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MiG stunt pilot wows Farnborough

By Diana Magnay and Jim Boulden, CNN

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The MiG-29OVT heads off for another gravity-defying stunt display.

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Farnborough
Aviation

FARNBOROUGH, England (CNN) -- Standing under a tree to escape the heat, Pavel Vlasov took the last deep drag of his thin cigar. It was time for the pilot to walk onto the tarmac and inspect the MiG-29OVT before its daily flight at the Farnborough Air Show.

The stunt pilot clapped his hands as he looked over the gleaming single-seat red MiG during last-minute ground checks.

It's a routine the 45 year-old Russian has repeated many times in his long career as a MiG pilot, and one he's done at the airshow in southern England since first flying here in 1992. (Watch the MiG pilot in action -- 2:05)

"I've been flying since 1978," said Vlasov, who insists nerves are not an issue before each takeoff.

"One of the things the pilot must be trained to do is to keep focused, concentrated and to leave all emotions behind just before the flight."

He may not be anxious but the thousand of spectators who visit Farnborough each day are anxious to see the highlight of the airshow's famed aerial displays.

Vlasov doesn't disappoint them, performing eight minutes of maneuvers in the sky that simply steal the show.

A MiG-29 has flown at Farnborough since 1988 -- the only Russian plane ever to visit the show -- but this year's craft is like no other.

"This aircraft has no limitation in terms of angle of attack flying and slow-speed flying. No limitation at all," Vlasov explained as he gave a close-up tour of his favorite plane.

"This thrust vectoring aircraft provides the movements to control the aircraft -- to move it not dependent on speed or the angle of attack the aircraft is flying."

To lay persons that means the plane hangs in the air and then dips, weaves, turns, and spins in ways that were impossible only a few years ago. The highlight is when Vlasov puts the plane into a virtual freefall without the engine stalling in a maneuver intended to demonstrate how a pilot can elude an enemy or a missile.

The MiG these days is built by a company with strong commercial ambitions. Vlasov admits he's showing what this version of the MiG can do for potential customers.

Though the plane he flies is intended for stunt displays Vlasov says customers can order any of the enhancements on the plane.

After another successful flight, Vlasov returns and exclaims: "I am alive as you can see. Everybody can do it if he wants, if he trains enough... anyone."

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