Alexander de Seversky, Pioneer Aviator, Dies
NEW YORK (AP) — Major Alexander P. de Seversky
, pioneer aviator whose wartime inventions were instrumental in buoying United States air power in World War II, is dead at 80.
De Seversky died Saturday of a respiratory ailment at Memorial Hospital here.
In addition to being a zealous proponent of strategic air power, de Seversky was a major inventor whose work included design of the P-35 fighter and its modification, the Thunderbolt.
For the project, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented de Seversky with the Medal of Merit — the highest wartime honor for a civilian.
Roosevelt said de Seversky "devoted himself single-mindedly" to development of a long range escort fighter and "as a result, our country was prepared to apply these principles against the enemy at the crucial moment, thereby winning the control of the air which guaranteed victory."
The P-35 was the first all metal plane with fuel tanks in the wing, a concept later used in all modern aircraft. It was the first plane to exceed 300 miles per hour.
In another major development, de Seversky worked with Dr. Elmer Sperry Sr. to lay the groundwork for all gyroscopically stabilized flight instruments which made the automatic pilot possible.
De Seversky was born in Tiflis, Russia, and was introduced to flying by his father, a sportsman-pilot. Graduating from the Military Scool of Aviation, de Seversky flew his first combat mission for the Russian Imperial Navy in 1915 and was downed by enemy fire.
Although he lost his right leg on the mission, he later returned to combat to fly another 56 missions, bringing down 13 aircraft.
De Seversky came to the United States in 1918 as an attache to the Soviet embassy. When it closed during the Russian revolution, he remained to become a test pilot and engineer.
In 1921, de Seversky developed in-flight fueling techniques and later invented the first fully automatic synchronous bombsight. The bombsight patent produced $50,000 and he formed his first company, Seversky Aero Corp.
Later he became known as author of "Victory Through Air Power," subsequently filmed by Wall Disney, which he wrote to dispel apathy in the face of Nazi strength.
At the time of his death, de Seversky worked daily as president and chairman of the board of Seversky Electronatom Corp.
De Seversky left no immediate survivors. His wife, Evelyn, died earlier.
A Russian Orthodox funeral service was planned Tuesday at Frank E. Campbell funeral home here.
The Bee (Danville, Virginia) - Monday, August 26, 1974