“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 steel. Frankly speaking, my primary wish was to stop the performance. It looked so dangerous; I was worried about 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.
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
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. – 4 G doesn’t hurt, It just feels like you are enormously heavy, 4 times more heavy than usual. To even keep your eyelids open takes an effort. I gave myself promise not to eat after 6 pm. – turns and rolls in the air are easier than controlling a car on the ground.
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!”
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