CZ-ENG
Dálkový let pilota Skály a mechanika Taufra na èeském letounu Š-16 v roce 1927 z
Prahy do Tokia.
Meziváleèné období bylo ve svìtovém letectví charakteristické hledáním limitù jak letounù, tak i jejich osádek. I v novì vzniklém
èeskoslovenském letectvu se našlo nìkolik odvážných lidí, kteøí v sobì našli potøebu se zapojit do objevování tìchto mezí. Jedním z
nejvýraznìjších byl škpt. Jaroslav Skála. Tento mladý, ale již zkušený pilot, si vytýèil ambiciózní cíl, který v tehdejším Èeskoslovensku
nemìl srovnání.
Všechno zaèalo jako soukromá iniciativa škpt.Skály v kvìtnu 1927, kdy požádal jako aktivní dùstojník o povolení dálkového letu èeské
posádky v èeském letadle z Prahy do Tokia a zpìt pøes Sovìtský svaz. Navrhoval sebe jako pilota a letadlo mìlo být buï Aero A-30 nebo
dálkozvìdný Letov Š-16. Skálovi nebylo v té dobì ani 33 let, ale již byl tehdy v Èesku velmi známou osobností, a to nejen v letecké obci.
Mìl za sebou mimo jiné øadu dálkových letù na rùzných typech letadel a proto díky své autoritì povolení skuteènì obdržel. Na doporuèení
MNO si vybral i spoluletce, továrního mechanika Letova Matìje Taufra, kterému v té dobì bylo 34 let.
Problémy, kterými si oba letci museli projít bìhem pøíprav, byli nakonec vyøešeny a letu již nic nebránilo. Odlet ze Kbelského letištì se
uskuteènil 8.srpna 1927 v 08.55 ráno (jiné prameny mluví o 08:45 hod), a byl to jediný termín, který byl dle plánu letu dodržen. Celý let o
délce cca 23 tis.km Skála plánoval na osm letových dní z Prahy do Tokia, ètyøi dny mìla trvat pøestávka v Tokiu, a opìt osm letových dní
mìlo staèit na návrat do Prahy. Realita byla znaènì odlišná. Pøíhody obou letcù pøi letu lze hodnotit i dnes jako úžasný sled šastných i
nešastných náhod, neuvìøitelné smùly, kterou pøekonával um, zapálenost a "zaatost" obou úèastníkù letu spolu s pøísloveènou kapièkou
štìstí v rozhodující chvíli. Pro neustálé závady a nouzová pøistání, èekání na náhradní díly a opravování "po cestì" se do Japonska dostali
èeští letci až 2.záøí, do Tokia pak až 4.záøí!
Nìkteré pøíhody a události jsou skuteènì neuvìøitelné. Napøíklad hned v prvé etapì letu z Prahy do Moskvy, poblíž Smolenska, nedokázal
mechanik Taufer podat pilotovi novou mapu a ze zkøehlých rukou mu ji sebral vítr. Bez mapy Skála letìt nechtìl, a tak neplánovanì pøistál
na vojenském letišti ve Smolensku. A teprve na zemi, když pilot shánìl u ruských letcù jinou mapu, mechanik zjistil, že motor má
podstatnì vìtší spotøebu oleje, než výrobce udával a nádrže na olej jsou zcela prázdné. V karteru motoru v tu chvíli zbývalo oleje jen na
dvacet minut chodu a po jejich uplynutí by následovalo jeho zadøení! Pokud by ve Smolensku nepøistáli, byli by nìkde nad hlubokými
smolenskými lesy a do Moskvy by zbývalo ještì témìø dvì hodiny letu. Olej proto šastnì doplnili z místních zásob a po obdržení nové
mapy za ztracenou pokraèovali dále do Moskvy. Když nakonec do Moskvy pøiletìli, pøi prohlídce po pøistání zjistil Taufer, že chladiè je
prasklý a teèe uvnitø voštin. Nešel opravit, a nešlo použít ani žádný jiný z nabízených ruskými letci na místì. A tak hned na zaèátku
expedice osm dní èekali na letecké dodání náhradního chladièe z Èeskoslovenska.
