Svetlana Kapanina completed medical school in 1987 and was looking for a hobby. The daredevil inside her suggested sky diving, so she began researching aerial sports and took a few classes. It didn’t take long for her hidden love of flying to flourish and she uncovered her natural ability for aerial acrobatics.
By 1991 Svetlana was a member of the Russian Aerobatic Joint Crew and by 1995 she graduated Kaluga Pilot’s School. She still planned on pursuing her career as a pharmacist, but her passion for her adrenaline-pumping pastime proved too powerful.
Svetlana quickly became a world air stunt champion and continues competing today. She contributes her success to great balance and a stellar sense of spatial orientation thanks to gymnastics classes, plus she has colossal confidence.
“Nowadays there’s nothing that men can do that women can’t,” Svetlana says. “Everything is possible. Men’s and women’s pilots’ programs are identical. When we fly the judges don’t care who is sitting in the cockpit, a man or a woman. Their marks are not gender-driven.”
The Russian-made SU-26, one of the best acrobatic planes in the world that’s normally flown by men. Her coach, Kasum Nazhmudinov, often praises the female phenom, saying, “In the last 30 years I’ve taught dozens of students. Many of them became champions. You can describe Svetlana in many ways. But in a nutshell, she’s a genius of aerial acrobatics. She’s above all others. The only one in history.”
She recently sat down for an interview with Russia Today to discuss why Russian women pilots are such a rarity, what needs to be done in Russia for sport aviation to get back its international status, and much more. View the video below.
ISIS follows Sharia Law which makes women equal to dog. Under Sharia law a woman has no rights. Kind of ironic that ISIS is being blown apart by a woman air force fighter! The only thing better than watching ISIS get the hell beat out of them, is knowing a female is doing it…because as you know, terrorists think they don’t go to Heaven if a woman kills them!
Here’s another, Svetlana Kapanina – Russian pilot, seven-time absolute world champion among women in aerobatics. Honored Master of Sports of Russia, Honored coach of Russia
MARINA RASKOVA AND THE SOVIET WOMEN PILOTS OF WORLD WAR II
Marina Raskova (1912-1943)
On June 22, 1941, Hitler’s Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union, and Operation Barbarossa was under way.
By November, the German army was just 19 miles from Moscow. Leningrad was under siege, three million Russians had been taken prisoner, a large part of the Red Army was wiped out and the air force was grounded. The situation looked hopeless.
In the summer of 1941, Marina Raskova, a record-breaking aviatrix, organized the 588th night bomber squadron – composed entirely of women, from the mechanics to the navigators, pilot and officers.
Most of them were around 20 years old. The 588th began training in Engels, a small town north of Stalingrad. In a few months, the women were taught what it takes most people four years to learn.
One June 8, 1942, three planes took off on the first mission. The target: the headquarters of a German division. The raid was successful, but one aircraft was lost. The 588th fought non-stop for months, flying 15 to 18 missions a night. “It was a miracle we didn’t lose more aircraft”, recalls Nadia Popova. “Our planes were the slowest in the air force. They often came back riddled with bullets, but they kept flying.”
On August 2, 1942, her plane crashed in the Caucasus. She and her navigator were found alive a few days later. The winter of 1942 was brutal, with the temperature plummeting to -54o F during the battle of Stalingrad. Parts of the aircraft were so cold that they ripped the skin off of anyone who touched them. By January 1943, the women of the 588th were worn out. Sleepless nights, constant stress, the loss of friends and sexual harassment from male colleagues took their toll. Women in the 588th flew up to 500 night raids!
From the battle of Stalingrad to the fall of Berlin, the regiment made 24,000 combat flights and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs. It was awarded the Soviet Union’s highest collective military honor. Years after the war, Nadia Popova said, “At night sometimes, I look up into the dark sky, close my eyes and picture myself as a girl at the controls of my bomber and I think, ‘Nadia, how on earth did you do it?”
The Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASP’s) had key figures in their organization and implementation–Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Love. For the Soviet women pilots, it was Marina Raskova.
In 1938 Raskova and two other Soviet women had set a world record for a non-stop direct flight by women when they flew a Soviet-built, twin-engine aircraft named Rodina (homeland) 6,000 kilometers across the expanse of the Soviet Union from Moscow to Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Far East.
With the aircraft icing up over the Siberian wilderness, the women tossed everything movable out of the aircraft to try and gain altitude. Finally, Raskova, who had been the navigator, decided she would have to go as well. She marked the aircraft’s compass heading on a map and bailed out into the darkness.
The two remaining pilots eventually landed safely at their destination, and a hunter rescued Raskova. The three “Winged Sisters” returned triumphantly to Moscow.
On June 22, 1941–a date that lives in infamy for the Russian people–the German blitzkrieg came to Mother Russia in the form of Operation Barbarossa.
The Soviets planned three women air regiments, each with three squadrons of 10 aircraft. The mechanics, armament fitters, and other personnel would also be women. Each regiment would then have approximately 400 women. Thousands of applications were received and narrowed down to 2,000 to be interviewed.
In 1942 the Soviet Union formed three regiments of women combat pilots who flew night combat missions and were so successful and deadly the Germans feared them, calling them Nachthexen–night witches.
Initially equipped with Yakovlyev YaK-1s and later YaK-7Bs
Marina Raskova and Soviet Female Pilots
At the age of 19, Marina Raskova joined the Zhukovski’s Aviation Academy. In 1934 Raskova graduated as the first woman in the USSR to officialy pass the aviation navigator exam, and during the next year she received her pilot’s licence. On 28 October 1937 Raskova and Valentina Grizodubova, while flying an AIR-12, took the female world record in a long distance non-stop flight of 1,445 km.
In 1938 she took part in two record flights: on 2 July with Polina Osipienko and W. Lomako, in a MP-1 flying boat, over a distance of 2,241 km, and on 24-25 September with V. Grizodubova and P. Osipienko, in an ANT-37, for a non-stop flight over a distance of 5,908 km. After a string of these record ‘missions’, Capt. Marina Raskova, at this time a 25 year old woman, was awarded the Gold Star of a Soviet Hero.
A famous Soviet navigator who set many records during the 1930s. She and two others were the first women to be awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal in 1938 when they completed a dangerous Moscow to Komsomolsk-on-Amur (in the Russian Far East) flight in the 2-engined plane “Rodina”, that broke the international women’s distance record.
Her influence and the military need for more human resources made it possible for her to be able to persuade Stalin to allow her to organize three regiments of women flyers. Already a folk heroine, and a Major in the Soviet Air Force by 1941, Raskova was the logical choice to recruit, interview, and oversee the training of the women aviators, which she did magnificently. Being a Hero of the Soviet Union, she gave great inspiration to her trainees and passed her vast aviation experience to this new generation of Soviet female flyers.
Valentina Grizodubova (1910-1993), Polina Denisovna Osipenko (1907-1939) and Marina Raskova (1912-1943), Russia/USSR, in September 1938, broke the long-distance world record for female aviators with their flight from Moscow to the southeastern tip of Siberia, a non-stop flight over a distance of 5,908 km in “Rodina,” an ANT-37.
Paterae on Venus are named for Grizodubova and Raskova. (In fact, all features on Venus are named for women and goddesses or the name of the planet in various Earth languages. Some of the features on Callisto, a statellite of Jupiter, are named for heroes and heroines from northern myths and mythological places in high latitudes.)
In 1942 the Soviet Union formed three regiments of women combat pilots who flew night combat missions of harassment bombing. They flew obsolete Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, that were otherwise used as trainers, and which could only carry 2 bombs that weighted less than a ton altogether. They were so successful and deadly the Germans feared them, calling them “Nachthexen” – night witches.
The Night Witches were the women of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. All of the mechanics and bomb loaders of this regiment, as in the 586th IAP and the 587th Bomber Regiment, were also women.
