Atyrau Airport to Be Re-Named for Kazakhstan’s only WWII Female Fighter Pilot

The Atyrau International Airport will be re-named for Hiuaz Dospanova, the only Kazakh female pilot and navigating officer who participated in the Great Patriotic War.


“We have received a letter from the initiative group and members of the Parliament proposing to give a new name to the city airport. The staff of the airport has supported this proposal,” said Deputy Director of ATMA Atyrau Airport and Transportation Zhanil Umbetiyarova.

The name of the legendary pilot has been given to the sports palace in Atyrau and a street in Almaty. A monument of Dospanova has been also constructed in Atyrau. In 2012, Air Astana granted her name to the Embraer 190 airliner.

Dospanova was born on May 15, 1922 in the village of Ganyushkino in the Guriev region (now the Atyrau region). After graduating with honours in 1940 from high school No. 1 in Uralsk and attaining a pilot certificate, Dospanova went to Moscow and submitted documents for admission to the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy. Her application was denied, so she decided to study at First Moscow Medical Institute, where she was accepted without examination.

A year later, the Second World War began and Dospanova was appointed as a navigating officer in the 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. Her flying operations took place on the southern front, North Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Ukraine and Belarus. After the war, Dospanova returned home with severe fractures of both legs. This tragic event has been described in the book “Night Witches,” written by another pilot of the aviation regiment, Raisa Aronova.

“I awoke in the hospital with fractured legs and hands. The first question I asked was ‘where is Julia?’ They told me that she is here, not far away from me and I don’t have to worry. Later, I found out that it was just a comforting lie,” remembered Dospanova in the book.

The pilot survived only because despite instructions, she didn’t fasten the seat belt and the collision threw her out of the cab. All the other pilots on the plane died.

Dospanova made 300 flights during the war. The Night Witches participated in the liberation missions of Kuban, Taman, Novorossiysk, Crimea, Belarus and Poland.

For courage and bravery, she was awarded the Order of the Red Star, the Order of the World War of the first and second degrees, the Order of the Red Banner and medals for Defence of the Caucasus, liberation of Warsaw and victory over Germany, as well as other military awards.

Despite her disability after the war, Dospanova was actively involved in public life. First Secretary of the West Kazakhstan Regional Party Mynaidar Salin suggested she work for the Communist Party and her position was approved by the regional party committee instructor. A year later, Dospanova started her employment at the Higher Party School in Alma-Ata.

The pilot made a career from a  party committee instructor in Western Kazakhstan to the secretary of the Central Committee of the Lenin Communist Union of Youth of Kazakhstan. In 1951, she was elected as the deputy of the Supreme Council of the Kazakh SSR and at the first session was appointed as the secretary of the Presidium. Before retirement, Dospanova was a secretary of the Almaty city party committee, playing an active role in the development and life of the then-capital.

By the end of 1950s, Dospanova’s health caused issues and she was forced to retire in 1959. She died on May 20, 2008.

In accordance with the decree of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Dospanova was awarded the title “Halyk Kaharmany” (the National Hero) and the honour of a special distinction: the Gold Star and the Otan Order on December 7, 2004.

Dospanova’slife is represented in a documentary film “To be in Time to Say Goodbye.” She also wrote a book of memories of the war, which was published in the 1960s in Russian and Kazakh, but has never been reprinted.

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