Velmi dramatickou situaci zažili pøi letu do Omska, kdy prolétali nad Uralem a vlétli do bouøky s krupobitím. O život jim šlo i pøi
pøíletu do Èity, kdy si oba letci zapomnìli seøídit hodinky a pøiletìli do cílového mìsta na poslední kapky benzínu po pùlnoci
místního èasu. Tak pozdì je již nikdo neèekal, letištì bylo zhaslé, mìsto ponoøené do tmy. Na svých hodinkách však èeští letci mìli
pùl desáté veèer - pražského èasu! Pøistání potmì, naslepo a bez motoru do neznámého terénu vyšlo neuvìøitelnì. Dosedli, aniž pilot
vidìl kam pøesnì pøistává a jen tušil, že nejsou ani nad vodou, ani nad lesem. Trefili se na kousek rovné udusané polní cesty s
hlubokými vyježdìnými kolejemi a zastavili po padesáti metrech, protože cesta vedla do svahu. Na podvozku mìli seno, ukázalo se,
že je z fùry se senem, kterou tìsnì pøed dosednutím ve tmì pøeletìli, nebo spíše pøejeli! A když se podívali na zem, jedna z vyjetých
kolejí na cestì procházela mezi koleèky podvozku Š-16, druhá soubìžnì cca pùl metru vedle. Existuje fotografie stroje na této cestì
jako doklad jejich neuvìøitelného štìstí. Naøídil jí udìlat náèelník místního letištì, které bylo cca pùl kilometru od místa
nedobrovolného pøistání Š-16ky. Fotografii pak obìma letcùm daroval.
Pøi další etapì museli èeští letci pøistát pøed blížící se bouøí v pùli cesty do Mukdenu. Pøistání probìhlo hladce, ale na zemi letadlo
postupnì doslova zavalilo obrovské množství nìkolika tisíc(!) Èíòanù, kteøí se sebìhli bìhem nìkolika málo desítek minut z širokého
okolí. Škpt.Skálu odvezli místní policisté, zatkli ho jako špiona a vsadili do vìzení. Osamocený Taufer pak marnì odhánìl davy lidí, z
nichž snad každý zkusil lézt po letadle, vìšel se za køídla, ocas, lezl do kokpitu, a všude dìlal dírky, aby vidìl, co je vevnitø. Až
pøíchod jednotky místní policie a nìkolika cizincù z blízkého sanatoria tomuto øádìní uèinil pøítrž, když dav lidí vytlaèili od
zuboženého letadla. S výjimkou chvíle, kdy pøišla místní urozená dáma, a projevila zájem o letadlo. Úslužný policista vzal šavli, a
šmik šmik, udìlal za sedadlem na trupu køížem v plátnì dva dlouhé øezy. Milá madam pak ruèkama rozhrnula plátno, a zkoumala, co
je uvnitø! Nakonec Taufer napoèítal témìø sto protržených míst na celém letounu, a celý zbytek dne a polovinu dne dalšího vše
zašíval, pøelepoval tkalounem a lakoval celonem.
Pøi následující etapì letu prasklý chladiè zapøíèinil další nouzové pøistání, tentokrát v Koreji. Tìsnì pøed zadøením motoru staèili
pøistát na 120 krokù dlouhé políèko rýže, jediné rovné místo široko daleko, jinak samé skály a moøe. Letadlo zabrzdila mladá rýže,
která se namotávala na podvozek a fungovala jako brzdné lano na letadlové lodi.
