Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Kapitan Nikolay Yefimovich Lavitskiy HSU

7 December 1919 - 10 March 1944

Nikolai Lavitskii was born on 7 December 1919 in the village of Sloboda in the Smolensk region.
He learned to fly in the Smolensk aeroclub and joined the army in 1939.
He graduated from the Borisoglebsk Military Air College before the end of the same year, and in December 1941 was posted to the Crimea where he served as a Mladshii Leitenant in the defence of Sevastopol.

On the last day of 1941, he claimed a Bf 109 while flying an I-153 in the Fedosiya area.

During the defence of Sevastopol he totally claimed four victories.

Promoted to Leytenant, he served with 45 IAP during the summer of 1942, flying Yak-1s, operating over the Caucasus.

He claimed a Bf 109 over Balaklava on 11 June 1942.

On 29 June, eight 45 IAP Yak-1s intercepted a StG77 formation over Sevastopol. In the ensuing combat Kapitan L. Saprykin and Leytenant Lavitskii claimed a shared Ju 87.
In fact, a Ju 87 of Stab/StG77 was the only loss over Sevastopol on this date.

In October, the 45 IAP was withdrawn to re-equip with P-40 Kittyhawks and P-39 Airacobras at Ordzhonikidze, returning to action in March 1943. At this stage the regiment was transferred to the North Caucasus Front, Lavitskii now being promoted to Starshiy Leytenant and given the lead of a zveno.

On 9 March, 45 IAP landed on Krasnodar airfield with seventeen Airacobras and two Kittyhawks.

The next day on 10 March, eight Airacobras of 45 IAP departed on the first mission to the area of Abinskaya. The Airacobras were piloted by Starshiy Leytenant Dmitriy Glinka (leader), Leytenant Gedaliy Mikityanskiy, Dmitriy Shuropov, Nikolay Lavitskiy, Nikolay Kudrya, Dmitriy Koval, Pavel Berestnev and Vasiliy Sapyan. The P-39s was to escort twenty Pe-2s and were divided into two formations – a strike group (Glinka) and a covering group (Mikityanskiy). They were flying in a right echelon, with the covering group 550 yards in front and above the strike group.
After completing the escort mission they was vectored by radio to area 8 miles west of Abinskaya to intercept German bombers. The covering group attacked six escorting Bf 109s while the strike group frontaly attacked the bombers from above. In the ensuing combat one Bf 109 was hit and was last seen smoking and descending heading west. Glinka claimed three Ju 88s, Lavitskiy a He 111, Sapyan one Ju 88 and Kudrya claimed a Ju 88.

Fighting over the Kuban River, he had by July 1943 claimed 11 and 1 shared victories during 185 sorties.

Further re-equipment, this time with P-39 Airacobras, took place and the unit then flew on the South Front over Donbass. In August 1943 it became the 100 GIAP.

He claimed four victories with the Airacobra before on 24 August 1943 he was decorated with the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin after 185 combat missions and 66 aerial engagements.

Lavitskii was now posted to the 16 GIAP, with which he saw action during the early 1944 as a Kapitan on the 4th Ukrainian Front.
Later he was also appointed deputy CO of 9 GIAD, to which 16 GIAP was assigned.

In early March 1944 a group of pilots (36 men – 3 squadrons) from the 9 GIAD was dispatched to the Caucasus to pick up and ferry back P-39s, which was arriving by Lend-Lease through Iran. Mayor Pavel Kryukov of the 104 GIAP was placed in command of the group.
The aircraft was to be flown from the point of issue to their airfield in Chernigov (approximately 60 miles north-east of Kiev) and Kryukov planned and maintained a route with the fewest possible landings.

On 10 March, the pilots flew in squadron-size sub-elements with Kryukov leading the first, Mayor Lavitskiy leading the second and Anatoliy Komosa leading the third. The planned flight altitude was 6560 to 9845 feet, depending on ceiling and visibility in any overcast they might encounter. A speed was selected that favoured fuel economy and radio listening silence was to be maintained.
When they approached Gudermes station, Lavitskiy suddenly called Kryukov that his engine was smoking and Kryukov ordered him to land. A few moments later Lavitskiy radioed that his engine now was on fire and his aircraft was seen burning by his squadron comrades. Kryukov again ordered him to land immediately. Lavitskiy wasn’t however able to find any suitable spot to make an emergency landing on and soon his cockpit was full of smoke which made him unable to see the ground. Kryukov now ordered him to bail out but Lavitskiy refused since now he was over the Gudermes station, which was full of men and equipment.
Lavitskiy was able to stretch the glide of his burning aircraft over the station but then began to lose altitude rapidly, went over its left wing and hit the ground at full speed. Lavitskiy was killed instantly.

During the war he was also decorated with the Order of the Red Banner (twice), the Order of Alexandr Nevskii and the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class.

At the time of his death Lavitskiy was credited with at least 1 biplane victory and a total of 24. These were claimed in 250 sorties and more than 100 encounters.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 31/12/41   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-153   Fedosiya area  
? 11/06/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Yak-1   Balaklava 45 IAP
  29/06/42   1 Ju 87 (a) Shared destroyed Yak-1   Sevastopol area 45 IAP
? ??/08/42   1 Ju 88 Destroyed Yak-1     45 IAP
  07/03/43   1 Ju 88 Shared destroyed P-40     45 IAP
? 10/03/43   1 He 111 Destroyed P-39   8m W Abinskaya 45 IAP
? 22/03/43   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed P-40   Anastasievka 45 IAP
? 22/03/43   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed P-40   Anastasievka 45 IAP
? ??/04/43   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed P-40     45 IAP
  ??/04/43   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed P-40     45 IAP
  ??/04/43   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed P-40     45 IAP

Biplane victories: at least 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 24 and 4 shared destroyed.
(a) Ju 87 of Stab/StG77 shot down.

Attack of the Airacobras - Dmitriy Loza, 2002 University Press of Kansas, ISBN 0-7006-1140-1
Black Cross/Red Star Volume II - Christer Bergström and Andrey Mikhailov, 2001 Pacifica Military History, ISBN 0-935553-51-7
P-39 Airacobra Aces of the World War 2 - George Mellinger and John Stanaway, 2001 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-204-0
Sovetskiye asy - Nikolay Bodrikhin, 1998, kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.
Stalin's Eagles - Hans D. Seidl, 1998 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-7643-0476-3
Stalin's Falcons - Tomas Polak and Christhoper Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-01-2
Additional information kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.

Last modified 02 February 2009