In summer 2004, the warbird recovery group UK Warbird Finders was diving in lake Mart-Yavr, Russia, looking for another WWII aircraft wreck, when a local fisherman asked “Are you going to get the other airplane out of here?” said Paul Faltyn, vice president of the Niagara Aerospace Museum. The fisherman had noticed the faint outline of the aircraft in the silt in 16 feet of water. It was buried up to the propeller, but was noticeable in the crystal clear water of the lake located along the Arctic Circle.
As the aircraft was raised out of the water a stunning discovery was made: The pilot Lt. Ivan Ivanovich Baranovsky, 22 at the time of the crash, was still in the aircraft. Due to the location of the propeller shaft, the pilot of a P-39 sits much higher in the aircraft and exits from the aircraft through doors much like those found on a car. The roof of the aircraft is fixed and cannot be jettisoned; however, the doors can be. While the raised seat provided excellent visibility, the configuration further complicated emergency egress. Normal procedure in the case of a water ditching called for the doors to be jettisoned before landing, even in the case of landing on ice.
“We found out that two connecting rods in the engine had broken, the engine lost oil pressure, and when he landed on the ice (he was found not wearing his shoulder harnesses), he probably bumped his head on the instrument panel,” Faltyn said. “While he was unconscious the aircraft broke through the ice and sank, and he drowned in the process.”
Lt. Ivan Ivanovich Baranovsky
The pilot Lt. Ivan Ivanovich Baranovsky, 22 at the time of the crash, credited with 7 enemy aircraft destroyed in the Aircobra, was burried with full military honors.