“Will I survive today? Will I really do this? Why? What for?” all these questions are tumbling in my head. It is only 6 am. Polina, Mariya and 2 year-old Zoya, 3 beautiful and brave girls volunteered to keep me company during my hair raising event. Our car is heading to a military base. It’s an almost 3 hour drive and the girls are using the opportunity to compensate their early morning with a well deserved nap enroute. I am ready to do the same, but I am tasked with having to navigate two things: my car and my mind. “Am I really going to do this,” I ask myself as I continue my early morning journey.
A week before this unforgettable opportunity I was photo-reporting an airshow. There were so many great aerobatic teams performing but no one could compare to the “Russ”. Their aerial stunts send chills down your spine and can make your blood freeze from excitement. The performance had so many loops and rolls, one could only conclude that these men were made of steal. Frankly speaking, my main wish was to stop the performance. It looked so dangerous, I was worried for pilot’s safety. I asked myself, “would I ever want to do such tricks myself? No! Never! Even for a million of dollars!,” I concluded.
After the show I posted some photos online which caught the attention of a “Russ” team member who saw them and asked permission to use on the team’s website. One thing led to another and I was asked to consult on a promotion. He invited to the airbase, so could I learn more about the team and “if the weather was ok, we could fly,” he casually mentioned.
My eyes lit up, my eyebrows raised, my heart sank, until that day, I had never hoped so badly for a storm.
Yes, there have been so many people whose lifelong dream has been to fly in a fighter jet. Not me! I love my life!
Yet, at the same time, it is very impolite to refuse such a sincere gift. One can argue with this statement but my parents raised this way, so here we are, at the airfield, there stands a gorgeous raven machine, a fighter-trainer, an L-39 Albatros.
And the weather, the goddamn weather is perfect for flying.
Every newbie begins with the basics and learns how to use the ejection seat. I’ve seen many people on this pale green trainer, all of them equally as pale, white as can be and I don’t blame them for it.
Allow me to explain
Your life, your continued existence as you know it highly depends on closely following instructions. The gravity of the situation was not lost on me. If your head is not pressed hard enough to a headrest, the ejection seat won’t work. Most steps of the process are automatic but if something fails, you’d better know what to do and equally important, what the consequence will be when you do it… or the seat won’t work.
At the very moment of ejection you have a unique chance to experience 18 G’s, a story that very few have had the opportunity to tell. To put 18 G in perspective, a 200 pound human is instantly transformed into a 3,600 pound sack of flesh on a rocket.
If the pilot says “Jump, jump, jump” DO NOT THINK, act. The pilot will not leave the aircraft before you, so in an emergency every second is essential to both persons’ survival.
I feared that I’d hear this triple jump call in my nightmares for the rest of my life.
While I was considering the escape plan, Polina had already donned a helmet and made herself comfortable in an Albatros cockpit. She looked so stunning and sexy that I decided I wanted such a photo for myself.
I think it came out cute. What do you think?
Zoya also rode the jet, however she sat on the wing, not in the cockpit
After my flight it took a while to persuade me leave the cockpit. I had every intention to stay and live there
Here is our brave team: me, first class pilot Anatoly Marunko, Polina and her daughter Zoya
And my personal photographer Mariya
Here is the video with my heroic flight. I edited it to 5 minutes as not to bore you with the whole thing .
My brief summary:
– It is an amazing, incredible sensation to fly a jet.
– 6 G doesn’t hurt, It just feels like you are enormously heavy, 6 times more heavy than usual. To even keep your eyelids open takes an effort. I gave myself promise not to eat after 6pm.
– turns and rolls in the air are easier than controlling a car on the ground.
– If you are a real man, you must try it yourself.
And, yes, my flight was a doddle compared to their usual performance
That evening I called a friend. In the fullness of my heart the only words I could utter was “Zhzhzhzhzhzhzhz…..zzzzzzzzzz….whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… life is gooooood!”
The 19 of August marked the 3 year anniversary of my first L-39 flight! Words are not enough to express my happiness i felt when I did it!!!
Big thanks for my dear friends and real heroes “Russ” aerobatic team.
HI to my Los Angeles friend Paul who is also crazy enough to do such crazy tricks on L-39 and other jets. Do not forget to follow him on Instagram or Facebook.