Soviet Aircraft Make Historic Stop
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Two top-of-the-line Soviet fighters accompanied by the world’s largest aircraft made a historic stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base on Sunday, en route to a ″sales mission″ in Canada.
It was the first time that MiG-29 fighters and the Soviet An-225 transport had landed on the North American continent.
″These are showroom models,″ said Maj. Doug McCoy, an Elmendorf spokesman who was referring to the pair of stripped-down MiG-29s that had taxied to within 20 yards of journalists, Air Force observers and about 250 spectators.
″These are factory aircraft. They haven’t been delivered to the Soviet Air Force. Civilian test pilots are flying the MiGs.″
The Soviets were en route to the Abbotsford International Air Show in Vancouver, British Columbia.
There, the fighters and the giant transport will be displayed and demonstrated as part of the Soviet military’s latest and greatest.
After a four-hour refueling stop in Alaska they were to be escorted to the Canadian border by U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles. They were to be met by Canadian Forces CF-18s Hornet jet fighters.
″This is the first time since 1945 that Soviet fighter aircraft have flown through Alaska airspace,″ said Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, commander of the Alaskan Air Command. ″It hasn’t been since Lend-Lease when some 8,000 planes left U.S. factories being flown directly to the Soviet Eastern Front that we’ve marked such an occurrence.
″Today we are hosting the Soviet military aircraft en route to a much friendlier event.″
Capt. Richard Armstrong, one of the F-15 Eagle fighter pilots who escorted the MiGs through U.S. airspace, said it was thrilling to be the first American pilot to get so close to the Soviet frontline fighter.
″I’d like to say it was another day at the office, but I’d be ying,″ Armstrong said. ″It’s a pretty airplane. I felt a little like you do when you have guests in your house. You want to make them feel comfortable, but you give them some help.″
The Soviets took time to participate in a news conference Sunday primarily to express thanks for the welcome they had been shown.
They were hosted for lunch at the Elmendorf Officers’ Club and invited to shop at the Base Exchange.
″We were met by excellent aircraft and excellent pilots,″ said Anotoly Kvochur, a Mikoyan Test Bureau pilot who does the demonstration flights of the MiG-29s at air shows. ″I hope our relations will be just as they are and will improve.″
Kvochur was forced to eject from a MiG-29 two months ago at the Paris Air Show when the aircraft sucked a bird into a jet intake during a low-altitude pass.
The green, gray and black MiG-29s are twin-engine fighters comparable in size to the Navy’s F-A-18 Hornet.
The transport has six turbofan engines and plays a major role in the Soviet space program, in which it shuttles the Buran space shuttle orbiter and sections of rocket launch vehicles.
It was unknown to the West until a prototype was unveiled last year. Fewer than 10 are likely to be manufactured, Air Force officials said.