Stunning sky stunts no easy ride for pilots

The Russian aerobatic display team, Vyazma Rus, has amazed the crowd at the MAKS 2011, but the apparent ease with which the pilots perform their stunts takes plenty of hard work in training.

­The Vyazma Rus team, consisting of nine first-class pilots, has performed over 200 times in the past two decades. Andrey Zhuykov is training to join the team. He thinks he is almost good enough now, but still remembers his first flight as a solo pilot.

“Without any warning, they told me I was going to do the next flight on my own. I had no time to be scared. There was no longer an instructor at my back. It was unforgettable. You take off, you are on your own, controlling the plane. Then, when you land – you’ve done it. I think you’re a real pilot at that point,” he said.

Vyazma Rus are always trying to hone their maneuvers. They practice most weekends, thinking of new tricks and practicing old ones.

“We come up with stunts and then research them but it often turns out they’ve been done before. Nesterov, a Russian, came up with the loop and all the other stunts are based on the loop. The loop is the basis for all aerial acrobatics,” Anatoly Marunko, Vyazma Rus Group Leader, said.

However, it always comes down to time in the air. Even with years of flying and training experience between them, it never becomes easy.

“When you leave the cockpit, you can squeeze a gallon of sweat from your suit. Your knees are shaking because it’s extremely difficult and stressful. Anyone would feel that way,” pilot Yuri Lunchik said.  

RT’s Tom Barton received an opportunity to live out the “astonishing feelings” the pilots experience in their everyday work when he was allowed into the cockpit of a Vyazma Rus plane during training.  

”Absolutely amazing thrill, I can see why these pilots keep doing it and doing it again,” he exclaimed an exhilarated Barton as he touched down.

The correspondent now fully shares Anatoly Marunko’s view that aerial acrobatics is a very serious business.   

“You know, they might be a show for the crowd, but aerial acrobatics aren’t a show to the pilot. It’s always a difficult job, a test. A pilot has to show his skill and the beauty of flight,” Anatoly Marunko said.

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