When reader Tom flew a MiG-29UB for his birthday ……

One of our readers and occasional commentators, Tom, recently turned 30.  I’m not sure what you did for your 30th, but Tom runs a successful IT business and thought he would push the boat out.

So he decided to go to Russia and fly a MiG-29UB.  As you do.

He wrote it up (in a rather idiosyncratic way, admittedly!) for his own blog but I thought it was good Saturday HFP material and he was happy for me to reproduce the article here, slightly edited.  Over to you Tom ……

When I grew up I wanted so badly to be an RAF pilot.  Apparently, for reasons I cannot yet work out, spending my entire childhood on a computer did not count as a qualification. Neither did continuing to spend my entire adulthood on one.  

Turning 30, the RAF were not going to come calling anytime soon, so an alternative was required.  I figured I’d have to settle for flying a Russian MiG.


I didn’t think much of the inflight food, nor the inflight reading material, which consisted of only a sick bag.  The lounge was subpar and, to top it all off, their frequent flier policy was lacking.

I can set aside these indifferences seeing that:

I reached almost twice the speed of sound,

ascended to twice the height of a commercial airliner and

could see the curvature of the earth.

It is called an Edge of Space trip for a reason. For a few minutes the only people further from the earths surface than the pilot and myself were those in the International Space Station.

Then came the aerobatics ……


At 10km the pilot ascends and drops the speed to 0, which results in the plane dropping and going into a nose dive to experience zero gravity. Then he spent 10 minutes trying to make me throw up.

First with loops, then upside down manoeuvres, flying at 90 degrees and stuff I cannot remember as I was too busy trying not to poo myself.

After every increase in G-force, he asks if I’m ok. Lesson: never try and impress a Russian with bravery, as all he did was increase the amount of pressure. Over and over again.

The sheer power of negative Gs and +7.3 was sufficient to result in me making noises not befitting of a human. Or animal. Maybe the sound of an ape punching a squirrel. In those brief seconds of experiencing an indescribable force, I created my own word that goes a little something like “arggfasfsdfsdfs”.

The pilot also gave me control of the MiG.  After just a few seconds of this awesome power (and feeling like I was about to flip the plane) I promptly decided I was fond of my limbs and gave him back control.  Seeing that I do not have a drivers license or currently even own a bicycle, going from simply having to move my legs in a forwardly direction to flying a fighter jet was a step too far.

On landing, and after managing not to humiliate myself by staying conscious the entire time and not throwing up, I was told 50% of passengers are ill and most need to lay down.

Everyone congratulated me on not being a wimp (I may have looked calm, but 6 hours after the flight my hands were still shaking from adrenaline) and suddenly we were fellow comrades. I was about to defect, until I realised I wasn’t in the military and it made no sense.

Then came the award presentation, a Soviet Union hat and that was it; I was taken back to the airport, where flying was once again a bore.

Moral of the story? MiGs are awesome. Or you’re never too old to live your childhood dreams. Or something about something and reaching for the stars.  Oh, just go find some inspirational poster and read that.  Luckily I never wanted to be an astronaut.

If you want to give this a try, you can book your own MiGFlug flight here.

How to fly long-haul planes on short-haul redemptions!
Bits: last day for Amex 'Shop Small', London-Perth (non-stop!) with Qantas, Amazon link
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  1. BillyBoy says:

    Well, my next milestone is 60 :O and I am seriously considering starting another piggy bank to save for this fabulous experience 🙂

  2. Truly amazing experience! Thanks for sharing Tom.

  3. While I would likely never earn enough to pay for something like this, I don’t see anything wrong with mentioning it on a site like this. There have been other interesting but non-points earning items before (e.g. defunct terminals) which is fine.
    As for the whole BA staff story, yes they might be struggling while this is going on, but then most news outlets have positive and negative stories to tell, often in the same news bulletin. This is no different.
    The discussion the morality of the BA staff striking deliberately to disrupt others Christmas vs BA paying too little could go on for a long time…I don’t know enough to properly take sides… but that does not mean we cannot enjoy other things in the mean time.

  4. I haven’t done any research but were these planes “liberated” from state ownership at the break-up of the USSR, by an oligarch with a hobby of aviation?

    • No, they are still owned by the state, with only 1 MiG approved to take tourists. The flights are Sokol airbase, which is where they still manufacturer MiGs and made tens of thousands of them during the Cold War. Before the flight you get to visit their war museum and learn the history of their military aviation, which was fascinating.

  5. That is awesome

  6. Wally1976 says:

    Wow I thought I was extravagant going to the Monaco Grand Prix for my 40th birthday (which I did for £600 all-in (partly due to this site) including top grandstand tickets)!

    This sounds like an amazing experience; I couldn’t imagine ever forking out that kind of money but if you’ve got the cash then, I guess, why not?