Aviators
G

GAILITIS, TOMS

Gailitis
  • 1912 - Born.
  • 1932 - begins ground school, in preparation for flight school.
  • May 26, 1933 - Begins flight school in the first Aizsargu pilot training class.
  • August 2, 1933 - Makes his first solo flight (airplane: the "Ikars II")
  • July 29, 1934 - Reichmanis and Gailitis fly an old Sopwith Strutter from Riga to an international scout "Jamboree" being held at the Riga seashore, and landing the aircraft on the beach.
  • November 16, 1934 - Gailitis crashes and destroys a motorized glider (built by Kenins) when the engine stopped at low altitude over Ilguciems.
  • October 15, 1935 - with L.Ozolins as passenger, he crashes Sopwith Strutter (formerly #13) for its last time - the aircraft was not repaired, though the aviators were unharmed.
  • 1936 - One of the few Aizsargi aviators who was confident enough to fly the Gourdou Lesseure on a regular basis.
  • June 21, 1936 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Valmiera.
  • July 5, 1936 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Liepaja.
  • July 12, 1936 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Kuldiga. Gailitis
  • July 26, 1936 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Krustpils.
  • September 27-28, 1936 - participates (with observer R.Celmins) in the first "Flight Around Latvia" contest and is the overall winner.
  • July 11, 1937 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Kuldiga.
  • July 25, 1937 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Rujiena.
  • August 29, 1937 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Koknese.
  • July 10, 1938 - participates in the Aviation Festival at Kuldiga.
  • July 31, 1938 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Liepaja.
  • August 7, 1938 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Ventspils.
  • August 21, 1938 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Riga/Spilve.
  • September 4, 1938 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Smiltene.
  • September 11, 1938 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Jelgava.
  • September 25, 1938 - Participates in the Aviation Festival at Priekule.
  • Oct 1-2, 1938 - participates (with observer Pladers) in the third "Flight Around Latvia" contest.
  • Member of the 3rd Aizsargu Squadron. With the official title of mechanic/pilot he was one of the handful of Aizsargi who earned a salary for his service.
  • October 30, 1938 - Dies in a VEF I-12 crash at Riga/Spilve.


    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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