balance. Under the fanatical hawkeye discipline of their commander, Col. Aldo Pellegrini, they dined together at a severely vegetarian training table. The hours of each day were strictly apportioned to flight practice, study, outdoor sport, sleep. A wife who tried to see her husband at Orbetello was brusquely informed at the gate: "All the pilots of the Atlantic squadron are bachelors." Indignantly she hurried home, exhumed her marriage certificate, stormed the Air Ministry at Rome. But she was not permitted to see her husband until the visitors’ days last week.

With discipline relaxed the pilots amused themselves like college footballers on the eve of a Big Game. One restless fellow laid hold of Marco, the squadron’s donkey mascot, painted zebra stripes on him. Others held a mock election for the recipient of an ivory plaque carved with the figure of an eagle clutching the Italian flag in its mouth. The plaque had been sent by a girl in Rome to "the pilot who has no sweetheart." The pilots elected Lieut. Cadringheri, and all autographed a picture of one of the squadron’s seaplanes to send to the girl. The horseplay was interrupted when Col. Pellegrini mustered the men of the squadron into line on the quay, facing the 25 big seaplanes bobbing at moorings. The stage was set. Upon it stepped the imposing figure of General Italo Balbo, Minister of Aviation, supreme commander of the Atlantic flight. To General Balbo, Col. Pellegrini said:

"I present 100 persons of flesh, and 100 hearts of steel!"

Replied General Balbo: "I greet you all as a commander and a companion. We are ready with tranquil spirit. I am not unmindful of danger?. . . . But these are not inferior to our destiny."

Right arms extended, commander & crew recited in unison the Fascist oath:
"We will make ourselves worthy soldiers of the King and worthy soldiers of the Italy created by our leader [nostra Duce]."

A priest came forward, prayed over the men, sprinkled holy water toward the seaplanes, and invoked the blessing of the Virgin of Loreto.* "O God, . . . who hast destined all the elements of this world for the use of the human race, bless us, we beseech Thee, this aircraft . . . that those who flying in it put themselves under the care of the Blessed Virgin, may speedily arrive at their destination and may return home unharmed. . . ." After last farewells, the visitors were herded out, the gates were locked—with General Balbo inside, and the pilots impatiently awaited the order: "Decollare!" (take-off). But ice around Labrador delayed that order.

The Flight to A Century of Progress is known to Italians as Crodera del Decennale (Cruise of the Decennial) celebrating the tenth birthday of Fascism. It was conceived two years ago by General Balbo when he completed his squadron flight of ten seaplanes (out of 14 starters) across the South Atlantic to Brazil. At first he proposed to take his squadron completely around the world, but abandoned that scheme as too pretentious, if not too risky. Even the flight to the U. S. and back, a magnificent military gesture costing upward of $500,000, was not approved by all Italians, who feel acutely the pinch of hard times. At one time the Italian Government even denied that it was contemplated. However, for the past year and a half at Orbetello, and more recently along the route to Chicago, flight preparations have been intense.

The route from Orbetello lies northwest to Amsterdam (870 mi.), to Londonderry, Ireland (630 mi.), to Reykjavik, Iceland (930 mi.), southwest to Cartwright, Labrador (1,500 mi.), to Shediac, N. B. (800 mi.), to Montreal (500 mi.), to Chicago (870 mi.). Following a three-day fête at the World’s Fair the squadron will hop east to Port Washington, N. Y. on Long Island Sound. Unlike the South Atlantic flight, on which General Balbo left his planes with the Brazilian Government in barter for coffee, he will lead this squadron home again through the sky. The route, undetermined, may lie via the Azores.

Besides the 100 men in the planes, some 300 men on land and water are engaged in helping the squadron to cross and recross the ocean. Every scheduled stopping point and an emergency station at Greenland will be manned by crews of meteorologists, radiomen, mechanics. About 15 cruisers and trawlers and even two submarines (good at snaking through drift ice) patrol the course. Last link in the preparations which held up the take-off last week was establishment of the base at Labrador. The supply ship Alicia had not yet crashed the late icejam from the Strait of Belle Isle to Cartwright.

Flesh & Steel: The Italians fly in a cavalcade of seven compact triads and one quartet. Leading them all is Balbo ’s plane, identified by a large black star on the fuselage. Each plane, with a crew of two pilots, a radioman & mechanic, is equipped with a pneumatic lifeboat. Each man has a sort of light diving suit in which he can live for half an hour under water. Taboo as provisions are liquor and chicken. To Italian airmen fowl is a jinx.

