Aerial acrobatics in old Soviet planes
Twenty years ago, as the Soviet Union was crumbling, who'd have imagined that two decades on, people would be taking joy flights in jet fighters from the Soviet Air Force.
In various airfields around Australia, aerial thrill seekers are enjoying high-speed flights with experienced pilots thanks to travel company Adrenalin - in co-operation with aviation entrepreneur Captain Mark Pracy's company Jet Ride.
And business is booming, according to Adrenalin's Stephen Blake.
"Five years ago about 30 to 45 people a year would take our jet flights. Now it's more like 300," he said.
Most popular with Australians is a one-time Ukrainian Air Force L39 Albatross, which between 1983 and 1991 was involved in combat patrol missions and advanced pilot training in the Soviet Union.
When the USSR dissolved in 1991, this L39 was one of a large number of aircraft left in Ukrainian territory; it escaped mothballing and was bought from and transported to South Africa, where is was flown on a regular basis from 1983 to 1991.
It was then transported to Australia in 1996 and put back together again by its new owner, who enjoyed flying it as a "recreational toy" until he became ill.
Pracy bought the plane in 2006, freighted it from Western Australia to the Hunter Valley then restored it back to flying status.
Blake says the Albatross now operates up to 80 missions per month.
The jet pilots include Pracy, who races jets and is an aerobics champion, a current RAAF squadron leader and fighter pilot instructor, and a US Marines major who has flown MiG-29, Hawk and Harrier Jump jets.
Aerobics is an option for passengers.
"You'll feel the incredible thrust of the jet engine propel you to speeds of up to 800kph, completing smooth aerobatics manoeuvres including loops, rolls, flips, flops, vertical climbs, and inverted flight (upside down), with g-forces of up to plus-five," he says.
After a safety briefing, guests don a military-style flight suit, slim-line parachute and Top Gun-style helmet before entering the jet (there are plenty of chances for photographs).
Flights, which take off from some of the most scenic regions in Australia, last 15 to 40 minutes, and most can facilitate formation flying - with a friend in another jet only a few metres away.
Other aircraft used around the country include an A37 Dragonfly and BAC Strikemasters, originally with a wide variety of overseas air forces.
Currently, discounted flights cost from $1200.
Details: call 1300 791 793 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: James Shrimpton, AAP - 5 December 2011 - http://au.news.yahoo.com
Photo: L-39 Breitling Jet Team (Copyright © 2011 www.xairforces.net)