Iwan Smirnoff, another famous KLM Captain. As far as known, the only Russian Fighter pilot who became one of the most skilled KLM airline pilots.

Ivan Vasilivitsj Smirnoff (Vladimir, 30 January 1895-Palma de Mallorca, 28 October 1956) was a Russian-English pilot at the KLM at a time when the KLM made many historic flights.

As a result, he became a heroe. Smirnoff is well known as the captain of the famous Christmas flight of the Pelican in 1933.

Iwan Smirnoff was born in Tsarist Russia. At the beginning of the first world war, he voluntary served in the Russian army and received for his actions the cross of St. George 's in 1914. Because of its injure his attention was on the air and he obtained his military air show in 1915.

Iwan Smirnoff, 20 years

Iwan Smirnoff as a Russian fighter pilot

He had 12 airvictories to his name and was the fourth behind ACE of Russia (Kooesakov Jantsjenko, Vasili iberio, Paul V. Argejev (d'Argueff)).

At the outbreak of the Russian revolutin, Smirnoff went to London. He was in service of the R.A.F. till the end of the war.

After the war, he first worked as an instructor for Russian pilots in England, then he decided to go back to Russia to help the volunteer army. However, on arrival he had to go back again due to the Red Army approaching fast.

He moved back to London and took a position as a purchaser for the White Army. After this worked as aircraft mechanic for aircraft manufacturer Handley Page. In 1921, he joined the Belgian SNETA service. This Belgian company lost the majority of their airfleet in flames that year.

Smirnoff (second left) and his wife Margotld en Iwan Smirnoff
The crew of the Pelican listening to the many speeches on Schiphol, after their difficult but save landing


Became extremely famous after completing the flight of the Pelican in 1933. He wrote a few books also.

Iwan Smirnoff (left), Aler (rigth)Iwan Smirnoff 1938


Very early in the morning of september 12 1929, KLM opened the 14 day trialservice to Batavia. Second from the left Iwan Smirnoff, most right Albert Plesman

Iwan and his wife Margot after there honeymoon, 1925

Iwan Smirnoff 1918

Iwan was employeed by the KLM in 1921.

On 23 October 1925, he married to the Danish actress Margot Linnet. Three years later, he obtained the Dutch Nationality.

He was captain of the famous Christmas flight from 1933 to the Dutch East Indies.

In first instance this flight would be carried out with with the new Fokker f.XX PH-AIZ "zilvermeeuw". Due to engineproblems however this machine was unusable at the nigth of departure. The only machine that was available was the significantly slower Fokker f.XVIII PH-AIP "Pelican".

Albert Plesman decided that, Smirnoff, and its crew (first officer Piet Soer, Marconist C. H. Beukering and fligthengineer J. Grosfeld) had make the flight with this aircraft. The crew managed to fly to Batavia and back in a record time.

During the second world war, he managed flyingt for KLM as much as possible.

Initially, the line Naples-Dutch East Indies, later from Lydda to Dutch East Indies.

After Japan occupied Dutch East Indies, Smirnoff flew evacuation flights flew to Australia.

On 3th March 1942, he started with the Douglas DC-3 PK-AFV for the last evacuation flight from Bandung. Just off the coast of Australia he was attacked by three Japanese fighters.

Smirnoff made an emergengy landing on a beach, despite the fact that he was hit in his arms by four times. Before they were rescued, 4 passengers died because of their injuries.

During the rest of the war, Smirnoff flew for the Transport Command of the United States.He also tested possible KLM aircrafts, in order to make the right choices when the war would come to an end.

At the beginning of 1944, Iwan came back to Europe in order to fly the KLM England-Lissabon line. In 1946 he put on Dutch soil. In 1947 he stopped active flying and became KLM inspector,

His wife, Margot, died that year. 23 september 1948 Iwan remarried with Mina Redwood. Both marriages were are childless. In 1949 he retired and stayed at the island of Majorca till his dead in 1956


Iwan Smirnoff 1945The new Fokker FXX would fly this superfast Christmas postservice. However, on the moment of departure a enginefailure occured. Plesman then decided to choose for the slower but reliable FXVIII Pelican (Pelikaan)

The crew of the Pelican listening to the many speeches on Schiphol, after their difficult but save landing

ker F-XVIII 'Pelican'

Douglas DC-3 PK-AFV after crashlanding at a beach in AustraliaSmirnoff retirde in 1952