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THE 1932 TURKISH TOUR
2001 / JUNE
In the 1930s young Turkish Republic was pushing all its resources to the limit to move ahead in every area. A sense of purpose motivated the entire society. Atatürk, a progressive leader, was well aware of the importance of aviation and was setting targets for his nation in this sphere as elsewhere. The Turkish Air Association, which had been established in 1925 with the object of encouraging interest in flying among young people and training pilots, asked for public support through branches all over the country.

Donations began to pour in. People inspired with enthusiasm for building Turkey's aviation sector sold property and gave money they had been saving up for their children's weddings. Within a short time the association had trained hundreds of young aviators and purchased 350 aircraft for the Turkish Air Force. Campaigns were launched in every city for the purchase of an aircraft which would bear the city's name.
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THE 1932 TURKISH TOUR
2001 / JUNE
When the campaign was successfully completed, everyone wanted to see the aircraft and the pilots who flew them, so Atatürk proposed an airborne tour of the entire country.

Commander of the Air Force, Muzaffer Ergüder, agreed and appointed the First Air Regiment, popularly known as the Sky Knights, who were based in Eskisehir. Lieutenant Colonel Celal Yakal, commander of the regiment, began preparations immediately. Yakal had begun his military career as an army officer, and later transferred to the air force. Although his leg had been badly injured during the First World War, he was a keen sportsman who encouraged the playing of sports in the regiment.

The First Air Regiment flew Breguet-19s, the best reconnaissance aircraft of the time, but even so the proposed tour of the entire country would be a challenge of unprecedented dimensions.
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THE 1932 TURKISH TOUR
2001 / JUNE
All the members of the regiment wanted to participate, but it had been decided that just five aircraft and a team of ten people would be chosen, consisting of five pilots, three navigators, an engineer and a carpenter. The latter was needed in case of damage to the largely wooden fuselage of the Breguet-19s, whose wings consisted of linen covered wooden frames.
Three days was spent poring over a map to decide on the route, which would take in six of Turkey's major cities. After taking off from Eskisehir the planes would fly first to Samsun on the Black Sea coast, and from there to the eastern city of Erzurum. The following day they would fly to Diyarbakir in the southeast. On the third day the destination would be Adana on the eastern Mediterranean coast. From here they would fly to Antalya, then to Izmir and finally Istanbul before returning to base in Eskisehir. The route was planned so that the aircraft would fly over 42 other cities without landing, so that as many people as possible would have the chance to see them. In all they would travel 5470 kilometres.
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THE 1932 TURKISH TOUR
2001 / JUNE
The French Breguet-19s had two seats, one in front for the pilot, and one behind for the navigator. Through spaces in the aircraft fuselage below their feet the ground was visible, and the upper part was open. They had no radio communication and the aviation instruments consisted only of an altimeter to indicate altitude, a clinometer to show tilt, and a magnetic compass.

These compasses were susceptible to magnetic fields, and when flying northwards were unreliable. There were no sophisticated engine instruments, and much depended on the skill and experience of the pilot. The only way to know whether the engine was over-heating was for the pilot to remove his glove and place his hand on the engine cowling. Additional fuel tanks had been fitted to the aircraft for these long-distance flights. At dawn on 22 August 1932 last-minute checks were carried out by Celal Yakal. After bidding them farewell with words of encouragement, they took off in clouds of dust.
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THE 1932 TURKISH TOUR
2001 / JUNE
That day they flew via Çankiri, Samsun, Erbaa and Erzincan, before landing at Erzurum, where after spending the night they flew to Diyarbakir the following morning. On 24 August 1932 they flew to Adana, which was of special significance since the town of Ceyhan in Adana province had been the first to present an aircraft to the Air Association.

On 25 August 1932 the squad set out again for Antalya, and continued on from there to Izmir. On 26 August they flew over Kirklareli and arrived at Istanbul, where they landed on Yesilköy meadow, today the site of Atatürk Airport. From here they flew eastwards again over Zonguldak, Kastamonu and Ankara, before returning to Eskisehir.

The tour had been completed successfully without any technical hitches. Everywhere they went they had been welcomed by crowds and bands playing. Radios and newspapers gave minute by minute accounts of their progress.
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THE 1932 TURKISH TOUR
2001 / JUNE

Interest in the undertaking extended abroad and it was covered in the foreign press. The Breguet company was particularly interested, of course, and a long article appeared in its monthly magazine.

This achievement of the young Republic's aviators aroused pride and joy throughout the country. The pilots were received by Atatürk, who congratulated them and presented each with a gold wristwatch. A silver cup was also presented in commemoration of an event of symbolic significance for Turkish aviation. l

 

 

* M. Hakan Bingöl is a photographer.

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