July 29, 1998
Today, I saw a whopping 1,500 feet on the altimeter and thought we may get nosebleeds. It didn’t last long and we swung down and flew alongside of a train heading west and waved at the passengers. Then we passed over a grass aerodrome at the same time a Yak 52 was taking off. They radioed us and said they heard we were coming. After take-off they flew alongside of us for a while: two AN-2’s, a Yak52 and a Maule, flying through Siberia. What a sight! Aeroflot pilots radio everyone now, looking for us and wishing us luck and a safe flight. No one in Russia can believe this flight is happening. The Flight Safety Foundation of Russia made it happen and we even have the President, Vice President, and Chairperson of the organization on board an AN-2 with us. Valery use to be over all Air Space and Controllers in Russia, so he has a bit of clout and we get to see it every day. They are trying so hard to make everything work well for us. So far, everything is great.
Five hours after the take off and we arrive at Omsk and get the same ceremonial greeting. Khalide and I were still in the plane when we had to do a TV interview. After the camera left, I pointed out to Khalide that her flight suit was unzipped to the waist. She was shocked, but laughed. I never could convince her that I didn’t notice it until it was all over. She tells me all the time, “You a bad girl, I go home to Moscow in the morning. You get Anatoly to fly with you.” But she still hangs around and is so great. After dinner, we had a meeting with the mayor and then we went to the POLYOT Production Company. They made the TU-2’s in the 1940’s and in the 1960’s, the Yak-9, IL-28, TU-104, now the AN-74 and the AN-3. They had a turbine-powered AN-2 that was interesting. We took pictures of the AN-3 but couldn’t shoot the rest. The commercial manager called Nikki “a little doll.” He looks like Rosanne’s husband, Dan, when his hair was permed. Very nice guy. We’re off to TOMSK tomorrow.