True guru of air freestyle
Recently, Valery Yalyaev celebrated half a century in the sky, and remains the only certified acrobatic helicopter pilot in Belarus
“My first flight took place on May 1st, 1966, when I was just 19. Like my contemporaries, I skied and was into track and field athletics, and model aircraft flying. I attended the DOSAAF (Volunteer Society for Co-operation with the Army, Aviation and Fleet) education-aviation centre: later, these structures were renamed as flying clubs. Since then, I’ve stuck with aviation.”
Sky alluring in its depth
In 1970, Valery graduated from the Armavir Higher Aviation College for Pilots, and went to serve in Siberia. Having finished the Zhukov Air and Space Defence Academy, Colonel Yalyaev was sent to the Arctic Circle for seven years, to control an air base. His work and care made it the best in the whole Soviet Union.
“Even there, in Amderma, where winter lasts for nine months of the year, we managed to play football. I gave the order to build a field on the parade ground and to cover it with planks. We cleared this platform of snow and knocked a ball around! Locals, who knew about football only from television, joined us.”
In 1986, Valery was sent to Minsk, to become Deputy Commander of the 2nd Separate Army of Air Defence of the USSR. After six years, he retired, having gained unique military pilot experience and receiving two awards: the Order of the Red Star and the Order for Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces of the USSR.
“I was awarded for mastering military equipment. I flew a great deal: first Yak-18s, then L-29, MiG-17, MiG-15 and MiG-19 aircraft. I tried the Su-27 and Su-32, and I flew MD-500 and Mi-18 helicopters. Recently, I mastered the Robinson and received certification.”
Minsk flying club has a surprising exhibit, a ring-winged plane, which Yalyaev financed and has twice flown. The design needs more work, so it is currently in the museum in Borovaya, receiving a great number of visitors.
Valery has long been familiar with a certain camouflage-painted Mi-2 helicopter, having purchased it in a poor state from DOSAAF flying club, and having repaired it. He then returned it to DOSAAF as a gift, but flies it at the weekends, as well as performing in major aviation displays, in Belarus and Russia. He also participates in the world championships in air freestyle.
Despite being almost 70 years old, he remains alert and fit, having always taken part in sports. In college, he took up volleyball, and continued seriously for 37 years. He also loves tennis; aged 59, he received a world ranking of 322nd seed from the ITF (International Tennis Federation). He loves taking part in various amateur tournaments and trains twice a week.
He tells us, “I jog daily and cycle; 30-40 minutes a day are enough to keep in shape.”
In Ratomka, his good friend, an Arabian racing horse named August, waits for him. He adores the freedom of riding. Valery also fishes and hunts, sometimes catching or shooting his own lunch. Pilots tend to eat a well-balanced and high-calorie diet since a single jet plane flight can make a man lose 5kg in weight. Sports helicopters are rather different, but still produce an effect on the body.
He asserts, “Aviation is my life. Everyone has problems, difficulties and troubles. If you fly for just five minutes, it restores your desire to live.”
By Yelena Davydova