Když zastavili, pøíï letadla byla nad hlubokým náhonem s vodou, kterým bylo políèko ohranièeno. V chladièi zela trhlina po celé délce
odshora dolù. A zatímco pilot Skála rezignovanì vyjednával na 18 kilometrù vzdálené železnièní stanici telefonem rozebrání letadla a jeho
odeslání vlakem domù, Taufer staèil chladiè provizornì opravit a z políèka za pomoci místních Korejcù udusat malé letišátko, pro které
vymyslel a postavil z hlíny i zvláštní skokanský mùstek na konci pøed náhonem s vodou. Nìco podobného dnes používají Britové se svými
Harriery na letadlových lodích. Š-16 potøeboval bìžnì ke startu cca 300 m, zde to nebyla ani polovina. Pøesto se Skálovi s úplnì
odlehèenou Š-16 podaøilo i z této plochy odstartovat. Za pomoci místních vybraných šestnácti silákù, kteøí letadlo drželi a brzdili za
nábìžnou hranu køídel, nejdøíve na místì roztoèil motor na plný plyn, a pak letadlo na jeho pokyn všichni naráz pustili tím, že si bleskovì
lehli na zem. I benzínu mìl pouze na pøímý let k nejbližšímu letišti 70 km vzdálenému. Taufer pak musel za ním po svých, s veškerou
bagáží, nádržkou na olej, náhradními pneumatikami a zásobami, které z letadla pøed vzletem museli vyložit. Naštìstí nemusel nic nést, to
zaøídili místní. Ale do nejbližší železnièní stanice to bylo 18 kilometrù horským terénem.
Tyto a podobné pøíhody provázely celý let.
Z Koreje do Japonska to už byl jen skok, i když pøes moøe. Ale do Tokia naši letci opìt nedoletìli. Pøed Ósakou je donutil k pøistání
japonský pilot v Potezu. Ukázalo se, že v Tokiu ještì nejsou dle názoru Japoncù pøipraveni je pøivítat. A tak museli v Ósace poèkat, než
budou v Tokiu pøípravy dokonèeny. V Japonsku se stali naši letci prvotøídními celebritami. Recepce støídala recepci, pocty jen pršely. Z
prvního zastavení v Ósace se staly dva dny, úslužnost Japoncù neznala mezí. Mechanik Taufer pobavenì vzpomínal, jak ještì v Koreji jej
pøivedli do japonského domu, kde byl celou kohortou nádherných japonek vysvleèen donaha a rudý studem vydrhnut a vykoupán jak malé
dítì. K jeho velikému pøekvapení mu 3.záøí osobnì na recepci gratuloval japonský starosta Ósaky - k narozeninám! Jak Japonci zjistili, že
má narozeniny, mu bylo záhadou. Podobnì na tom byl s pozornostmi a poctami i škpt.Skála. Naprosto konsternovaní èeští letci byli napø. v
den pøistání v Ósace uvedeni veèer do kina, kde bìžel 20timinutový dokumentární film - o pøíletu Š-16 a pøivítání èeských letcù v Ósace!
V Tokiu to nebylo jiné, èeští letci byli postupnì pøijati všemi významnými japonskými politiky (a vojáky) té doby, absolvovali napøíklad
pøijetí u admirála Togo, japonské legendy a tehdy prvního poloboha po císaøi, japonského legendárního vítìze od Cušimi - na jeho vlastní
žádost!
Mezi mnoha vyznamenáními a øády oba letci obdrželi i nejvyšší možné vyznamenání Japonského císaøství - Øád vycházejícího slunce. K
tomuto vyznamenání se váže nìkolik historek, z nichž ta první je typicky èeská. Tento øád mohl obdržet dle japonských ceremoniálních
zvyklostí pouze dùstojník. Ale mechanik Taufer byl jen poddùstojník èeskoslovenské armády v záloze. Na zdvoøilý dotaz japonské strany,
zda by vojenský atašé na velvyslanectví tehdejší ÈSR nemohl mimoøádnì p.Taufra povýšit, aby mohl obdržet již pøipravené vyznamenání
(celá ceremonie byla v té dobì pøipravena!) zaznìlo z odpovìdných èeských úst rezolutní "NE", se zdùvodnìním, že mechanik Taufer
nemìl maturitu! Èas bìžel, øešení se našlo. Díky ochotì èínského vojenského atašé byl p.Taufer na místì povýšen do hodnosti poruèíka
èínské armády - a mohl pøevzít vyznamenání!
