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The rise of the “humped”. Experts hope to identify the pilot of Il-2 fighter jet after recovery operation at the Nevskiy Pyatachok

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Works are continuing in the Kirovskiy district of the Leningrad region to bring the downed IL-2 fighter jet to the surface from the bottom of the river. According to search crews which found the jet, a Soviet Air Force pilot defended the Nevskiy Pyatachok in it.

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Unfortunately, very scarce details of the aircraft have survived to our days. And not only because of the time. Alexander Burenin observed the recovery operation.

Alexander Burenin, reporter: “A boat equipped with a crane on one side, a boat with divers on the other. The plane is in between. Now divers will mount the gear and will try to pick the IL-2 from the bottom of Neva, centimeter by centimeter”

Its easier said than done. It takes two hours to merely get the crane working. They decide not to lift the whole plane, only in parts. First, what remained of the propeller and a bit of the redactor are taken to the surface. The jet has remained underwater since 1942 – it was discovered last summer. That’s when search crews extracted remains of the pilot, but failed to lift the plane. In the last year, the sunken jet has been visited by quite a few uninvited guests.

Sergey Machinskiy, head of search department at the Military-historic society: “Divers have made a habit of touring it. That’s why some parts of its armaments and equipment has been lost”.

There are “black diggers” – but those who work underwater are called “black divers”. And they, unfortunately, have been regular guests at the Nevskiy Pyatachok. Meanwhile, engine of the IL-2 is brought to the surface. Ropes break as soon as it appears above the water. That’s why in the 2nd attempt, the crane operator is helped manually – two workers on the boat put an additional rope underneath the tool hanging above the water. The rare item is eventually placed on a special pontoon. Water activities come first.

Further lifting sparks no problems. Pieces of wings and fuselage are easily brought up. The Great Patriotic War’s most fearsome fighter jet is barely recognizable having spent so much time underwater. Red Armymen called it the “humped” – because of the way its cockpit looked. The Germans called it “the butcher” or “the black death”.

Search groups are working on the shores simultaneously with the lifting. Human remains and bits of ammo are often found on the banks. There are still no exact death toll numbers among the Red Army soldiers at the Nevskiy Pyatachok. Some say 400 thousand, some say 700 thousand. There is enough work for search brigades to last several more generations.

Elena Tsunayeva, head of “Poiskovaya Rossiya” search brigade: “We often say – we have done it – talking about an area, let’s say, 20 by 60 meters. Hopefully, we’ll be able to say the same about the entire Nevskiy Pyatachok. But bodies and remains are still washing up on the shores of Neva”

But in any case – such lift is a big victory. The survived parts of the plane will become museum items. But the main thing now is to find the plane’s number. That’s when its pilot’s name will be determined. Maybe his relative will be found too. And the search will continue – there are at least two more planes lying next to this one. And a lot of weaponry which nobody knows of too. 

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