TOMS GAILITIS


Gailitis
Gailitis
Gailitis by the Gourdou Lesseure



Interview with Toms Gailitis
Published in 'Rits' newspaper, Oct.4, 1936 on the event of Gailitis' victory in the Flight Around Latvia contest.

Rits: Amid the trees of Aizsargu street, in a two-storey apartment, aviator Toms Gailitis makes his home. However, it is rare when one finds him there. During the day he is employed by the Latvian Bank and his spare time is spent at the aerodrome. Sometimes for weeks or months on end he only sees his home when goes there to sleep.

Gailitis: I was dreaming of flying already when I was in high school. After graduating I entered military service. Initially, I was assigned to the infantry, but after a strict physical exam I obtained a transfer to the flight school, mechanics section. This was a big step forward. I learned all about engine fundamentals, construction and repair, and I also had my first opportunities to fly as a passenger.

Rits: And what were your first impressions?

Gailitis: Who can remember now, when I have made over a thousand flights on my own? I only remember that, in the excitement of the moment, I lost all sense of time passing. The airplane left the ground and then immediately landed again because there was some sort of mechanical problem with the engine. I did not even notice that we had not completed the customary circle of the airfield.
After I completed my military service I briefly lived in the country, but returned in 1933 and immediately joined the Aizsargu Aviacija. The first aircraft which we obtained was Pulins' "Ikars". We did all the repairs and maintenance and, for my diligence, I was selected among the seven who made up the first Aizsargu flight training group. At first they taught us theory and then, one evening in July of that same year, I made my first solo flight. My first flight, as for most people, went quite well. Only later do various problems appear - occasionally the landing field is too small, or the aircraft (when landing) is overcome with the joy of 'hopping', or some other such thing.
My next airplane was a relic of the war aviators. This aircraft came into my hands many years after our first encounter, years earlier when I was serving my military service and received my first flight experience. This was an historic aircraft. It was the one in which Prieditis defected to the Latvian forces and later he flew it on many combat sorties. [Note: In fact, this was not the airplane flown over by Prieditis, but was actually a gift from the British military in March, 1920. - gdz]

Rits: Why do you refer to it in the past tense?

Gailitis: Because the airplane no longer exists. We flew it for about a year and then one day, when landing, I flipped it over and the aircraft was destroyed.

Rits: Were you unharmed?

Gailitis: Yes, that time I was uninjured. But it did not go so well for me on a different occasion. We were using a powered glider, with a two-cylinder motorcycle engine. I took off and, almost immediately, performed a tight loop over the city. Of course, this was an act of overconfidence, and it almost proved fatal. The engine stopped, and I had no hope of gliding back to the aerodrome. I tried to make a forced landing at Balastdambis in a sandy clearing, but as I approached the landing I struck an antenna. What followed was a spectacular crash and a month in the hospital with a broken leg. There have also been a few minor incidents, but one quickly forgets those.

Rits: And how are you progressing with the advanced flight training?

Gailitis: Well, I showed off a few of my new skills at the Aviation Festivals this summer. These things are mostly self-taught. First you have to read all you can about aerobatics and then, before leaving the ground, you have to work out exactly what control movements the maneuver will require. Then, you try them out at a high altitude and, when you are confident of the maneuver, you can begin performing it at a lower altitude where it can be seen by others.

Rits: Are you ever afraid?

Gailitis: No! I feel more safe in the air than on the ground. And sometimes, if I find myself in a bad frame of mind, I go up for a flight and quickly feel much better.

Rits: And what would you say to those young boys who dream of becoming a pilot?

Gailitis: I dont know. Perhaps this is one of those things which you have to approach with a total passion of the heart, devoting all your time and effort. Only then something might come of it.




Sources
- Jaunais Kurzemnieks July 13, 1938
- Latvijas Aviacijas Vesture Edvins Bruvelis
- Of Struggle and Flight Karlis Irbitis
- Rits No.274 (October 4, 1936), pg.14.
- Sparnota Latvija No.37/38 (Jul/Aug 1937) pg.234
- Sparnota Latvija No.39 (Sep 1937) pg.253
- Sparnota Latvija No.40 (Oct 1937) pg.277, 278, 279
- Sparnota Latvija No.41 (Nov 1937) pg.290, 312, 316
- Sparnota Latvija No.42 (Dec 1937) pg.345
- Sparnota Latvija No.50 (Aug 1938) pg.604, 605, 607
- Sparnota Latvija No.51 (Sept 1938) pg. 616, 632, 633
- Sparnota Latvija No.52 (Oct 1938) pg. 666, 667
- Sparnota Latvija No.53 (Nov 1938) pg.685, 686, 687, 689, 690, 692, 711
- Sparnota Latvija No.54 (Dec 1938) pg. 745, 748


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