Ani zpáteèní cesta nebyla pro naše letce žádnou procházkou rùžovou zahradou, naopak. Za nadšeného jásotu a mávání desetitisícù divákù
odstartovali z Tokijského letištì u vesnice Tokozorávy 12.záøí, symbolicky obletìli v pìkném poèasí posvátnou horu Fudžijamu a dokonce
proletìli kráterem této sopky. Poèasí však pøívìtivé nezùstalo, takže nakonec museli pøistát v Jokohamì. Ani druhý pokus odletìt z
Japonska nebyl úspìšný, bouøe, d隝 a mraky až ke hladinì moøe je donutili neplánovanì pøistát v Hirošimì. Nakonec pøi tvrdohlavém
tøetím pokusu pøeletìt z Hirošimy do Koreje se letoun s našimi letci dostal do spárù tajfunu! Let jeho pouhým okrajem místo plánovaných
dvou trval pìt hodin! Letadlo i piloti nakonec pøežili, ale oba protagonisté na divokou akrobacii, kterou nedobrovolnì absolvovali témìø
celou dobu letu, k tomu ve výšce cca 50 m nad oceánem, vzpomínali s mrazením v zádech. Taufer vzpomínal, že si dokonce nafukoval
náhradní pneumatiku ke kolu podvozku Š-16tky. V pøípadì nouzového pøistání do moøe by jim ale asi nepomohly ani dva torpédoborce,
které na pøíkaz nejvyššího velitele japonského námoønictva hlídkovaly v tajfunu po trase letu. Následující èást letu byla proti pøedchozím
pøíhodám velmi klidná. Až pøišlo 16.záøí a pøílet do Èity. Bìhem etapy pøelétali nad obrovským požárem tajgy, a museli prolétnout bez
vidu hustým oblakem kouøe, který nešel nijak oblétnout ani pøeletìt. Opìt zùstal pomocníkem pouhý kompas, hodinky a zkušenost pilota.
Jenže let v kouøi oba letce pøiotrávil, takže škpt. Skála pak celý zbytek cesty zvracel. Taufer vzadu v otevøené kabinì si to asi užil, ale i jemu
bylo podle jeho vzpomínek hodnì špatnì. Celý další den pak odpoèívali v Èitì. Z ní odlétali až 18.záøí ráno v devìt hodin, poèasí jim pøálo,
let probíhal podle pøedpokladù. V 9.50 se však jako blesk z èistého nebe ozvala od motoru rána a z výfuku vyšlehl dlouhý plamen. A znovu
a znovu. Otáèky motoru klesaly, a letoun z výšky cca 2200 m klesal také. Byli cca 100 km od Krasnojarska, nedaleko stanice Koziulta na
Transsibiøské magistrále. Všude pod nimi samé lesy. Kromì malého trojúhelníèku mýtiny, který svítil pod nimi. Nebylo možno si vybírat,
pilot namíøil k mýtinì. Ale tam už jim štìstí nevydrželo. Mýtina byla plná vysokých paøezù a ležících klád, bezpeènì pøistát se nedalo. Ale
letìt dál pro závadu na motoru se nedalo také. Zbývalo nouzové pøistání s cílem – zachránit zdraví a životy. Tento cíl splnil Skála na
jednièku. Dokázal „vydojit“ nyní již plachtící Š-16ku a dovést ji na kraj malé mýtinky tak, že pøistával na minimální rychlosti, kterou dále
zbrzdil úmyslným postupným urážením podvozku a spodních køídel o ležící klády. Taufer již døíve vypnul zapalování. Letoun si silnì
poškodil køídla, o spodní defacto pøišel, pøišel i o podvozek a vrtuli. Pohyb nyní již vraku Š-16 se zastavil na druhém konci mýtinky, oba
letci z nìj ale poté vystoupili bez jakékoli odìrky živí a celí. Ale radost ze zázraèné záchrany holých životù paradoxnì moc nemìli. Pan
Taufer to i po letech popisoval jako pocit, jako když vám nìkdo blízký zemøe. Takové to pro nìj bylo zklamání, když bylo jasné, že let na
této pasece skonèil. Podobnì to cítil i škpt.Skála. A opìt musel po svých k železnici, tentokrát k transsibiøské magistrále do stanice
Aèinskaja. Následovala domluva po telefonu s místními úøady, slíbená pomoc Osoaviachimu a pak již jen následovalo rozebrání vraku i s
pomocí místních døevorubcù, pøevezení vraku Š-16 na celodøevìném voze postaveném místními lidmi bez jediného høebíku èi kování k
železnici, naložení vraku na vagon, a odjezd vlakem domù, do Prahy. Tato poslední èást anabáze trvala ètrnáct dní. Matìj Taufer mìl po
odchodu škpt.Skály na mýtinì dost èasu zjistit pøíèinu nehody. Našel pouhou utrženou stopku sacího ventilu u prvního válce na levé stranì,
závadu, kterou mohl sám na místì do dvou – tøí hodin bez problémù opravit a pak by se dalo letìt normálnì dál, kdyby… kdyby se s
letounem podaøilo bez úhony pøistát.
