"Eskadrilya Valeriy Chkalov"
"Ot Kolkhoznikov i kolkhoznits Gorkovskoy oblasti"
LaGG-3s and La-5s paid by collective farm workers of the Gorky area
By Massimo Tessitori

File updated on June 2, 2019

go to La-5 main page
 go to LaGG-3 main page


On 11th of December 1942 the local newspaper of Gorky (now Nizhniy Novgorod) region “Gorkovskaya kommuna” published an announcement for all local workers : to pile their donations for obtaining an eskadrilya of fighters for the Red Army; those fighters had to be named after the most famous Soviet aircraft test pilot born in their region.

This was Valeriy Chkalov (2.02.1904-15.12.1938), a test pilot that performed the first long range non-stop flight to the USA via North Pole in 1937 with a single engined ANT-25 and became an immensely popular Hero of the Soviet Union.
He tested the most of the aircrafts of Polikarpov bureau (OKB), as I-16, I-17 and, unfortunately, the first prototype of I-180, on which he died while attempting to perform an emergency landing during its first flight. 
The accident caused the arrest of some collaborators of Polikarpov, accused of sabotage; N.N. Polikarpov himself was safe because he wasn't in the factory on that day and never authorized the unfortunate test flight. 

Workers of Gorky region were encouraged by collective-farm workers of Tombov region who donated to the Red Army tanks on 9th of November 1942. Therefore already on 16th of December 1942 in Gorky region workers of various districts had piled 60 mlln. RUB to obtain new fighters Lavochkin La-5 and LaGG-3 produced at the Factory Nr.21. 

The aircrafts donated by the collective farms and dedicated to Valeriy Chkalov were distributed into different units, mainly 159 IAP and 4 GIAP KBF, but examples were received by other units too, including 960 IAP-PVO, 254 IAP, 159 IAP, 193 IAP, 88 GIAP, and probably 31 IAP and 131 IAP.

A book quoted on scalemodels.ru reports the following list:

13 IAP Navy - 4 GIAP KBF (17 aircraft)
240 IAP - 178 GIAP
193 IAP - 177 GIAP
13 IAP - 111 GIAP
166 IAP-88 GIAP (15 aircraft)
254 IAP (10 aircraft)
21 IAP (1 airplane to the "Letchak heroes from Gorky")
160 IAP-137 GIAP (1 airplane Arzamas schoolboy)

All these aircrafts were characterized by the inscription "Eskadrilya Valeriy Chkalov" on port side; on starboard, most of them had inscription describing the donors "Ot kolkhoznikov i kolkhoznits Gorkovskoy oblasti" (From the Collective-workmen and Collective-workwomen of the Gorky region).
17 fighters La-5 from VCh eskadrilya were supplied to 4 GIAP KBF in the beginning of January 1943. That time the regiment was moved from the front on the back-front airfield for changing I-16 into La-5. Since there was no double-seated La-5s for training, the pilots risked but nevertheless tried to educate themselves with the new fighter La-5. Some La-5s were crashed during training already. Perhaps it was the largest batch of VCh La-5s.

The La-5 fighter production has started in Zavod 21 (factory nr.21) in Gorky in July 1942; it didn't replace the LaGG-3, which was produced there in parallel for the entire year 1942 (upper left).
There is stated in written Russian sources that the first decision to donate aircraft in Gorky region was signed on December 16th of 1942.
Some photos, discovered now and being unpublished yet (see below), are dated in winter of 1942, and could represent the first deliveries of such fighters.
The later fighters known to have had VCh inscriptions are La-5F "white 18" and "white 20" (upper right); that improved type replaced the La-5 on the Zavod 21 production lines on March 1943, and was built there in parallel with the more powerful La-5FN.
All this let us think that the deliveries were made in different times during the winter of 1942 and the spring of 1943.

Here are some interesting images, probably never published before, of aircrafts with the famous inscription "Eskadrilya Valeriy Chkalov".
The description of the pictures  found in the archive says: "Members of Collective farm of Pavlovskiy district Gorky region observe the aircrafts La-5 of eskadrilya "Valeriy Chkalov" obtained for Red Army, on the airfield  of Gorky factory. Winter 1942. Author N. Kapeliush"
N. Kapeliush lived in Gorky region and was the close friend of Valeriy Chkalov, and thus his photographer.
For the 100th anniversary of V.Chkalov in the beginning of 2004 was published the photo-album dedicated to this famous pilot - “Krylya Chkalova” (Wings of Chkalov).   Many photos from the personal archive of N. Kapeliush were published in this photo-album for the first time.

Thanks to:
Aleksey Zaicev-Valiayev, owner of the pictures that are copyrighted;
Audrius Nairanauskas for the historical research;
the State Authority of audio/video material archive of Nizhniy Novgorod region (ex Gorky) where the original pictures are stored.
Many workers at the meeting pose near a still uncompleted La-5 "Eskadrilya Valeriy Chkalov" during its assembly at Factory Nr.21.
The engine is still missing, and the rudder and elevators appear dark. 
From the position of the inscription, it seems that this aircraft was not the same of the images below.

Image from Aleksey Zaicev-Valiayev - click to enlarge

mage from Aleksey Zaicev-Valiayev - click to enlarge

A detail of the red star insignia on the port with the donation inscription "Eskadrilya Valeriy Chkalov", red on white background and white on red background.
Some smaller writings were painted obliquely. It could be identified some words in Russian that resemble those from the inscription on starboard; for example, "om", literally "ot" ("from"). 
Perhaps the workers just "played" with the starboard stencil while the fighter was still in assembling stage and was supposed to be repainted later.
Anyway, such oblique inscriptions can't be found on any known image of operative aircraft.

Image from Aleksey Zaicev-Valiayev - click to enlarge
These images represent the delivery of an aircraft (red 22?) to an operative unit  in presence of a delegation of the Collective farm of Pavlovskiy district, Gorky region, winter 1942.
Some aircraft without the donation inscription are visible on the background (red 57, red 82).
The unit that received this aircraft is unknown; some hypotheses were advanced on a Russian forum.
It surfaced that it could belong either to 31 IAP or 131 IAP. 
A researcher saw similar pictures of winter La-5 with inscription "Eskadrilya Valeriy Chkalov" in the file of 31 IAP in the CAMO archive. But some other sources say that 31 IAP had only summer camouflaged La-5s.
Unfortunately, the name of the pilot represented on the images is still unknown.

mage from Aleksey Zaicev-Valiayev - click to enlarge

mage from Aleksey Zaicev-Valiayev - click to enlarge

Analyzing the inscription

On the other side

Image from Red Stars n.1, colorized by Massimo Tessitori

Let's see the single aircrafts and pilots more in detail. Click on the links to view a page with larger drawings, photos and comments on each aircraft.



18 'Za Galchenko'

VCh plane of 21 IAP gifted by the firemen of Gorki


22 (?)

the aircraft delivered on that occasion


a plane of 193 IAP

Wide 42

a plane of unknown unit


of 11 GIAP


of General Major 
Ye.Y. Savitskii


of 21st IAP


of 159th IAP


of 159th IAP


of 88th GIAP


of 4th GIAP KBF


of 4th GIAP KBF



of 21 IAP