ANDREEV, Evgeny N. (1926 - 2000)
Evgeny Nikolaevich Andreev, was a Colonel of the Russian Air Force, engineer and tester of aircraft escape equipment. Experienced parachutist with more than 4.800 jumps he stablished the official free fall record, jumping from a stratospheric balloon in 1962, which remained unbeated almost 50 years.
He was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia, on September 4 of 1926. Between 1937-42 he was raised in a orphanage in Serov, Sverdlovsk region and later worked at the plant in the city of Nizhny Tagil. In 1943 he joined the Soviet Army and two years later entered as a cadet at the Soviet Air Force's School of Pilots of Armavir. By 1947 he was assigned with other officials to a parachute test equipment group, thus starting a very succesfull career of test parachutist, being for example among the first to jump from a jet aircraft without the benefit of a catapult or ejection seat.
Many times, Andreyev suffered accidents as a result of his testing duties. In 1954 he was seriously injured in the failure of an escape catapult but despite the advice of doctors who stated that he should never jump again, he continued to work in this field and in 1955 graduated from the Higher Paratrooper Command Academy of Ryazan which used to be Russia's only military school training officers for the airborne forces. In another incident he managed to survive the failure of the main chute while jumping from an aircraft at supersonic speed and a landing in icy water from which he was forced to swim to safety.
In 1957 he made the jump from a height of 14,800 feet during both day and night, opening the parachute at an altitude of 600 meters. Also he experienced a variety of ejection seats jet for supersonic aircraft, was among the first to test the escape systems for the giant "Anteya" and the 11-76, but probably the main feat for which his name was worldwide know was his record jump from a stratospheric balloon at 25 km. This jump was carried out under the aegis of a program for testing capsule ejection and parachute landing systems for future Vostok flights and Soviet cosmonauts called the "Volga" program. It used stratospheric balloons and a sealed capsule to perform this tests. In March 1962, having finished a series of tests Andreev along with another renowned test parachutist Piotr Dolgov started his training to perform the biggest mission of the program: to test spacesuits and a new non-explosive type of Vostok ejection seat from 80.000 ft, almost in space conditions.
The flight was performed in November 1, 1962, at the Volsk airfield in Saratov. The balloon and capsule were released at 7:44 am and after two hours and a half of ascent both men reached an altitude of 83.523 feet. From that height the first to leave the capsule using the new ejection system was Andreyev. He depressurized his section of the cabin, waved to Dolgov throught the transparent airtight partition and ejected into the void at 10:33 am. In the initial part of his fall he turned on his back to prevent the helmet of his pressure suit to frozen, and contemplated the black sky while he was reaching a speed of 900 km per hour but without noticing the swirl of the air stream. As he reached the lower layers of the atmosphere the air resistance increased so he turned his head to earth, manouvering his body to maintain the control and direction of the fall foe a while until hi finally pulled the ripcord and opened the parachute. He managed to make a soft landing and even remained on his feet, thus ending his 1510th jump. Unfortunatelly his partner Dolgov whom jumped on his own from the capsule minutes after Andreyev did, hit the border of the hatch of the capsule, making a hole of the size of a pin head in his helmet, that let the air and pressure of his Sokol suit to escape, killing him while falling. Although the automatic parachute system that Dolgov was meant to test worked well, when he touched ground he was dead. For this feat both men were awarded with the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union". That same year Andreyev received also the "Order of Lenin" and in 1967 the "Red Star" medal.
Andreev continued a very succesful career on the field. In total he participated in the testing of more than 200 parachute systems and jumped from 50 different types of aircrafts and helicopters. He was the holder of 8 world records (1957, 1961, 1962 and 1975) and made approximately 4500 challenging parachute jumps, including eight missions from the stratosphere, during his 37 years of career as a tester. In 1983 he published a book entitled "The Sky Around Me", on which he recalls all his experiences in the parachute field and in September of 1985 he became the first officer in the USSR Armed Forces to be awarded the new title of "Honored USSR Parachute Tester." The award was made personally by the Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet Andrey Gromyko.
He lived his lasts years in the Chkalovsky village, near Moscow. He died February 9, 2000 and was buried in the cemetery of the Leoniha village in the Shchelkovo district.