Pøivítání doma po návratu bylo pro oba úèastníky letu velmi rozporuplné. Celkového cíle, který si vytýèili, to jest vrátit se bez úhony zpìt
do Prahy, dosaženo nebylo.
Nicménì, výkon obou letcù i jejich stroje, pøes veškerá protivenství a koneèný nezdar, byl obrovským sportovním výkonem, dokladem o
veliké vùli a touze uspìt. Selhala nakonec technika, ale lidé nikoli. A proto si stojí za to pøipomenout onen let z doby pøed témìø devadesáti
lety. Tøeba zrovna v muzeu ve Kbelích, kde se mimo jiné dodnes jako velmi cenìný exponát dochovalo smìrové kormidlo legendární Š16ky s vyznaèenými názvy etapových mìst letu z Prahy do Tokia.
Ing.Ivo Pujman (kráceno)
The distance flight of pilot Skála and mechanic Taufer on the Czech airplane Š-16 in 1927 from
Prague to Tokyo.
The inter-war period in world aviation was typical for discovering limits of airplanes as well as the aircrew. Several brave men who felt the
need to take part in discovering these limits were also in the newly formed Czechoslovakia. One of the most outstanding men was the Staff
Captain (SC) Jaroslav Skála. This young yet experienced pilot set himself an ambitious goal, incomparable to anything in the former
Czechoslovakia.
Everything began as a private initiative of SC Skála in May 1927. He was a regular officer when he asked for permission to make a distance
flight of Czech aircrew and airplane from Praha to Tokyo and back via the Soviet Union. He volunteered as a pilot and suggested the
airplane be either Aero A-30 or the long-distance reconnaissance aeroplane Letov Š-16. Skála was not even 33 years old back then but he
was already well-known in Czechoslovakia, and not only in flying domain. Among other things, he had already made many distance
flights in various types of airplanes, which helped him to get the requested permission. On the recommendation of the Department of
National Defence, he had chosen his flightmate: Matìj Taufer, a 34-year-old Letov factory mechanic.
Difficulties the two airmen had to go through during the preparation process were finally overcome and nothing hindered the flight any
longer. The departure from Kbely airport took place on August 8, 1927, at 08:55 a.m. (other sources state the time 08:45), which was the
only deadline of the flight plan which was met during the flight. Skála planned the 23,000-kilometre-long flight from Prague to Tokyo to
take eight days. There should have been a 4-day-long break in Tokyo, and the return flight to Prague should have taken eight days.
However, the reality was considerably different. Incidents happening during the flight could be considered an astonishing chain of lucky
and unlucky chances even from today's perspective. The unbelievable misfortune was overcome by ingenuity, passion and verve of both
airmen as well as the proverbial devil's own luck in the crucial moments. Because of continual troubles and emergency landings, waiting
for replacement parts and repairing on the way, the Czech airmen got to Japan as late as September 2, and to Tokyo on September 4.
