MiG-25 to the Edge of Space, 2002
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MiG-25
Briefing from pilot
Model MiG
Putting on a pressure suit
Helmet and oxygen mask
Aircraft preparations
Boarding
Aircraft tow


This is a MiG-25, the plane I'd arranged to fly in up to 25,000m (80,000') - the edge of space.
The plane was code-named the "Foxbat" by NATO and is one of the fastest combat aircraft in the world, capable of reaching Mach 3.2.
The two hugely powerful engines mean it can fly higher than any other fighter plane - it holds the record of 37,650m (123,500').
MiG-25

Briefing from pilot
Alexandre, my pilot, gives me a briefing before the flight.

The MiG-25 is a high altitude interceptor, designed in the 60's in response to the American B-70 bomber programme.
It was produced until the 80's - it's now been made mostly redundant by surface-to-air missiles, but it's still in use with a few air forces around the world. The first air-to-air kill of the Gulf War was a US F-18, shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25.
Model MiG

Putting on a pressure suit

Helmet and oxygen mask
Here I am getting kitted up with a pressure suit, helmet and oxygen mask. The pressure suit is needed to counter high G-forces in turns by pressurising the lower half of the body to stop all the blood draining away from the brain. We weren't planning manoeuvres like that in my flight, but it's also there as a safety measure in case the cockpit depressurises.

The team prepare my aircraft.
I was flying from the Zhukovsky air force base, about an hour's drive from Moscow. In Soviet times the whole town was a restricted area. These days it's just the air base itself that's bristling with security (like any air force base).
Aircraft preparations

Boarding
Boarding

The aircraft gets towed out to the runway. Aircraft tow



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