The Soviet women bomber pilots earned in total 23 Hero of the Soviet Union medals and dozens of Orders of the Red Banner. Two women bomber pilotsóKatya Ryabova and Nadya Popovaóin one night raided the Germans 18 times.
The Po-2 pilots flew more than 24,000 sorties and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs. Most of the women bomber pilots who survived the war in 1945 had racked up nearly 1,000 missions each. They had served so exemplarily throughout the whole war that they participated in the final onslauqht on Berlin.
In spite of the rich history of American women in military aviation personified by the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASP’s)) in World War II, the U.S. Armed Forces didn’t begin training women for air combat service until 1993.
Yet, in 1942 the Soviet Union formed three regiments of women combat pilots who flew night combat missions and were so successful and deadly the Germans feared them, calling them “Nachthexen” – night witches.
The WASP’s, unable to convince the military bureaucracy that they were willing and capable of air combat, had to be content to watch their daughters and granddaughters effect the change in U.S. policy 50 years after their service; it was a matter of equality and opportunity.The Soviets used pilots of both genders in World War II out of dire necessity. (The Germans used women test pilots–namely Melitta Schiller and Hanna Reitsch–but they retained civilian status and flew aircraft from the factories to the front; they did not fly in actual combat.)
Night Witches : The Movie
Malcolm McDowell is to take the lead role in second world war epic Night Witches, which is due to go into production later this year. [Now unsure re time line, most probably 2003 – Ed.]
Based on the true story of a squadron of female fighter pilots, the film will mark the directing debut of McDowell’s nephew, Alexander Siddig. His only previous experience behind the camera came while directing episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
McDowell, last seen in the well received British film,Gangster No.1, has just finished work on Dorian, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, due for release later in the year.
Guardian Unlimited 7/2/01
Night Witches : Background
In 1942 the Soviet Union formed three regiments of women combat pilots who flew night combat missions of harassment bombing. They flew obsolete Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, that were otherwise used as trainers, and which could only carry 2 bombs that weighted less than a ton altogether. They were so successful and deadly the Germans feared them, calling them “Nachthexen” – night witches. The Night Witches were the women of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. All of the mechanics and bomb loaders of this regiment, as in the 586th IAP and the 587th Bomber Regiment, were also women.
Soviet Women Pilots in the Great Patriotic War
which says in part…
Thousands of Russian women and girls courageously fought for their Rodina (Motherland), serving with the Voyenno-Vozdushniye Sily (Air Forces, in Russian). Women-pilots of female air regiments engaged in dogfights, cleared the way for the advancing infantry and supported them in ground support missions.
The fighter pilots of the all-women 586th IAP (Russian abbreviation for Fighter Aviation Regiment, same as Fighter Air Regiment) flew a total of 4,419 sorties (per pilot) and participated in more than 125 separate air battles, in which they massed a total of 38 confirmed kills. The USSR highly praised the combat deeds of female pilots: thousands won orders and medals. 29 won titles of Hero of the Soviet Union. 23 of these went to the Night Witches.
Note the unbrella to shade her from the summer heat whilst awaiting her flight.
Soviet Women Combat Pilots – The Battle for Moscow
In the months leading up to Operation Barbarossa (Hitler’s code name for the attack on the Soviet Union) there had been over 500 violations of Soviet airspace by German photo reconnaissance aircraft. On the 21st June 1941 Hitler attacked – his plan to crush the Soviet Union in 10 weeks. Initially the attack exceeded the wildest dreams of the German generals. The Fall of Smolensk to the Germans on July 16, 1941 placed Moscow in danger.
Hitler then discontinued the drive to Moscow, ordering the Germans to stand in place – it seemed to postpone the final blow but consequently Moscow received a reprieve during those crucial weeks. When the belated and ill-timed German assault on Moscow (code – named Operation Typhoon) began at 05:30 hours on September 30, 1941 the Russian weather turned foul.