The story of the Italian balloonists

The Italians, Capt. Pirazolli and Ltd. Caputo, flying balloon DUX, have returned to Warzaw. They had no special impressions from their flight. The atmospheric conditions had been so bad, that they did not manage to cover at least half of the way, they could have done. Their explanation of the early landing was, that they had been forced to dump more that ¾ of their ballast already in the first night. From 7 p.m. on they had been in clouds. Rain and snow put so much weight on the balloon, that they could not have kept it flying without enormous dump of ballast. This went on until 6 a.m., when they finally came out of the clouds at sunrise. Then they went up to an altitude of 3600 meters, where they flew to the Northeast with a speed of 40 to 50 kilometres an hour. The great loss of ballast however did not allow them to continue the flight. They dumped the rest of their ballast, even their tools as well as washing and drinking water. But it did not help. At 8 a.m. they landed 7 kilometres northeast of the village of Muzowjer, 160 kilometres northeast of Leningrad. Also their landing was not so smooth, as they got some scratches. At first, they did not manage at all to communicate with the inhabitants of the village. Finally they were guided to a larger village named Lada. There a female teacher was living, who spoke a little French. With her help, they found three witnesses, to certify the log book according to the rules of the race. The two pilots slept in the house of the teacher. The following night, they drove to Leningrad, where they stood for two days, and had a very warm welcome by the representatives of local aviation.

Next year, as both of them expressed, they will take part again in the race, if possible.

Some more words about poor pilot Peter from France: Not only had he been robbed on the train to Warzaw, as Capt. Hynek had mentioned it above, when he finally arrived at Warzaw, his co-pilot fell ill. A substitute person from France could not arrive in time, so Polish organizers asked German pilot Hildebrandt, a retired major, who was in Warzaw as a spectator, to serve Peter as co-pilot. Their balloon TORUN then escaped during inflation, again the organisers helped and gave them the balloon BRATISLAVA from Czechoslovakia. But this balloon was old and leaking, so Peter and Hildebrandt had to land after 5.22 hours and less than 300 kilometres. This little story of misfortune is quite important from another point of view: It was five years before breakout of World War II, relations between Germany on one side, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia on the other side were not the best. If under these circumstances a German (retired) military person mounts the basket of a Czechoslovakian balloon in Poland to serve a French pilot, launching with the sound of ‘La Marseillaise’, the French national anthem, and probably fly to Soviet Russia, this is a ‘very delicate diplomatic affair’, which may only happen in the special atmosphere of a Gordon Bennett Race.

The results were painful for the German air sport association. They had a lot of hope for better places. It sounds a little weepy, what former President, balloon captain Raven, states as excuse:

“The Gordon Bennett Race 1934, held from Warzaw on September 23rd, is over, the official results are well known, the newspapers had published enough reports as well from the competitors and the criticisers, so today, after some distance from the race, we can only finish with the clear, but unpleasant statement: Germany had not performed well, only one of three balloons, Germany had entered has won a prize, but also this balloon is ranked eight, the two others are in the second row.

Of course, our pilots know the reasons for their defeat; they already knew it before they flew. They knew, that we don’t have modern racing balloons, they knew, that they could not have flown for training once or twice a week within the previous year, we don’t have the money for this in Germany. We are not a country with a military air force and all the supplies, as other countries have. We also know, that we could not sent any pilot to the race, but only those who could afford the costs by themselves, without support from the German Air-sport Association or the government of the Reich, we knew all this. Some people may say, we could have renounced from this competition. No, that would have been absolutely wrong, one may be defeated, but never may retreat cowardly. Great men and mighty armies have also suffered defeats, becoming big and strong especially by this.”

Some years ago, at the presentation of the new racing-balloon DEUTSCHLAND for example, this sounded much more optimistic. Not only this year, but again and again, we always meet the same excuses: Lack of money, wrong material, and so on. More honest would be the simple confession: The others are better.

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