In 1917 Russia and The Great Britain were immersed in bloody war for several years. The forces were weakened and almost all resourced exhausted. There was a great shortage of pilots in the army and since the aviation training institutes were not as developed and qualified in Russia, officers were being sent to England and France for expert level pilot training. The best 240 officers were chosen to be trained abroad. The process of the selection was very long and thorough since many different qualities were being looked at: skills, intelligence, health and physical shape and more importantly trustworthiness.
Armenak Sarkisov was one of the 240 pilots to be trained in England. He was born in 1895 in a large peasant family in Signagi, Georgia. After graduating from local school in 1912 he was sent to his sister in Warsaw with the purpose of obtaining higher education. He started taking accounting courses and work at a factory to meet the ends since the money sent from home was very little. In 1915 he was called back to Signagi and mobilized for mandatory military service. His ability to speak different languages was noticed and soon he became the personal translator for one of the high ranked officers. Since Armenak spoke well in Russian, Polish, Armenian, Georgian and Turkish he was sent to train as Warrant Officer. In 1916 he finished the course and was appointed as a Commander and later that year enrolled at Petrograd Polytechnic Institute for a summer course. On March 4th of 1917 the future pilot arrived in England.
After the October Revolution of 1917, the pilots return to Russia. Armenak Sarkisov was called to Moscow in 1918 and appointed as a commander to one of the newly formed Smolenskaya aviation group units. In 1918 Sarkisov went on about 40 secret combat missions for explorations and flew for more than 90 hours with every flight lasting more than 2 hours. The same year he was awarded the Commander of the Air Force of the South. In 1919 he was transferred to the “Tsar” Front as commander of the 16th squadron. In the summer of the same year, he becomes very ill. When Sarkisov returned to airforce after a long recovery, he voluntarily applied to be a regular pilot in his own unit. Within the next few years he transferred to unit 22 and in 1923 to unit 47 where the Armenian, Georgian and Azeri squadrons were combined. Shortly after that Armenak Sarkisov was discharged. He was called back during the WWⅡ and was appointed assistant chief of logistics in the technical unit. Even at old age he led an active life and worked with young people. He often performed in factories, schools and universities. The honorary ‘pensioner’ who participated in two wars, has left a significant mark in the history of world aviation.
(Research on Armenak Sarkissov was carried out by Russian researcher Roman Firsov, who compiled all the information and photographs, and the text was translated from Russian to English by the CAIA volunteer Tatevik Khudinyan)