Some incidents and events are truly unbelievable. For example, already in the first stage of the flight from Prague to Moscow, near
Smolensk, Taufer had such numbed hands that he was not able to hand the pilot a new map and the wind snatched the map from his grip.
Skála did not want to fly on without the map so he made an unplanned landing in Smolensk military airport. Only on the ground, when he
was hunting for the map, the mechanic found out that the airplane engine consumes significantly more oil than the airplane manufacturer
reported and that the oil tanks were nearly empty. The amount of oil in the carter would last only for twenty more minutes and after that, the
engine would have seized up. If they would not have landed in Smolensk, they would have been somewhere above deep Smolensk forests,
two long hours from Moscow. Thanks to this happy coincidence, they filled up the oil from local resources and after obtaining a new map
from Russian pilots, they continued to Moscow. When they landed in Moscow in the end, Taufer found out during the post-flight
inspection that the cooler was broken and that it leaked in the air-tubes. It could be neither mended nor replaced by any other cooler offered
by local Russian pilots. Therefore, they had to wait for eight days till a replacement cooler had been airfreighted from Czechoslovakia.
They experienced a dramatic event during their flight to Omsk: they were flying over Ural and flew into a hailstorm. Moreover, they were
in mortal danger also during their arrival to Chita. Both airmen forgot to regulate their watches and as they arrived to Chita, the time was
only half past nine – but of Prague time! In fact, they arrived to the final destination after the midnight, Lt., almost run out of petrol. Nobody
expected them that late: the lights on the airport were turned off. The town was plunged into darkness as well. Blind landing in the dark in
unknown terrain, without the engine, worked like a dream. They touched down despite knowing where exactly they were landing and only
suspecting that they were neither above woods nor water. They hit a piece of flat packed road with deep ruts and they stopped after 50
meters as the road led to a hill. They had some hay on the airplane landing gear, which came from a haystack which they had run over in the
dark. When they looked at the ground, they could see that one of the ruts went just between the small wheels of Š-16 landing gear, and the
other was 0.5 m on a side. There is even a photo documenting their exceptional luck taken by order of the chief of the local airport, which
was about 500 m from the place of the involuntary landing. The photo was then given as a present to the two airmen.
In the following stage, they had to land before in the middle of their flight to Mukden because an anticipated storm. The landing was
smooth but on the ground, the airplane was literally buried by the mass of several thousand (!) Chinamen who gathered around it in a few
dozens of minutes from anywhere around. SC Skála was driven away by local police, arrested as a spy, and put in prison. Isolated Taufer
then tried to drive back the crowds without much success. People tried to climb the airplane, hang on wings and tail, get in the cockpit, and
they made holes into the machine to find out what was inside. Only the arrival of local police force and some foreigners from a nearby
sanatorium were able to stop the crowd as they forced them out. They protected the damaged airplane until a local gentlewoman
approached them and expressed her interest in the airplane! One of the policemen, ready to please her, took his sword and – snip! snip! – he
made two long cuts in the canvas on the fuselage just behind the seats. This good lady then tore the canvas by her gentle littlehands and
investigated the inside. At the end, Taufer counted almost one hundred ruptures all over the airplane and spent a day by mending, pasting
the tape over the canvas and doping it by cellone.
