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An Incredible Air and Space Adventure
Written by A. Forrer. (Edited by Jane Reifert)

Click on photos to enlarge
Chapter One – Arrival and Jet Flight
Sunday, May 26th - Ismailovo
Sunday we went to the flea market where they sell everything from Lenin to your Russian Matryoshka DollsGrandmother. Got some neat stuff: The ASTP crew as Xmas tree decoration, handmade. A bunch of Russian Space stamps, a cosmonaut watch, a unique book about the Russian space program. All in Russian, but pics I've never seen of engine test stands etc. Also got a hilarious fake ad for Vodka with a Salyut space station and a prosting cosmonaut...

Monday, May 27th – L-39 Flight
Today the serious part began: L-39 flight at Zhukovsky. After the physical and a Fly the Legendary MiG!brief visit to their WOF (wall of fame) with the former Buran test crew pics (I met the director of the base, who used to be a member of the Buran Wolf pack, the pilots selected for flying the orbiter eventually) we went for the briefing with my pilot Alex who was a very nice guy and bored to tears with my not so much to the limit flight...Weak stomach I have to admit. They would have even let me take my camera on board, but recommended against it as it gets hard to handle during the tough turns. Next, on to the parachute school for training on the ejection seat procedures. Memorize that or you lose a hand and feet in the process! After, out to the famous 120m wide runway, built for Buran landings (and used for the one flight). And there she was being fueled up and about a dozen people milling around for yours truly. I felt embarrassed. Anyway, belted in and up we went. Liftoff was easy with a rolling start on the 5.5km long runway, then a low flight at 600 feet through the countryside over monasteries etc. Really beautiful.

Just as I felt cozy an iron fist collapsed my entire body and I felt the blood draining out of my head. I started to get tunnel vision: A 5G vertical climb pretty much left me breathless. After a softer level out and some words with the pilot over intercom. I told him, that was about all I could stomach and so he gave me the stick. Me! Yikes! It felt very heavy, but precise to the touch, a lot like turning the wheels on a real F1. Immediate reaction of the plane and my stomach. Anyway, I did a bunch of banked turns watching the speed, altitude, bank angle and variometer. It was great fun, as I understood most of the instrumentation thanks to my sim. However there is only so much I can muster and it got very hot and uncomfortable under the mask, so I switched on the 100% oxygen supply. That helped a bit. Thereafter a few more loops, a low fly by over the tower with whom Alex communicated entirely in Russian (wonder if anybody spilled their coffee in there). Then final approach and landing.

Lunch at the General's messLast but not least a great Russian lunch at the General's mess with exchange of gifts. Alex was very happy about the 'Above Chicago' book; I was happy to be able to use my internal organs again...On the way home Galina, my local guide from Incredible Adventures, tried to get professional movie equipment and guitars for Lulu Santos’ zero G flight. Brazilians!

Now I'm completely exhausted, physically and emotionally, so time to get some shut-eye. Tomorrow it's off to Z-G flight!

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