A&S Interview: Georgy Mosolov
A top Soviet-era test pilot talks about his favorite MiGs and his friend Yuri Gagarin.
- AirSpaceMag.com, January 22, 2009
Courtesy Rodney O. Rogers
(Page 2 of 3)
Air & Space: Weren’t you a little afraid of risking a power-off landing in a swept-wing jet, especially when the rules provide for an ejection?
Mosolov: Well, test pilots have emotions like anyone else, though they don’t always admit it. I know I had confidence in my ability to get the MiG-21 home safely. Previously I had made 23 engine-out landings in various Russian airplanes. So I figured I could make one more.
Air & Space: On 11 September 2002 you made a supersonic ejection from an E8 prototype MiG fighter.
Mosolov: Well, I had no choice. At Mach 2.15 I experienced a massive engine compressor failure. Parts of the engine tore through the fuselage, and the airplane started coming apart. It didn’t respond to flight controls and entered a steep dive. I knew things weren’t going to get any better, so I stepped out. Instrumentation later showed that the airplane was going Mach 1.78 when I ejected.
Before I ejected, pieces of the fuselage flying in the cockpit broke my left arm in three places. During the parachute descent, the shroud lines were wrapped around my right leg, and I was descending toward the ground head first. I realized my right arm was also broken. In addition, I had a compound fracture on one leg. As I understood later, I also had very serious head injuries.
Air & Space: What happened after you landed?
Mosolov: Since I did not have time to broadcast a mayday message before I ejected, no one knew where I was. I was bleeding quite badly from my leg wound, and after three hours alone I was feeling very dizzy and began to worry about bleeding to death.
Periodically I called out to alert anyone who might be in the area. After three hours, a farmer came to aid me. He had observed the parachute descending and begun a search for the pilot.
I asked him to summon help. But first I told him the details of what had happened and made him memorize them. In case I died before help arrived, I wanted my colleagues at MiG to know what had happened to cause the accident. Quite a few of my fellow Russian test pilots had been killed in the past, and I wasn’t quite sure at this point whether or not I was going to be the next to die.
I recuperated for a year, much of it in a hospital. Holes were been opened in my skull to relieve pressure on my brain. When I returned to MiG, I quickly realized that I was not the same pilot I had been before the crash. I did fly again, but I wasn’t quite up to test-flying high performance jets. Forty-six years later, I still have limited use of my arms, and I limp slightly. But considering the beating I took from the E8, I’m still remarkably fit.
Air & Space: Colonel Mosolov, you were a friend of Yuri Gagarin’s until his death in 1967. How did you meet him?
Mosolov: In March 1961, Gagarin was one of a group of eight cosmonauts who came to Zhukovsky airdrome for zero G training. I met him there along with the other trainees. We liked each other, and ultimately Yuri and I became very close friends. For example, after Gagarin’s flight into space, my wife and I and Gagaran and his wife vacationed together at a Black Sea resort.
Air & Space: What kind of background did Yuri Gagarin come from?
Mosolov: He was from a small rural village. His parents were simple farmers. Originally schooled as a steel worker, he learned to fly in a flying club and ultimately became a pilot in the Russian Air Force. He was largely self-educated. In every way, he was a self-made man.
Air & Space: What was Gagarin like socially?
Mosolov: Gagarin was intellectually curious and had a wide range of interests. He had excellent communication skills and could converse easily with many different kinds of people.
Air & Space: Gagarin became famous after his flight into space. How did this affect him?
Mosolov: Gagarin was an uncomplicated, humble man, a very sincere person. World fame did not change him in the least.
Air & Space: Did Gagarin have a good sense of humor?
Mosolov: Gagarin had a great sense of humor. He was a superb teller of jokes and an accomplished mimic, almost a stand up comedian. He knew how to relax, and he enjoyed having a good time. He was at ease everywhere.