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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

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    Pioneer Profile

    Alexander De Seversky (1894-1974)

    Alexander De SeverskyBorn in Triflis, Russia, 7 June 1894.
    Died 24 August 1974.

    After acquiring an aeronautical engineering degree, Alexander Prokofieff de Seversky was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Imperial Navy of Russia in 1915. On his first combat mission he lost his right leg. Less than a year later he was back in the air, flying 57 missions, and downing 13 German aircraft to become Russia's top Naval Ace.

    In 1917 de Seversky came to the USA, offering his services to the War Dept, making outstanding contributions to their production of the British-designed SE-5 fighter and serving as a test pilot. In 1921 he and General Billy Mitchell worked together staging the bombing tests that graphically demonstrated the vulnerability of battleships to airplanes. Then, following his invention of the in-flight refueling method, he worked with the Sperry Gyroscope Company, to produce a gyro-stabilized bombsight in 1923 that was acclaimed the world's best. He was commissioned a major in the USAAC, and founded Seversky Aircraft Corp in 1928.

    In 1930 de Seversky again made a most important contribution to his new country's air efforts in the all-metal P-43 fighter, predecessor of the historic P-47 Thunderbolt. Many of its new concepts are universally accepted construction principles for today's aircraft. Capable of speeds over 300 mph, the P-43 gave long-range and high-altitude protection to US bombers. He also developed an advanced design amphibian in which he set world speed records 1933-35, and an all-metal monoplane that set speed records at the 1933-39 Nationals, as well as a transcontinental speed record in 1938.

    The outbreak of WW2 found our air arsenal pitifully neglected. To bring the magnitude of this problem to public attention, de Seversky wrote his best-seller book, "Victory Through Airpower." Also made into a movie, it awoke people to the need for better airpower. For that, and for his counsel on the strategic use of air power, President Truman awarded him the Medal of Merit.

    By then he had become world renown as an expert in the areas of airpower and defense. His Seversky Electroatom Corp of 1952 directed its efforts to defending the USA against nuclear attack, and to extraction of radioactive particles from the air. Research in that area led to the discovery of the Ionacraft, an aircraft that derived lift and propulsion from ionic emissions. For serving as a special consultant to the Chiefs of Staff of the USAF, he received the Exceptional Service Medal in 1969. De Seversky was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1970.

    Visit the Russia Profile for more information on Russian pioneers.

    Provided to the AIAA for the sole purpose of its Evolution of Flight Campaign.

    Biography Courtesy of AeroFiles