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First Hand Account by Mike Saemisch

An account written and photographed by Mike Saemisch who flew the legendary MiG-29 over Moscow, and is presented with the kind permission of the author.

Also from Mike's site, reprinted from Air And Space Magazine:
Dreams for Sale
Inside the Red Zone

This page is my story of an adventure I had flying jets in Russia and is dedicated to the memory of Vladimir Danilenko who died in a training accident in the Ural mountains in April1996. I had the privilege of flying with him. I will have more of a tribute to him by the end of the year. ~ Mike
Color Picture of MiG-29

Russian MiG-29 Fighter Aircraft

This is the Russian MiG-29 fighter aircraft I, Mike Saemisch, flew as an adventure of a lifetime. Through a company in Florida MiGs, Etc, now known as Incredible Adventures), I traveled to Moscow in May of 1994 for a week of pure adrenaline highs. The company arranged this adventure to occur at the formerly secret Zhukovsky Air Force Base about 20 miles outside of Moscow. Each day, the others and I would be picked up from our hotel near Red Square and taken to the base ("hide those cameras!"). The week started with medical exams, ejection seat training and general orientation.

Mike in Suit Before flying in the supersonic MiG-29, I took four flights in a subsonic Czech L-39 jet trainer. Here, the pilot prospects/suckers like me were subjected to various aerobatic maneuvers to establish our capabilities for the big flight plus we were given extensive time piloting the aircraft on each of the 40 minute flights. Maneuvers such as loops, rolls, Split-s, Immelmans, Crazy Cubans, Hammerheads and the famous Russian Tailslide are all performed if requested (and can also be halted if requested). The customers are allowed to try anything they desire. Plus, we flew inverted, chased a Russian AWACS plane into the clouds, did four point rolls, and I flew an ILS approach on the various flights.

A typical flight would be something like the following with the Russian pilot's words in quotes. Take-off would be with mild acceleration. We would fly about 30 km at about 300 feet off the ground. Gain a little altitude and then:

"Roll. OK?" OK. Incredible!

"You OK?" I'm OK.

"Inverted flight." Wow!

"Are you Vell?" I am well.

"Loop, OK?" OK. The g-suit is really pumping. Hit the 100% oxygen switch for some 'fresh' air. Most of the time it was very smooth flying (except for the g's); like watching a movie out the cockpit. What a great view from this seat!

"Are you vell?" I'm vell.

L-39"OK, your control". My control! OK, turn left. Wonderful! More turns. Roll. How in the world is it possible that I am commanding a Russian fighter jet, in Russia?! Quite a concept having grown up in the cold war years.

"Are you vell?" I'm well.

"Hammerhead." Up, up, up, right to the base of a cloud. Quiet. Still up. Then, as we feel like we are hanging from the cloud, the plane gently rolls to the left. Then, straight down. Heavy g's. Pull out.

"You OK?" Not so OK. Level off. Time to land. No puke!

On one particularly cloudy and rainy day, I asked to take my scheduled L-39 flight anyway. After running into many clouds in the aerobatic zone, Vladimir told me, "This is not so good, I show you low altitude fly-ink." Or, was it NO altitude fly-ink?! For about 5 minutes, Vladimir piloted the aircraft at 500 kmh (about 300 mph) about 12-18 meters (about 40 feet) off the deck banking left and right, buzzing the formerly Soviet fields and almost skimming the water of a small river! Talk about a sensation of speed! I thought the wing tips would part the grass as we turned. The altimeter was reading minus 50 meters. Nobody else in the group would have this experience this week.

One morning, while in bed in the hotel in Moscow after a day or two of flying, I awoke in a cold sweat. An imaginary voice I hear says, "Good morning gentlemen. It's 65 degrees, fair skies, visibility 20 miles. Today's hard deck is 1000 feet. With only 2 days left, the Top Gun trophy is still up for grabs. 'The Kid' and 'Iceman' are tied for the lead". (My helmet said "The Kid" for some reason). The last hour of my attempted sleep is dedicated to planning the day's flight. Sleep? Yeah, right.

Ready to BoardFrom these L-39 flight experiences, the students discuss and plan their approximately 40 minute adventure in the MiG-29. As I got into the cockpit, first things first, where's the barf bag? It took the translators a while to figure that out but they got it under control. The MiG-29 crew was large and very professional. In the preflight check, I see the display go through several checks: Flaps OK, Guns OK. GUNS!?! I had a lot of time sitting in the cockpit and my pilot for the day, (Alexander), explained things. They had no problems with us taking pictures. Heck, they would probably have sold me the plane if I had the bucks!

My MiG-29 flight consisted of a high power takeoff and formation flying with an L-39 with a photographer from a British magazine in the other plane. Once the pictures were taken (and which I never got - THANKS FOR NOTHING, Magnum Photos, London!), Alexander hit full afterburners, pressing me to the seat and beginning a vertical climb to the supersonic flight zone. Good-bye L-39. Good-bye NOW! I bet you could almost see my smile from the ground!

After coming out the clouds vertical, Alexander leveled out and accelerated and announced, "Mach .7, .8, .9, .95, supersonic, 1.1, 1.2. 1300 kilometers per hour". Then, it was back to aerobatic flying. I took the controls for a while as we approached the zone. Alexander did the big time maneuvers such as the Hammerhead, Tail Slide and Split-s. I did a series of rolls and highly banked turns. Afterburners now and then. The whole flight seemed to be performed under acceleration. When the flight was ending, it was time to buzz the field. Inverted, of course! A gentle roll was performed for the others and the video cameras below. Afterburners again!

Time to land?! No! I want more! I need some new adjectives! It was all over way too soon! I didn't get sick!

Afterwards, I was all excited as you might imagine. What I did not realize right away was that I was suffering from 'sensory overload'. I was overwhelmed with all that had happened and all that I did. My mind did not sort it all until much later. As I was sitting in the Bolshoi Ballet that night watching a wonderful performance, my mind was finally able to replay all of what had happened. I actually became more and more excited as I recalled and re-flew the flight over and over. Of course, I was also able to start to think about the things I would time.....

My adventure was also chronicled in Air and Space Magazine by Bill Triplett who was there covering the adventure as part of a larger article on this and other flight adventures for hire, "Dreams for Sale". We visited a Russian aircraft museum on our day off and Bill wrote about this in "Inside the Red Zone". (I am the "American visitor" referenced in the article.) Also, KSL, Channel 5 in Salt Lake City, covered the story after reading the article. They interviewed me and used some of my and the MiGs, Etc. promotional footage.

Mike Saemisch Flew the Legendary MiG-29 Over Moscow!

Write me if you want. Happy fly-ink




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