The 25 ships, cream of 96 tested for the expedition, are Savoia-Marchetti S-55 hydroplanos* similar to those of the South Atlantic flight, great twin-hulled affairs with the pilots’ compartment housed in a bridge between the hulls. Mounted above the bridge are two Isotta-Fraschini engines in tandem, each driving with 800 h.p. a three-bladed propeller. Cruising speed: 137 m.p.h. Cruising range: 2,500 mi.

How soon Balbo’s squadron might reach the U. S., once it started, even he would not predict. Given fair weather all the way it could make the seven jumps in a week or ten days. But peasoup fogs boil up around Labrador, and General Balbo has flatly stated that he will turn back rather than foolishly risk a ship. Yet, if he decides to go ahead, he has no patience with a crew which fails to keep its plane where it belongs. His orders: "Arrive with the plane or don’t arrive."

L’Atlantico. Technical commander of the flight, organizer and executive is Col. Pellegrini, 44, seasoned naval officer, whose wife is the U. S.-born daughter of Theodore Kaschmann. Metropolitan Opera baritone of 20 years ago. But no other man calls himself, or is called, commander from the moment Italo Balbo steps upon the scene. Glory or blame will fall squarely upon the shoulders of that amazing man whose worshippers call him L’Atlantico.

Famed in Italy’s politics of the past five years are two blackbearded men sometimes called "the twins." The other with the beard is Dino Grandi, onetime Minister of Foreign Affairs.

There is a story that when II Duce ousted Signor Grandi from the cabinet last year he simultaneously sent Air Minister Balbo a letter informing him that his "resignation was accepted." Minister Balbo is supposed to have marched straight in upon II Duce, handed back the letter as "sent by mistake." That tale is told by antiFascists to illustrate their belief that Premier Mussolini fears his Air Minister because of the latter’s personal grip on the Air Force. They go even further, hinting that Mussolini encourages his Minister to lead airplanes across oceans in the hope that he may arrive neither with his ship nor at all. True or false, the fact remains that Twin Grandi is out—a mere Ambassador to Great Britain—while Twin Balbo, welcome or not, stands closer than any man to Benito Mussolini.

Italo Balbo at 23 came out of the War and the hardy Alpine corps with a bronze medal, two silver medals, a lisp and vaguely revolutionary ideas. The last he put into a newspaper called L’Alpino. Back in his native Ferrara, as a schoolboy, he had organized and led farmworkers in fights against landowners. Balbo was among the first to enroll in the rising movement of Fascism. Enormously ambitious, popping with energy, he made such a good job of clubbing the opposition that he was put in charge of II Duce’s own territory. When the Quadrumvirate marched on Rome, one of those quadrumvirs was 26-year-old Italo Balbo, his black shirt sporting the insignia of a lieutenant-general of Fascist militia.

But "General" Balbo had done his job of political repression too well. In Ferrara, a priest had died of a beating. Balbo had to stand trial. Nothing was proved. He was acquitted, and II Duce commended him for behaving "like a Fascist and a gentleman." But there was so much fuss that Mussolini removed Balbo from the militia, let him cool off for a year or so. As Undersecretary of National Economy, he was a complete misfit. Finally Mussolini hit upon a plan for diverting into a useful channel his disciple’s hot-bloodedness, ambition and ability as an organizer. He told him to learn to fly, gave him the Undersecretariat of Air. Disgruntled were famed Italian flyers who thought they rated the job. But Undersecretary Balbo was no swivel-chair cabinet officer. He learned to fly ably. He developed the navigation school at Orbetello and a high speed school at Lake Garda where trim Macchi seaplanes lately wrested the world’s speed record (423 m.p.h.) from Great Britain. He developed a system of six airlines on which not a single passenger has been killed in three years. He built up Italy’s military air power from fourth place to a position second only to that of France, capable of prodigious long-range bombing operations. He proved himself probably the world’s greatest organizer in aviation and, incidentally, made himself rich.

Italo Balbo expresses his theory of military aviation thus: "Aircraft must be used in masses like infantry in the next war, and solo flying will get us nowhere." Hence he concentrates his efforts on mass manoeuvres with himself in the lead. The first, in 1928, was a western Mediterranean cruise of 61 scout seaplanes. Next year 36 bombers roared across the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea to Odessa. Two years later the South Atlantic was hummed over according to plan.

In such a military scheme there can be no individual stars. Nor are there any in Italo Balbo’s personal scheme. Soon after Balbo took office, famed Col. Mario de Bernardi. Schneider Trophy winner in 1926, turned up in civilian clothes. Arturo Ferrarin (Rome-Tokyo; Rome-Brazil) landed on the reserve list. And Col. Francesco de Pinedo awoke halfway around the world one morning to find himself exiled to Buenos Aires as military attaché.

