I found myself upside down, hanging from straps which held my body in reasonable proximity to the seat. I was flying inverted just north of the Black Sea in the Crimea of the Ukraine at speeds exceeding 500 mph in a MiG-29 Fulcrum, one of the former Soviet Union's top fighter planes. A thought formed in my conscious mind — "Why?"
Having just recently celebrated my big seven-zero birthday it would seem a rather unusual situation in which to find myself, but one which was thrilling, exciting, and if I may dredge up a word from childhood, fun!
I had signed up with International Fighter Pilots Association of Budapest, Hungary to participate in a program of training and flight with the third fighter squadron of the Ukranian Air Force. It involved a couple of days of book larnin' from manuals in Budapest on planes you were to fly, procedures, protocol, etc.
A flight on Air Ukraine to Kiev, and then another back to Kirovsky Air Force Base [aka Kirovskoye
Air Base; Kirovskoe Air Base;
45.168605,35.180283] in Ukraine for several more days training involving familiarization with
the planes themselves, with much more time spent just sitting in the
Our group was a multinational agglomeration of pilots: a Frenchman, Jacques Krinek; Ingrid Jeanrenaud, the first female to fly one of the former Soviet Union's top fighter planes, an SU-27 Flanker; Sven Jenrenaud, Ingrid's son, who would fly the SU-27 as well; Ingo Boge, from Germany; Ms. Brenda Herman, frequently left holding up to six or seven different cameras and taking pictures for everyone; Russ Albertson, a pilot for U.S. Air; Max Galya, a journalist from London; and Max Guitfoyle, a charming Irishman who presently resides in New York City.
Then there was me. I am a professional hypnotist presenting programs all over the world. This spring will conclude my 48th year touring through secondary schools and colleges, conventions and cruise ships. I hold a current U.S.A. pilots license for single engine land and sea, twin engine and glider ratings. My lifelong dream has been to fly a jet plane of any size or description.
The most impressive person of the entourage was Lt. Col. Thomas Orsos, the commanding officer of the International Fighter Pilot Association. He is an Australian of Hungarian descent whom I respect more than just about anyone I have met in all my years of traveling throughout the United States or abroad. Tom speaks six or seven languages fluently, a couple in perfect dialect, when he chooses to be British or Australian.
After the concentrated work on flight manuals and discussions in Budapest and the intensified training at the Kirovsky Air Force Base, we approached the moment of truth, when we would actually have the opportunity to fly the planes we had signed up for. The entire afternoon was taken up with the fitting of flight suits, pressure suits, helmet, visor and oxygen masks. It was important that everything be just exactly right, so that in the case of ejection, there would be no injuries which might have been prevented by planning and training.