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25: The Great World Tour - The Grand Finale

Plesman was pleased when a big American company approached KLM with a request for the loan of a "super-ace" pilot. They were kindly asking for Ivan Smirnoff to have a leave for their project, while they knew him beforehand.

The Atlas Supply Company, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, was planning a 100-day round-the-world flight on which heads of important American firms would act as their own commercial travellers. The plane in which they flew would be a travelling stockroom, loaded with colour films, scale models, give-away samples and litterature in many languages.

The plane, of course, would be American. But the company wanted something more than an ordinary pilot to ferry this precious cargo. They wanted a Flight Adviser, whose prestige and personal popularity would ensure the greatest publicity for the flight - and the smoothest possible passage for the VIP's.

Ivan's short but notable sojourns in the United States had made him known to business men as well as airmen and government officials. He was remembered now, and the Atlas Company directors were delighted when Plesman advised them that Captain Smirnoff was their man.
Information about Sky Merchant

Here was something really stunning, exulted Ivan. The Sky Merchant, a Douglas DC4, was to travel a route of 80.000 kilometres, crossing the equator six times, visiting all five continents, twenty-eight countries and forty-five principal cities.

The flight began from Teterboro Airport, New Jersey on 5 January 1948, and for 100 nerve-racking days and nights Ivan was chief pilot, overlord of servicing, host to the world's buyers, interpreter, guide, ambassador, public relations officer and general deus ex machina.

To the American tycoons it was fantastic that everywhere they went Captain Smirnoff had friends among "the people that mattered". By the end of the 100 days Ivan was a legend again, in that most difficult venue for foreign fame, the USA.

Ivan Smirnoff standing to the left.

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