MiG Ride

Yes folks, once upon a time, during my high-rolling days at Borland, I paid a small fortune to ride in a MiG-29 fighter jet. Boy was it ever cool! We flew the full air show routine of the plane. Take-off was incredible. The pilot locked the brakes, lit the afterburners, and then released the brakes. What a rush! I have never felt acceleration like that before in my life. We took off after a very short roll and pull up in a sort of half loop followed by a roll to level flight. While in the air, we did loops, rolls, and a tail slide (the scariest manuever). I was wearing a g-suit and we pulled a maximum of 6.5g's according to the plane's instruments. We also did a low speed strafing pass over the airfield, and the sense of speed was just tremendous. During the aerobatic maneuvers, the ground would tumble outside the canopy in a way that just didn't even look real.

Since I'm not (yet) a pilot, I received a 45-minute preflight briefing that largely consisted of many different admonitions not to touch the red handles between my legs (see the red handles in the cockpit picture above?). It seems the plane would be flying with a live ejector seat, and they were worried I would accidentally pull the handles. This would eject myself and the pilot, resulting in the crash of the plane, possibly our deaths or dismemberment, and possible lives on the ground as well. I was beginning to get the picture. Signing the "If you are killed, you owe us money for the loss of plane" release completed that picture.

The g-suit was pretty trippy too. It's sort of like wearing chaps. They squeeze the heck out of your legs whenever the g's go up in order to keep the blood from pooling in your legs. We did not wear oxygen masks for this low altitude flight, but we were wearing helmets. The aircraft were part of the MiG factory's demonstration team for airshows. They had 2 single seaters plus a single 2 seat trainer and a small transport aircraft similar to our C-131 Hercules. The transport was loaded up with spare parts and, guess what, American merchandise. Part of the deal for these guys coming over was that they get turned loose in a Costco to load up on goods to take back home. They were particularly proud of their Nike tennis shoes and athletic suits.

My pilot was named Valery, and he was completely laconic. He is MiG's chief test pilot, or was at that time. The stereotypical combat pilot who falls asleep at times of extreme stress fit this guy perfectly. Before each manuever he would say, "Bob, I'm going to do a loop now, is that okay?" I'd give my assent, and then he'd perform the manuever. My biggest fear was that I would get airsick and make a mess all over his plane as well as myself. Turned out not to be a problem for me. Planes like this do all their manuevers in the positive g regime, which helps. Obviously Valery was pretty bored with the idea of hauling tourists around in his pet plane, but he was a gentleman about it.

While we were on the ground a group of Navy Tomcat pilots happened by, and they were much less gentlemanly. They seemed rather jealous of the proceedings and made a number of deprecating remarks about the MiG-29 which the Russians just ignored.

They still offer these flights in Russia, and I would highly recommend one. I suspect the cost is much lower too, not counting travel and lodging. Russia's a cool place to visit anyway, or at least it was 5 years ago when I went.

If I had it to do over again, I'd definitely shell out the same sum. Turns out that its pretty straightforward to get a ride on a MiG-29 these days. Just contact the folks at Incredible Adventures, fly to Russia, and they'll set you right up!

All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.