Biplane fighter aces


Alikersantti Matti Heino Sukanen

5 December 1918 – 31 May 1943

Matti Sukanen was born at Luopioinen on 5 December 1918.

He received flying training in 1938-39 at RAOK 5 and was assigned as a alikersantti to T-LentoR 2 on 9 October 1939.

On 15 February 1940, he was transferred to LLv 26.

On 25 February 1940, three Gladiators from LLv 26’s detachment Siiriäinen were sent to intercept Russian artillery observation planes above Muolaa. The pilots were luutnantti Pentti Tevä (GL-254), alikersantti Sukanen (GL-258) and alikersantti Ilmari Joensuu (GL-256). They met nine R-5 planes near Muolaanjärvi, attacked and shot down four of them. Sukanen claimed one and one damaged at 15:30 while Tevä shot down two at 16:10 and Joensuu finally claimed one at 16:15. The Soviet aircraft were in fact R-Zs from 4 LBAP, 13 VA, of which two were lost. It seems that one was R-Z 2253, which crashed at Suolajärvi with pilot Starshii Leitenant Fedor Z. Boldyrykhin and observer Starshii Leitenant Valentin Georgiyevich Belyayev (who died of wound on 27 February). There were also six Russian I-153s from 13 OIAP (Soviet 13th Independent [O] fighter [I] regiment [AP]) in this area as an escort to the R-Zs. These intercepted and shot down and killed Tevä. His GL-254 was seen to dive straight into ground from the altitude of 3000 m without any attempts to pull up or jump, so Tevä was probably hit himself. Sukanen was also shot down. He was wounded and crashed his Gladiator at Ristseppälä. Joensuu was forced to make forced landing with a damaged fighter.
One more Gladiator was lost on the same day when Gl-266 crashed due to engine problems behind enemy lines at Kämärässä. The pilot alikersantti T. Begman was safe and returned by foot.
At 16:10 on the same day, vänrikki Lauri Sihvo (GL-279) claimed a damaged R-5 over Sippola.
It is possible that some of the Finnish Gladiators had been in combat with I-16s from 68 IAP, which reported that six I-16s lead by Starshii Leitenant Plotnikov patrolled in the region of Mäkelä village and were engaged in combat with eight Bulldogs. The task of this group was to cover SB bombers attacking a target in the same area. Soon after that the SBs dropped their bombs, the I-16s saw the first Bulldog, which flew to north at the altitude of 2500 metres. It was attacked and downed by Starshii Leitenant Plotnikov. According to the pilot report, the aircraft smoked and fell into the forest.
Just after that, at 17:05 Russian time, the I-16s turned to the opposite direction and saw a group of R-Z aircraft, which were flying below them and also seven other Bulldogs. Two Bulldogs attacked one R-Z and it came over Soviet territory losing altitude. Leitenant Safronenko’s flight attacked one of these Bulldogs and shot it down. The Bulldog crashed into the forest on the Finnish side.
At the same time, Plotnikov’s flight flew towards five other Bulldogs flying 1000-1500 metres higher and not seeing the Soviet fighters. While climbing, the I-16s got onto the tail of the enemy formation and all together fired a burst that missed and the Bulldogs began to turn towards the Soviet fighters. The I-16s continued to turn and shot down one more enemy fighter (claimed as a shared by the whole flight), which was observed by a command post of a Soviet Army Corps. Then the flight separated and in the following combat, Leitenant Emirov shot down one Bulldog. Emirov was wounded in the hand, while his I-16 received 85 holes, but he returned safely to the airfield. At the same time, Leitenant Sergei Maev got into a head on attack with a Bulldog, but simultaneously two other Bulldogs got behind his tail. Maev’s I-16 got 56 bullet holes, but the Bulldog attacked by him was hit and fell to the ground out of control. Maev returned safely.

He was demobilized on 2 June 1940.

On 17 August 1940, he was promoted to kersantti.

Sukanen was recruited to LeR2 on 20 August 1941, but served at LeV and VL due to previous injuries.

He was killed on 31 May 1943 when walking into a rotating propeller.

At the time of his death, Sukanen was credited with one victory, this one being claimed while flying Gloster Gladiators.
During his career, he was awarded with the Vapauden Mitali 1st Class and 2nd Class.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 25/02/40 15:30 1 R-5 (a) Destroyed Gladiator GL-258 Muolaanjärvi LLv 26
  25/02/40 15:30 1 R-5 (a) Damaged Gladiator GL-258 Muolaanjärvi LLv 26

Biplane victories:1 destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed, 1 damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with R-Zs from 4 LBAP, 13 VA. Two were lost against claims for four by LLv 26.

Englantilaiset Hävittäjät - Keskinen, Stenman, Niska
Kohtalokkaat lennot 1939-1944 - Jaakko Hyvönen
Ilmavoimat talvisodassa - Keskinen, Stenman
Ilmavoitot, osa 1 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
Ilmavoitot, osa 2 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
Red Stars 7 - Talvisota Ilmassa - The Winter War In the Air - Carl-Fredrik Geust, 2011 Apali Oy, Tampere, ISBN 978-952-5877-04-5
Soviet Fighter Pilots 1936-1953 - Mikhail Bykov
Suomen Ilmailuhistoriallinen Lehti nr. 1/1996
Suomen Ilmavoimat part II – 1928-40 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2006, ISBN 952-99743-0-2
Additional information kindly provided by Alexey Andreev, Lars Larsson, Tuomo Lukkari and Jukka Raustia

Last modified 10 September 2019