Festivals

Date: July 25, 1920
Location: Riga - Spilve
Known Personnel: P.Abrams, V.Jakubovs, J.Prieditis, N.Puskelis, P.Sturans, A.Zarins
Aircraft Known to be Involved: Hannover CL.III #21, three Sopwith Camels (#6, #18 and one other), Nieuport 24bis #1, LVG #24
Details:
  • The first Aviation Festival held in Latvia (as distinct from various small privately-organized flight demonstrations in the early days of flight).
  • The main purposed behind this festival was to raise money, both for desperately needed aircraft for the new air force and also to aid the widows and dependants of aviators who had died in the service. A secondary benefit was that the Festivals would introduce the general public to aviation and its recent achievements.
  • This festival was publicized to an impressive degree for its time. Articles written by experienced pilots appeared in newspapers, special postage stamps were issued, and leaflets were circulated.
  • On the day of the event, ferry service was instituted across the Daugava River. Tickets were sold with standing room costing six rubles, while seats cost 10. A buffet was offered, with an orchestra playing background music. The day was cloudy and rainy, but the show went on as planned.
  • The program included:
    • Demonstration of Formation flying (The Camels and the Nieuport)
    • Solo flight - controlled spin from an altitude of 400 to 20 metres (J.Prieditis in a Camel)
    • Solo flight - controlled spin from an altitude of 3000 metres (V.Jakubovs in a Camel)
    • Solo flight - A brilliant display of aerobatics by N.Puskelis in the Nieuport.
    • Aerial Combat demonstration - N.Puskelis and A.Zarins.
  • After the demonstration flights, civilians were given the opportunity to purchase a flight as a passenger in either the Hannover or LVG, being flown by V.Jakubovs and P.Abrams. This activity had to be halted at 8pm because of strong winds and the remaining ticket holders were invited back to receive their ride on July 29th. For the record, the first Latvian civilian to be taken up in a Latvian military airplane at such an event was woman named Miss Berzins, who actually purchased two such flights in the Hannover.
  • Sadly, Puskelis' superb aerobatic performance at the Festival was also his last. That evening, after the festivities and presumably no small amount of alcohol, he drowned during the ferry ride back to Riga.

Sources

- Bruvelis, Edvins Latvijas Aviacijas Vesture
- Jaunakas Zinas July 26, 1920

A Personal Note

My mother, born in 1911, was in grade school in Riga living with her older brothers, they had a second-floor flat looking out on the courtyard in the "Sinka maja", an apartment building owned by the Sinka family in the center of Riga. As we (the U.S.) shot the first man in space—just as every other child of the time I had an assignment to put together a scrap book from newspaper clippings—I had no idea that as a child, she had ran barefoot in the Spilve fields to see the first plane land there, a story she only told me years later.

This web page on Gunars' site—prepared with love, and care, and some measure of justified pride—the happy marriage of friendships forged through Latvians celebrating their heritage and the wonders of the Internet, brings those times and that story to life...

...and so, supporting this site in tribute to Gunars is not an act of some sort of ethnic patriotism, but rather my personal thanks for connecting me to a special moment in my family's history.
— Peters

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