One of my first inspirations for getting into aviation was a Russian named Victor Belenko. In 1976, he defected to the U.S. from Russia in his MiG-25 Foxbat.
At the time, the Foxbat was the most feared and super secret airplane in the world. It flew faster and higher than anything the U.S. had, and he flew one right into our lap. He stole it on a routine training mission, outran the Russian jets that were pursuing him, and landed in Japan on an airfield that was 30% shorter than any runway a MiG-25 had ever seen.
Anyway, his book was written in 1980, and I always wondered what happened to him. Turns out he’s still around, and a friend of mine is now his agent, booking him on the speaking circuit.
The book has all kinds of funny anecdotes about his acclimatization to American life. In a magazine article in 1996, he expounded a bit more on some humorous stuff he did while getting used to our society. Check this out (makes you glad to live in America!):
“Belenko: First of all American super-market, my first visit was under CIA supervision, and I thought it was set-up; I did not believe super-market was real one. I thought well I was unusual guest; they probably kicked everyone out. It’s such a nice, big place with incredible amount of produce, and no long lines! You’re accustomed to long lines in Russia.
“Later, when I discovered the super-market was real one, I had real fun exploring new products. I would buy, everyday, a new thing and try to figure out its function. In Russia at that time (and even today) it’s hard to find canned food, good one. But everyday I would buy new cans with different food. Once I bought a can which said “dinner.” I cooked it with potatoes, onions, and garlic — it was delicious. Next morning my friends ask me, “Viktor, did you buy a cat?” It was a can of chicken-based cat food. But it was delicious! It was better than canned food for people in Russia today. And I did test it.
“Last year I brought four people from Russia for commercial project, and I set them up. I bought nibble sized human food. I installed a pâté, and it was cat food. I put it on crackers. And they did consume it, and they liked it. So the taste has not changed. By the way, for those who are not familiar with American cat food. It’s very safe; it’s delicious, and sometimes it’s better than human food, because of the Humane Society.
“I bought a box of Freedom with the picture of nice looking lady. I did not know what it was. (I’m talking about maxi-pads.) I brought it to my apartment, I opened it, and I tried to figure it out. I thought well it’s probably some cleaning device for the kitchen to give these American women freedom in the kitchen to clean up and absorb everything, because even today Russian women do not have this convenience.”