The resentment of famed oldtime flyers at such tactics is illustrated by an incident following Flyer Balbo’s triumphant return from South America in 1931. Having been publicly lionized he presented himself at the door of Gabriele D’Annunzio, Italy’s air hero of the War, who lost his right eye in combat and was called "II Duce’’ before Mussolini. D’Annunzio coldly refused to see Balbo. Afterward his friends asked: ’’Why do you snub him? After all he is ’The Eagle.’" Snorted D’Annunzio: "Eagle? . . . Peacock!"

But if Balbo has the vanity of a peacock, no peacock has the ability or courage of a Balbo. And if it be true that there are Italians who secretly hope that Balbo will meet disaster, it is also true that Balbo gives them every opportunity to get their wish. 


*When in 1920 Pope Benedict XV looked about for a patron saint for airmen, he had not far to seek. At Loreto, overlooking the Adriatic, stood a Holy House which, by legend, was the onetime residence of the Virgin Mary in Nazareth. When in 1263 the Turks threatened it with destruction, a squadron of angels is supposed to have picked up Mary’s house and flown it to a place near Fiume, thence to Loreto. By the Pope’s decree the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto became "special patron with God of all things aeronautic." —

Because acroplano is not a true Italian word. Aviator-Poet Gabriele D’Annunzio coined, tried to popularize velivolo. It failed to take.


© 2008, Time. All Rights Reserved.

On May 18, 1927, the most famous Italian Aviator of the time, Count Marquis Francesco de Pinedo landed his Savoia 55 Flying Boat for a stopover in the waters near Shippagan. His arrival was celebrated with a civic reception and a presentation of an Acadian flag to the honoured guest. His journey had included stops at 33 locations. From Italy he had flown to Western Africa, across the South Atlantic, the Andes Mountains twice, the jungles of Brazil, the Caribbean and North America. After leaving Shippagan, he would cross the North Atlantic on his way back to Italy, completing a total journey of 25,000 miles. The same day De Pinedo left Shippagan for Dead’s Bay, Newfoundland, Charles Lindburgh took off from New York on his way to complete the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
On May 18, 1927, the most famous Italian Aviator of the time, Count Marquis Francesco de Pinedo landed his Savoia 55 Flying Boat for a stopover in the waters near Shippagan. His arrival was celebrated with a civic reception and a presentation of an Acadian flag to the honoured guest. His journey had included stops at 33 locations. From Italy he had flown to Western Africa, across the South Atlantic, the Andes Mountains twice, the jungles of Brazil, the Caribbean and North America. After leaving Shippagan, he would cross the North Atlantic on his way back to Italy, completing a total journey of 25,000 miles. The same day De Pinedo left Shippagan for Dead’s Bay, Newfoundland, Charles Lindburgh took off from New York on his way to complete the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

© 2003, Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum . All Rights Reserved.

The view of Moncton airport landing strip taken from a plane participating in the 1931 Moncton Air Pageant.

Between the wars, many air shows or pageants held from the Moncton Airport provided an opportunity to show the types of airplanes in service and the skills of their pilots. Leger’s Corner was the location of the Moncton Airport which from 1929 included runways, the air terminal, and hangars.

Time Frame Photo (McCully) Fonds, PANB
c. 1931
Moncton, New Brunswick, CANADA
P197-156
© 2008, New Brunswick Provincial Archives. All Rights Reserved.


A poster announcing the annual competition for Canada’s top amateur pilot, named after Shediac native John Webster.

In the summer of 1931 John Clarence Webster Jr. was the only Canadian pilot to compete in the King’s Cup Race in England. On August 11, 1931 he was killed at the St. Hubert’s Flying Field near Montreal while he was conducting acrobatic flying in a Trans Canada Airlines sponsored Air Pageant. Following his death, John Webster Sr., a distinguished New Brunswick historian, contributed the Webster Memorial Trophy, to honour his son. Designed by renowned Canadian sculptor Robert Tait Mackenzie, this trophy, along with a bronze medallion of the Greek god Icarus, (which symbolically represents youth and flight), is still presented annually to the top amateur pilot in Canada.

Webster Memorial Trophy Competition
c. 1931
CANADA
© 2008, Webster Memorial Trophy Competition. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Historical events associated with aviation have long been a part of the history and heritage of certain areas of the province. Students throughout New Brunswick will be introduced to times when aviation news was made here…in this place.


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