Fighter Jet flight and 6.3 G force in a Soviet training jet with a Ukrainian pilot on a winter’s day

A mild hangover, bright grey skies and brisk breeze set the scene. We’d been out with some friends the night before and felt groggy and tired by the time we had to flash our passports at the side entrance of the airport. It’s the little extra moments like that, the private entrance, the secret feeling that makes it special. We pulled up on the tarmac and all jumped out, strutting around the jet as if we had done this a hundred times before. Only we hadn’t and it showed. Yeah, I guess there’s no fooling a pilot who spent 20 plus years training the Soviet Union’s finest. We looked like amateurs and it showed. But hey, it’s not everyday you get to fly in a fighter jet and we wanted to savour every step of the journey.

The flask of tea came out. Nothing stronger, we were warned, or you’ll end up with a decorated cockpit. The tea was badly needed as it was pretty chilly. The lack of sleep didn’t help. As Vitaly gave us a few pointers – watch out for this; don’t do that; wave to the crowds – we got ready for action. The usual tussle of who first meant that i got to go last: save the best till last, or so i hoped. And boy was I not disappointed! The helmet was on and i was feeling like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Climbing as cooly as possible into the cockpit, I got into position. I’ll never need that ejector seat I kept reassuring myself. The little devil on my other shoulder was saying – but wouldn’t it be cool if you did!

Tightly strapped in, engines blazing and we were off. A thunderous roar and the jet peaked into the sky. We soared away into the distance, we rolled, we turned and we were away. I was screaming with excitement into the cockpit. I was having a ball. And then the crowning moment – the fly by. As we came tearing into the airport to scare the living daylights out of my friends standing on the ground the G force kicked in and I was paralysed, completely unable to lift my arms and wave. The frustration! I was so confident that I would be able to show off and wave. No chance, the extreme force was keeping me locked into my seat.

And off we went again, twisting and turning, all of the Hollywood movies were there, right then. I was living it! It felt like ages, my body was being pulled apart, pinned back into the side and jammed side to side. Sure, you have an idea of what it’s going to be like but really doing it is out of this world. Again, another fly-by and still no waving. I could see the guys looking up at me just waiting for me to pass out. And it nearly came. The pilot seemed to save his full force for the last turn, blowing past the tower and pulling up at lightening speed. We hit 6.3 G and my vision began to narrow – big black patches appearing at the sides of my eyes. What a rush! But I held in there and kept myself together. A brutal experience, truly magnificent…

Back on dry land I tried to keep my balance and managed not to wobble. The guys clapped as we rounded off the day. It had been unreal and unforgettable. The certificate of accomplishment was a nice touch, followed by handshakes all round and a few photos with Vitaly the fighter jet pilot. Souvenirs to be kept hold of for sure. Or was it the memories? Well, I guess I have that certificate somewhere but the memories are still here in my head, sharp as if it were yesterday.