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Pilots Thrill Thousands at Russian Airshow


A nearly weeklong air and space show that brought together aircraft and aerospace companies from many nations has ended in Russia. American military planes were at the biennial show for the first time.

The centerpiece of the Russian air show were the flight demonstrations of the many aircraft present. From old single-engine planes to sleek new fighter-bombers, pilots thrilled the tens of thousands of spectators who came each day to watch.

The biggest cheers went to Russian, Italian, and French teams in which up to 10 jets flew in formation through the sky, leaving trails of colored smoke in their wake. Two French jets drew a red-and-blue heart that stretched two-kilometers high across the sky.

Not flying, but still attracting a great deal of attention was an American B-52 bomber, part of a U.S. delegation that was invited for the first time to a Russian air show.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Patanaud is chief navigator of the B-52, which flew from the United States for the show. "It is very exciting, we did not think we would ever be invited to come here. This is an exciting time for all of us," he said.

Back in Soviet times, the air base where the show was held was a secret facility where numerous aircraft were put through air trials.

Also on display was a sleek Russian supersonic jet, similar to the British and French Concorde except that it was designed to carry nuclear missiles.

But thoughts of the Cold War were far from the minds of the throngs of people at the show, especially those who asked the American crewmembers for autographs or to pose for photos.

"Lot of questions, lot of people wanting our pictures, so it is exciting I think for the Russians as well as it is for us. Now I know what it is like to be a rock star," he said.

The Russian show closed with a special concert and a big fireworks display.

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