Thrill of a Lifetime (continued, page 5)
by Jack Lythgoe

Lythgoe: you're up for the 29!
"Lythgoe: you're up for the 29!" With Col. Tomas Orsos.
Photo: Personal Collection of Jack Lythgoe.

I would not have come down from that comment for several days, but another announcement came that quickly got my attention, "Lythgoe: you're up for the 29!"

I would have liked a little time between flights, after spending so much time waiting, but that's the way the ball bounces once in a while.

Helmet liner back on, pressure suit strapped, flotation device, helmet & oxygen mask--ready to have at it one more time, and this time in the big boy-- the MiG 29.

The walk out to the plane was not really all that far, but it seemed longer than it was for some reason.  My safety pilot was Serge again, but...wait a minute...that's not my Serge.  Seems like "Serge" is sort of like "John" or "Joe" in America; there are a lot of them.  This one just didn't seem as friendly as my other Serge.  We went over the itinerary for the flight rather quickly and he gestured toward the plane.

Lythgoe: you're up for the 29!
Before the big squeeze—an assist readying for the flight.
Photo: Personal Collection of Jack Lythgoe.

Getting in was no problem, though the cockpit seemed a little smaller than in the L-39.  Once again the wonderfully efficient technicians took over and "mothered" me into the proper position for all of the hooking up, clipping on and plugging in.  Next, three of them were trying to buckle my safety harness, which bound me tightly to the ejection seat.  The straps from the right and the one over my left shoulder were attached, but the lower left one just wouldn't reach the ring that held the others.

After 10 or 12 minutes of sweat and frustration (the straps were let out as far as they would go), one of the technicians said "inhale."  I understood that he did not mean "inhale;" he meant "exhale," so I did and with my chest and diaphragm caved in they managed to slip the last strap onto the ring.  I was set!  Of course, I couldn't breath except for rapid, shallow breaths, but I figured I'd get by all right with some controlled breathing I'd learned while training to be a SCUBA instructor.

In the MiG-29 cockpit.
In the MiG-29 cockpit — "Chock ... we go!"
Photo: Personal Collection of Jack Lythgoe.

As before, my safety pilot had started and checked out all of the necessary items, so when the technicians gave Serge a "thumbs up" once again, I heard the now familiar "Chock." my reply was constant: "Da." I heard "We go!" as the canopy glided shut and the increase in the roar of two jet engines started us on our way to the taxiway and the checkup area.

We stopped only briefly for another "look under the airplane and see what is wrong" inspection.  Then out onto the runway for a brief taxi to the end and a quick turnaround to head into the wind.  "Okay, Chock?"  And again my reply, "Da."

This was the combat takeoff I was waiting for.  The safety pilot would perform it, as none of us had been checked out on the use of afterburners, which are used on a straight-up combat takeoff.  The engines roared abruptly to full power while he held the brakes for just a few seconds and then released.  We accelerated very rapidly, and as we rotated I could feel the tremendous surge of power as he kicked in the afterburners. We were accelerating while going straight up.

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