November 1, 2004

Our last trip in the Yak 42 jet was picture perfect. On the one hand, the weather sucked, it was foggy at our destination. On the other hand, the crew and organizers were way ahead of the game and had already considered the possibility and warned us before getting on the plane of a delay. After less than an hour of waiting, it appeared to have a trend toward slight improvement, and we took off.

The pilots didn't even mind that I went up to ask them about alternate airports and glance at the fuel status and approach. They were way ahead of me, lots of fuel, good alternates picked out, and the approach was a good old ILS which gives precise guidance to approximately 200 feet.

Trying my hardest to let them do their gig, and not observe from the flight deck (the flight engineer had always given up his seat when I came forward before). No distractions needed during a difficult approach. So I observed the approach from my passenger seat. It was one of the smoothest approaches I've ever felt, and I know they were hand flying it. Right at minimums, the airport was there and he even greased it on. The entire plane full of band, crew, and Russian organizers erupted into applause. What a way to end a tour for a charter crew!

Ukraine has been rapidly changing as well as the cities of Russia. You see signs of change and growth everywhere as people are responding to ease of starting up a business. Don't know how easy it really is compared to us, but it sure is happening everywhere.

Last night in Kiev, they allowed the people to come up closer to the band, and let the VIP guests stand in the short barricaded space right in the front of the stage. Since the entire audience on the floor was standing, and the stage was very high, it worked out better for all, we think. Sure makes a difference when the people are in the area code as the band, too. Feels more like a crazy rock concert. Even those sold out huge places felt somewhat remote when the audience line is so far back.

Whatever your perceptions about Russia and the former USSR, you should take a trip here and be prepared to be surprised. We always are. Lots of good things are happening, and we considered this a very big success. 2004