Reaching for the sky

Cooroy-based builder John Jenkins (left) will take control of a MIG 29 fighter heading into the stratosphere at about twice the speed of sound.
Cooroy-based builder John Jenkins (left) will take control of a MIG 29 fighter heading into the stratosphere at about twice the speed of sound. SASA RADICAP

JOHN Jenkins may head Cooroy-based building company Ricon, that has Federal Government accreditation and employs up to 300 people on projects in remote desert locations, but right now he's more like an excited nine-year-old about to head off on his first school camp.

What's got him pumped is the gift he's bought himself for his 50th birthday on May 22.

An avid mountain climber who has tackled Kilimanjaro, his life-time ambition has been to reach the summit at Everest.

Age and failing knees may have put an end to that pursuit but the former British Special Forces soldier has found a real blast of a way to spend his birthday.

He flies to Moscow next week where he will receive training and a medical assessment at a Russian military air base, learn the rudiments of flying a MIG 29 fighter aircraft, be fitted with a pressure suit and then, with an air force pilot at the controls, fly 24kms straight up into the stratosphere.

At that height he will experience weightlessness, releasing a tennis ball that will hang suspended in the cabin before plummeting back to Earth at two and a half times the speed of sound.

At some point he will take control of the plane for six kilometres where he will pilot some basic manoeuvres.

Then, after a series of aerobatics above Moscow, the plane will fly at just 10m above ground breaking the sound barrier.

"I won't have the controls then," he laughed yesterday.

The pressure on his body when the MIG is at full throttle will be nine times his body weight.

Jenkins has been told if he starts to see in black and white he needs to signal the pilot to back off before he blacks out.

That's not something you'd want to do on a 50 minute journey costing $30,000.

The price of a ride into the heavens may seem steep but the MIG will burn five tonne of fuel and requires a staff of 120 to stay in the air.

Jenkins has paid a bit extra to have the entire ride captured from a series of angles both in and outside the cabin, a lifetime reminder of a 10-day break a world away from the pressures of a growing business.

Topics:  john jenkins, mt everest, ricon, russia



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