Some days are for catching the train in to work, some days are for riding in a limousine with your new bride and some days are for flying in a MiG Fighter over Russia.
My every day ride has always been a Harley Sportster, so I’m not unfamiliar with impressive machinery, or a bit of speed, but for a big zero birthday my family decided I should, as my son said on the card “Take it up a notch” and my daughter “This should give you something apart from the bike to talk about.”.
I like Top Gun as much as the next man, but after the over kill of the themed send off I wasn’t expecting to feel that excited when I got to the airport and saw the MiG I was going to fly in, but looking all sleek and serious I could see why everyone always goes on about those homoerotic overtones. The talk from the serious air crew, who I was pleased to note, had the square jaws of war film Russian spies, was all about pounds of thrust and chasing the sound barrier, which sounded even more impressive when translated from the original by my suitably attractive interpreter, Katja. The aim seemed to be to fulfill as many Cold war clichés as possible, but I found there was definitely charm to this approach, and I began to feel my excitement poke holes in the British war hero persona I had decided to adopt for the occasion.
I knew I was in for a medical and after the impressively stern lecture I had been planning to pretend it was part of an interrogation scene, but the doctor was big, comical and gentle, and couldn’t help but tell me that he’s been up, they’d given him a big discount, and it had been ‘much fun’. I could definitely detect the twinkle in the eye of the Russian doctor from those war films when he explained to me about the G Forces and helped get me into my G-Suit. It takes three people to get it on you. You start in a pair of pyjamas then it fits on quite tightly all in one, with lots of zips and fasteners and those suspicious looking hoses which I never knew before but attach you to the plane, so your limbs in the suit don’t get over suctioned if the G forces ramp up. Inside the helmet you wear an oxygen mask and have a communicator with the pilot, but that much I’d learned from Top Gun.
The MiG-29 is pointed and looks like she means business with big old burns coming out of her engines. I’d seen some take off the day before, but when you’re getting ready to be installed into the cock pit they take on a slightly more serious gleam. You have to literally be hooked up to this and that - it was a bit overwhelming having the pilot strap me in and make sure we were on the same page with the emergency procedures. It was like the spiel they give you on a plane but much more serious considering how exposed all the hoses, cables and wires and no pretty girl was pointing out the emergency exits. There are just as many whirring gizmos and flickering lights as you expect there to be...
The take off. Worst bit of any flight for me but in a MiG you never really loose that feeling of being about to be un-united with your lunch and your entire stomach sack with it. You don’t need a lot of runway and you get to height pretty quickly. The G forces press you back but at 7kms up the thrusters came back in and we started with the aero acrobatics my wife and children had signed me up for - I was not sure if I wanted to throttle them or kiss them at this point in the flight. I'll admit to a slight feeling of being at the top of a theme park ride and wondering if it was a good idea… At 16kms straight up we reached Mach 2 but we got another 5kms into the sky before we dived back. From there as promised in the brochure I could see the earth curve below me. Cool. But even cooler than you think it would be.
Diving back to earth I was offered the stick, but I was more than happy to ride pillion on this trip. We played ‘Little Green Bag’ on the way down. I didn’t want to be impressed but this machine is powerful. We’re just earth dwellers, but some men must think like Gods to come up with this kind of beast and lug it 21kms up into the sky (for fun.).
Experts in Extreme Machines: Blair Metcalfe