Still Flying

Day 9.

St. Petersburg to Moscow is a quick 2 hour flight. Once there we met Vladislav the owner of the Russian airline S7, and the chief sponsor of our little jaunt. Vlad invited us to another big celebratory dinner at the Four Seasons where we would get to meet some high mucky mucks of his company and 2 Russian Air Force test pilots. But first we got to visit his airline’s training center for to play with two of his 12 million dollar full motion flight simulators. And a right good time we had of it too. When it was my turn for the simulator I was fortunate enough to have with me in the cockpit three other professional pilots who’d been hired to keep the aircraft owners out of trouble. These guys are some of the best, most experienced pilots in the world and the four of us had a combined flight time of over 37,000 hours. So as each of took turns being Captain and co-pilot we handled each emergency situation with a calm, precise and professional manner that impressed the system immensely. Not. The four of us did nothing but screw around, rolling the big Boeing on final, buzzing the down town next to the airport, messing with the speed breaks of the guy trying to land and generally goofing off. Miraculously only one of us crashed (twice) and while my captain was backing up the big jet after landing by leaving the revers thrusters on after coming to a stop I jammed on the breaks to see if I could put us on our tail. I was successful and the simulator reared up and made a crunching noise. It was hilarious. That night at what felt like our 100th big fancy dinner party the C.E.O. of Epic announced that instead of getting up early and flying the next morning, we’d take the day off and enjoy another day in Moscow. There was much rejoicing.

Day 10.

With no official events or duties this day I joined up with another pro pilot and did a little sight seeing around Moscow with the highlight being my visit to the armory in the Kremlin. My wingman for the day was a retired Navy Captain, callsign Eagle. Eagle is and amazing character and I use the term character on purpose because even though he’s 73 years old, flew dozens of combat missions in Vietnam, ejected twice, and was the former commander of the aircraft carrier America Eagle is still a kid at heart and hilarious practical joker.

Day 11.

As you know there are many sayings that are true in life, “No good deed goes unpunished” “Never pet a burning dog” “Payback’s a bitch” and “ TANSTAAFL” “There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”

In order to make up for our day off in Moscow and get back on schedule we put in an epic day of flying. We flew 4 long legs across Russia spending over 8 hours in the air and crossing 5 time zones and ending up in Irkutsk. With the time zone changes and flight time it ended up being a 15 hour day. There were some tired pilots at the end but we were back on track.

Day 12.

A short one leg day to Yakutsk. Nothing special to report.

Day 13.

The first leg was to Magadan Russia where they parked all 6 Epics on a super rough taxiway and fueled us from an ancient fuel truck that had to be a leftover from the old Soviet Union daysThe next leg of the day was to Petropavlovsk. Also known as “Petro” for obvious reasons. The approach and Arrival into Petro was amazing with beautiful scenery all around and 2 active volcanos towering over the runways. There was also a ton of Russian Air Force iron scattered all over the airport. Fighters, transports, and were parked everywhere and even though they looked like they hadn’t flown in forever we soon saw one of those helicopters with the twin counter rotating rotors fly by followed by a big twin tailed fighter (Mig 25?) roaring off the runway leaving a trail of thick black smoke. It was almost like they wanted to prove to us that they could still put something in the air.

That night we once again went to dinner as a group, sitting at a long table passing dishes filled with local delicacies including tons of caviar. Our plan for the next day’s flying was to head to Adak Alaska, stop for fuel and then blast off for Anchorage but when we checked the weather Adak was forecast to have low ceilings and visibility. That was a problem because they didn’t have a precision approach into the airport and the island sits so far out at sea that there is no alternate airport available if you run into to trouble and have to divert. It was looking like we might have our first no-fly day due to weather.

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