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This firm offers travellers the right stuff
Paul Greenhalgh is an adrenaline junkie.
It wasn't always this way.
There was a time when he was willing to wait patiently and dream about the things he would do when he had the time, or the money, or the energy ... one day.
Then his days were almost cut short.
"I'm a cancer survivor," says resident of Richmond Hill. "When that happens you think, `well gee, if I get through this there are a few things I really want to do.'"
A search on the Internet turned up Incredible Adventures, a small Florida-based company that focuses on providing everyday people who have the guts and the cash with, well, incredible adventures.
Greenhalghs first adventure? Flying a Mig-29 fighter jet over Russia.
That's right. I didn't say flying IN a Mig jet, I said flying it. As in you are the co-pilot of the plane that can break the sound barrier, climb to the edge of space and defy gravity.
The adventure requires reasonable health, security clearance and a flight to Russia. But once there you get to fly alongside one of Russia's top test pilots from the top-secret Zhukovsky Air Base and tailspin and cobra manoeuvre to your heart's delight in any of several different fighter jets.
"I was shocked that you actually get to fly it," Greenhalgh says, the delight in his voice still obvious. "The pilot took it through the sound barrier and then there I am flying it — like actually flying it. It was awesome. We were so high you could see the arc of the earth."
Jane Reifert of Incredible Adventures says while there are some elements of danger, the pilots are fully trained and have the ability to override your controls much like in a driver education car.
The real pilots always take off and land the planes and you receive training in flight simulators and get a safety briefing, complete with seat ejection drills, before ever leaving the ground.
"People of all ages sign up," she says, noting that they've had participants as old as 75.
Along with the Migs program, the company also offers cosmonaut training, air combat flights and much more. Prices range from $400 (all figures U.S.) for a biplane flight to $20 million for a flight to outer space.
The Migs adventure will run you about $10,000. The broad cost range also depends on whether you want the company to assist you in hotel and car planning at the adventure destination.
Whatever your budget, Reifert says the company will work with you to design an adventure that is right for you. .
"Most of our programs allow you to be someone else for awhile," Reifert explains. "We give you a chance to live the life you've dreamed about for a few hours or a few days."
Since that Mig flight, Greenhalgh has participated in several of the company's other adventures. In the Urban Ops adventure (which he described as one of the most physically intensive trips he has ever been on) he spent three days avoiding booby traps, practising urban assaults and firing real weapons in Little Rock Arkansas.
In the Covert Ops adventure, he learned to write code, survive an ambush and rescue hostages at night while under fire in Arizona.
In the Air Combat USA adventure, he felt the thrill of an aerial dogfight against a fellow adventurer as they shot at each other from propeller driven planes over the Pacific Ocean.
Is it any wonder he keeps going back?
Greenhalgh admits his wife's reaction to his adrenaline habit isn't completely supportive.
"She said `Good God! You've survived cancer and now you're going to try to kill yourself,'" he recalls laughing.
The reaction isn't unique.
Incredible Adventures now offers to e-mail your friends and family to drop the hint that you'd like to go on one of their trips.
To learn more about the trips offered by Incredible Adventures, visit their Web site at http://www.incredible-adventures.com or call them at 1-800-644-7382.
Heather Greenwood Davis is a Toronto-based freelance writer.
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