In the following stage, a broken cooler caused another emergency landing, this time in Tokyo. Just before the engine would have seized up,
they managed to land on a 120-step-long field. This field was the only flat surface far and near as there were just rocks and sea everywhere
around. The airplane was arrested by young rice plants which wrapped round the landing gear and worked as braking ropes on aircraft
carriers. When the Š-16 stopped, the nose of the airplane was over a deep race filled with water, surrounding the little field. In the cooler,
there was a gaping fissure over the total height. While pilot Skála negotiated with resignation with the railway station 18 kilometres away
about disassembling the airplane and sending it back home, Taufer managed to repair the cooler temporarily and with the aid of the Korean
people, they stamped down the little field to make a small airfield. Taufer even built a soil ski-jump ramp at the end of the field, just before
the race filled with water, quite similar to what the British used for Harriers on aircraft carriers. Although the Š-16 needed about 300 m to
take off, just half of the distance was available there. Nevertheless, Skála managed to take off with the completely unloaded Š-16 even
from that kind of runway. While 16 local strongmen hold the airplane by wing leading edges, Skála started up the engine full open and at his
sign, all men let the airplane go by lying to the ground. As the petrol in the airplane would last only for a direct flight to the closest airport,
which was 70 km away, Taufer had to follow Skála on foot, carrying all the baggage, oil reservoir, spare tyres, and supplies, which they had
to unload before taking off. Happily he did not have to carry anything himself as the locals took care of the transportation. Anyhow, the
closest railway station was 18 km away, in hilly terrain.
The whole flight was accompanied by accidents like that.
Though over the sea, it was just at a stone's throw from Korea to Japan. However, Czech airmen could not fly as far as Tokyo because a
Japanese pilot made the land in Potez. It turned out that the Japanese had not considered themselves ready to welcome the airmen yet so
they had to wait in Osaka till the preparations in Tokyo were finished. Our airmen became famous celebrities. Receptions went one
after another and honours were superabundant. The first stop in Osaka suddenly took two days and there was no limit to Japanese
helpfulness and mechanic Taufer remembered with amusement that, still in Korea, he was taken to a Japanese house and a cohort of
beautiful Japanese women undressed him nude and blushing to the roots of his hair, they bathed him as a child. To his great surprise, the
very Japanese mayor of Osaka congratulated him on his birthday on September 3! It was a complete mystery to him how they had found
out that he had his birthday. SC Skála experienced similar care and honours. For example, both airmen were taken to the cinema the day
they had landed in Osaka, and they were shown a 20-minute-long documentary about the arrival of the Š-16 and welcoming the Czech
airmen in Osaka!
It was no different in Tokyo. The Czech airmen were welcomed by all Japanese politicians as well as soldiers in turn, who were
important at that time. For instance, they were accepted by admiral Togo, the Japanese legend and the first demigod after the Caesar, the
legendary winner of the Battle of Tsushima – at his own request!
Among many honours and orders, both airmen were decorated by the most important order in the Empire of Japan – The Order of the
Rising Sun. Several anecdotes are connected to this decoration, the first one being typically Czech. According to Japanese ceremonial
conventions, only a commissioned officer might have been decorated by this order. However, the mechanic Taufer was only a reserve
non-commissioned officer of the Czechoslovakian army. The Japanese politely inquired whether the military attaché of the
Czechoslovak Republic might make an exception and promote Taufer so that he might have got the order (the whole ceremony had
already been prepared at that time!). Yet the responsible person answered a firm “NO” on the grounds that Taufer had not passed a
school-leaving examination. As time went on, a solution was discovered. The Chinese attaché was ready to help and he promoted
Taufer to the rank of commissioned officer at the spot – and Taufer could have been decorated by the order!
Neither the return flight was a walkaway, quite the opposite. In excited cheering and waving of dozens of thousands spectators, they
departed from Tokyo airport in nice weather on September 12. Symbolically, they flew around the sacred place Mount Fuji and even
flew over the vent of eruption. However, the weather did not remain mild and they had to land in Yokohama in the end. Neither the
second attempt to depart from Japan was successful because a thunderstorm, rain, and clouds reaching sea-low forced them to land in
Hiroshima. During their third attempt to fly from Hiroshima to Korea, they even fell into typhoon's clutches! Although they flew only
on the edge of the typhoon, it took them five hours instead of two (as they had planned). Luckily, the airplane and airmen survived the
flight but remembering the stunt flying, which they involuntarily went through during the whole flight in the height just about 50 m
above the sea level, shivers went down their spines again. Taufer remembered that he even blew up a spare Š-16 bottom wheel tyre.
Two torpedo-boat destroyers were on patrol on the flight path by order of the Japanese Navy Commander in Chief; however, in case of
emergency water landing, they probably wouldn't have been of much help.
