First Russian Aviator – Mikhail Nikiforovich Efimov (1881-1919) Bolshevik Revolutionary

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Mikhail Efimov was known to be a good athlete in his youth, a profound thinker and inventor, and supporter of the Bolshevik Revolutionary Movement led by Lenin. Although the Wright brothers of the USA are believed by many to have made the first manned flight in a heavier than air machine – there is still argument and dispute about this fact. Even the European Press was doubtful of this claim at the time. However, whatever the actual facts, even in Russia today, the Wright brothers are generally credited with achieving the first ‘crude’ flight, as it where, but it is Mikhail Efimov who is believed to be the first true ‘pioneer’ of manned flight.

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Despite being a successful athlete, Mikhail Efimov’s dream was always to fly in the sky. In 1909 he successfully took to the skies in a glider, but later that year, at the expense of banker Ivan Ksidias, he went to study piloting in France, where his instructor was pioneer of aviation – Henri Farman.  On December 25th, 1909 Mikhail Efimov made his first independent 45-minute flight in an aeroplane over France. This was a substantial breakthrough in aviation, as prior to this, pilots had stayed in the air for only several minutes at a time. On March 21st, 1910 in Odessa, Mikhail Efimov – in the presence of 100,000 people on the field of the Odessa Racetrack – took to the skies yet again. On this day he climbed five times, (performing three laps) at an altitude of 50 meters, including two flights with passengers – bankers Ivan Xidias and the Chairman of the Odessa Flying Club -A rthur Anatot. These flights were carried out on the aeroplane ‘Farman-IV’. also on this day, Efimov set a world record for the duration of a flight with passengers. The previous record had belonged to one of the founders of aviation – Orvil Wright. This flight marked the beginning of the development of piloting aircraft in Russia. After landing, Efimov was awarded a laurel wreath with the inscription ‘The First Russian Aviator’.

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With the outbreak of WWI, Mikhail Efimov filed a report asking for him to be sent to the Western Front. Eventually he volunteered for the 32nd Airborne Detachment on the Western Front. As an experienced pilot, he flew reconnaissance and bombing missions over enemy positions, whilst gathering valuable reconnaissance information. For his military service he was awarded a full set of St. George Crosses, and the Order of Anna III medal with swords. As a progressive thinker, he supported the February Revolutionary Movement in Russia, and as a Bolshevik, he supported the October Revolution of 1917. However, as soon as the Revolution was declared, fourteen Western powers (including the USA, the UK and Germany) sent a combined ‘White’ force into Russia to combat the new ‘Red’ threat. In 1919, Mikhail Efimov was captured by these ‘White’ forces (known as the ‘White Guard’) and executed without trial (for supporting the Socialist cause).

Russian Language References:

https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ефимов,_Михаил_Никифорович

http://tehvov.ru/hist/1408-jelektrik-vysokogo-poleta-pjat-faktov-o-pervom.html

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