Home > NewsRelease > Flying Across Siberia with 12 Small Planes Revealed in Book, ‘Round the World & Across Russia in 21 Days, 30 Years Later’
Text Graphics
Flying Across Siberia with 12 Small Planes Revealed in Book, ‘Round the World & Across Russia in 21 Days, 30 Years Later’

Siberian Landscape with the Ural Mountains in the back

Flying Across Siberia in Single & Twin Aircraft Right After the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Santa Monica, CA—The word Siberia evokes many different images and notions, with the words 'Cold' and 'Gulag' prominent as the first reactions for most everyone. But what about July, what about flying over some of the most desolate, unhospitable terrain in the world. Ever wonder what it might be like to fly across Siberia in single engine aircraft—well five of them did just that right after the Soviet Union collapsed in July 1992, that one positive summer when the world prayed for a positive outcome from the demise of the Bolshevik regime.

A new book, Round the World & Across Russia in 21 Days, 30 Years Later: 12 Planes & 22 Aviators Thru 11 Countries When the Soviet Union Fell & Russia Returned, is the detailed telling of small planes crossing Siberia with few navigation aids, stray Russian aircraft wandering about and often surly, uncooperative air traffic controllers making life and death decisions. Documented and written by Michael B. Butler, this group of small planes became the first private group to circumnavigate while crossing the entire landmass of Russia.

One of our pilots, Dr. Howard Wisner out of Dallas flying a single Bonanza with his partner Janice Sullivan, flew over huge portions of Siberia at under 500 feet and often at less than 50 feet. In fact, while flying up the Lena River he wrapped some kind of wire around a wing. This was just one of the many wild experiences and close calls we had flying across Russia and Siberia.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the author constructed the book using seven major pilot journals, five ancillary journals, 25 hours of video tape, interviews and what he recalled. Details and color slide shows can be found at www.MichaelButlerBooks.com.

Here is a small section of us entering Siberian airspace, the big step into the unknown for our World Flight Across Russia.

    Reverse back a few hours and we will get into the heart of those slogging ahead and continually recalculating their fuel consumption and headwinds. Tension rises as fuel becomes precious, with total darkness falling around 11:00 pm local this time of year in that section of Western Siberia. Russian VP Rutskoi's influence was of little help to us with varying degrees of panic settling in all the way down the line.

    The Italians hear the chatter as they get passed by. Umberto Bernardini also relates in his book, A Baby Around the World, their unique method of transferring fuel from jerry cans in the aircraft cabin, "We left Syktyvkar first, but even without seeing them we hear over the radio that the others are gradually overtaking us, but we also hear that some are experiencing difficulties due to fuel shortages. Giorgio and I, however, have plenty of fuel, having filled our jerry cans as well as the internal tank. But while the Avgas is transferred by dropping it from the additional to the normal tank, transfer from the cans takes place using pressure generated by a small bike pump. Giorgio does this quite admirably, but with difficulty, due to his uncomfortable position in the cramped cabin space.

    "Thousands, no millions, of trees flow beneath us. Geographical maps we have show only a small portion of the numerous waterways that form a dense web below. Nothing human can be seen anywhere; people, houses, artifacts or roads, nothing. Landing in these areas presents more risks than ditching in the open sea. After the headwinds we also have to face a big dance, which fortunately doesn't last too long. Hours pass slowly, the sun is setting behind us; perhaps it too is tired like Giorgio and I as it goes to sleep below the horizon line."

    Temple, Sullens and Leavelle in the twin Cessna 421 Ultimate Trip have every right to be worried as Bob describes, "Valentin Perfiliev, Advisor to VP of Russian Federation or the CIS, Commonwealth of Independent States, replaced Soviet Union, at least for now… already on the ground and Nicholai on the King Air support craft… his influence is questionable, where is Valentin when we need him?… no doubt he can obtain clearance if needed, but where is he?… Sully hands me the chart, suggests I locate a couple of alternates within 200 miles of Novosibirsk… just in case!… I looked carefully… there isn't any… no airports at all… our GPS operates from satellites and gives position within 20 feet anywhere in the world will be handy… also gives me the closest airport… our departure airport… next closest… our destination… WOW!…  what now… it's likely that airports exist… for 70 years the Russians haven't told the rest of the world much… including Jeppesen who have made their charts for years.

    "5:03 pm… we have a sudden strange noise in our plane… engines are smooth… gauges OK… possibly pressurization control valve… Norm and Mario, ahead in twin Cessna 340A, report 15 minutes of fuel reserve, amount in reserve upon landing… we still have 45 minutes or better… it's three hours and 12 minutes to Novosibirsk… ETA 8:10 pm according to my watch… I keep forgetting to adjust it for the time zone dislocation… actually it will be midnight local at arrival… therefore actually 9:03 pm local and not 5:03… Norm tells controller in his lawyerly voice he will land post haste on arrival on Runway 7… say's he will not accept delay… out of gas… controller does not respond!… "

    The King Air began to catch up to the pack while Nicholai, our Tushino Russian liaison on board, has been no help working with Paul requesting alternative airports for Rally aircraft and possibly the King Air, whose fuel supply also looked dire. In the back we can hear the back-and-forth chatter with Nicholai proclaiming, 'No Problem,' and then getting shut down by controllers. Looming on Paul's mind was that controllers at Novosibirsk grant immediate clearance upon the arrival of all the fuel critical aircraft. Nicholai again proffers the standard 'no problem,' he has limited authority and their trust in him was wilting by the minute.

Media Interviews: For review copies or interviews please contact Eric Blair Enterprises at MichaelButlerBooks@pm.me or 213-534-7292.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Michael B. Butler
Group: Eric Blair Enterprises
Dateline: Long Beach, CA United States
Direct Phone: 213-534-7292
Jump To Michael B. Butler, Author of 'Round the World & Across Russia in 21 Days, 30 Years Later.' Jump To Michael B. Butler, Author of 'Round the World & Across Russia in 21 Days, 30 Years Later.'
Contact Click to Contact
Other experts on these topics