Compared to the previous incidence, the following stage was rather smooth – by the arrival to Chita on September 16. In this stage, they
flew over an enormous taiga wildfire and they had to fly through thick clouds of smoke because it was not possible to take around or fly
over. Again, the only aids were a compass, a watch, and flying experience of the pilot. Unfortunately, flying through the smoke slightly
poisoned SC Skála and therefore he was violently sick from then on. Taufer sitting in the back in an open cabin probably enjoyed
himself more but he remembered being very sick as well. Therefore, they spent the following day having rest in Chita. They left Chita
on September 18 at 09:00 a.m. in nice weather and the flight went as expected. At 09:50 a.m., like a bolt out of the blue, they heard a
deafening blow and saw long flames leap from the engine, again and again. The engine speed went down and down went the airplane as
well. They were about 2,200 m high and about 100 km from Krasnoyarsk, not far from Kozulka station on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
It was all forests except for a small triangular clearance under them. There was no time to be choosy so that the pilot made it straight to
the clearance. Yet their luck finally ran out. On the one hand, the clearance was full of large tree stumps and beams which made it
impossible to land safely, on the other hand, flying was not possible because of the broken engine. Therefore, emergency landing was
their only option in order to save their lives (and Skála managed it perfectly). Skála managed to “horse off” the soaring Š-16 and
brought it to the border of the clearance so that he was landing at slow speed which he further decreased by intentional chipping off the
landing gear and lower wings by hitting the lying beams. Taufer had cut off the ignition earlier on. The airplane wings were severely
damaged (the lower wings were de facto lost), and they lost also the landing gear and the propeller. The moving Š-16 wreckage slowly
stopped at the far end of the clearance and both airmen got out of the airplane unharmed and without a scratch. Yet they were not terribly
happy about saving only bare lives. Both Taufer and SC Skála even after years described the feeling as if someone dear would breathe
their last.
After that, SC Skála had to walk to the railway again – this time to Achinsk station on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Taufer stayed in the
clearance and had enough time to find out the cause of the accident. He discovered that only an inlet valve headset of the first cylinder
on the left was torn off, which might have been repaired at the spot in two or three hours. Then, it would be possible to fly on normally...
only if they had managed to land unharmed. Skála made agreements with local authorities, some help to Osoviachim works was
promised, and then the wreckage was disassembled by the aid of local woodcutters and transported to the railway on an all-wood
carriage constructed just for this purpose by the locals, using neither nails nor iron fitting. Then, the wreckage was entrained and all of
them made for home, to Prague. This last anabasis took 14 days.
The reception after their return was rather contradictory because they did not achieve the objective they set themselves, i.e. to return to
Prague unharmed. In spite of all the obstructions and eventual setback, the achievement of both airmen and their airplane was a great
sporting performance, bearing witness to strong determination and desire to succeed. The flight, which took place almost 90 years ago,
is definitely worth remembering also because it was not the people but technology which failed during this demanding journey. For
example, it can be reminded by a visit to the Kbely museum, where a very precious exhibit is on display: the Š-16 vertical rudder with
names of cities delineating the particular stages of the flight from Prague to Tokyo.
Ing. Ivo Pujman (shortened)
PLASTIC CONSTRUCTION KIT
BRP72014
LETOV Š-16.1
PRAGUE-TOKYO-PRAGUE
3
13
15
2
15
12
11
1
26
27
18
19
21
22
16
14
17
8
9
7
4
RES1
10
6
5
VER.1
decal
obtisk
Letov Š-16, prototype , used by Lt.Col.Jaroslav Skála and
mechanic Matej Taufer for 23.000 Km long fligh from
Prague to Tokyo and back. Year 1927.
VER.2
decal
obtisk
Letov Š-16-1, first production plane , used for PR after flight.
Rudder was original from Skála´s plane.
WWW.BRENGUN.CZ, Jan Sobotka, Moravská 38, 620 00 BRNO, CZECH REPUBLIC
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