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A PASTMASTER OF FIGHTER JETS: Pavel Vaslov, Chief Test Pilot of MIG-35 at Yelahanka Air Station in Bangalore on Tuesday. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash
A PASTMASTER OF FIGHTER JETS: Pavel Vaslov, Chief Test Pilot of MIG-35 at Yelahanka Air Station in Bangalore on Tuesday. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Anand Sankar

He has clocked over 3,600 hours

  • His specialities are flip and the tail slide
  • Mr. Vaslov's aircraft is specially painted for demonstration

    Bangalore: Ace Russian test pilots have lit up Aero India over the last few years and this time around it is no different. The MIG-35 fighter is the focal point of the Russian arms export effort and flying it is ace test pilot Pavel Vaslov.

    The last two editions saw some truly stunning demonstrations by the Sukhoi pilots whose trademark manoeuvre was the Pugachev Cobra in the Su-30MK. Now, it's the turn of rival MIG to grab the headlines.

    The MIG-35 is a radical upgrade of the legendary MIG-29 Fulcrum. It retains its basic shape, including the distinctive twin tail, but inside it is a different story. The most significant upgrade is the engines. As with the offering by rival Sukhoi, the MIG-35 now features thrust vectoring and Mr. Vaslov is tasked to extract the fullest from it. Mr. Vaslov's aircraft is specially painted for demonstrations in a brilliant red, white and blue, with a huge red star on the top of the fuselage, probably to pay homage to the design's Soviet origins. Mr. Vaslov himself started as a fighter pilot with the Soviet Air Force and then moved to test fly for MIG. He has flown almost all the fighter types manufactured by the company MIGs 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31 and now the 35. He has clocked over 3,600 hours on the aircraft.

    "What we are showing at the air show is just a small part of its capabilities," he says. Mr. Vaslov's display has to be watched to be believed. The thrust vectoring dynamically changes the aircraft's handling and his turning radius is dramatically reduced. It might not be wrong to say he can turn on a dime. His specialities are the flip and the tail slide, which are executed without stalling the engines.

    Mr. Vaslov experiences forces of up to nine times the force of gravity and he is remarkably fit approaching 47.

    "I can't describe the feeling when I am flying. I can just say that my aircraft is not just a normal fighter. You can fly it at any angle of attack and not worry about stalling. I can fly in any direction while firing my weapons and safety levels while doing manoeuvres are far above any normal aircraft."

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