Posted: 06.06.2024 14:20:00

Luring power of the sky

Pilot from Mogilev Valentina Bakuleva is inspired by the space flight of Marina Vasilevskaya

Planes at the Mogilev DOSAAF Aero Club named after A.M. Kulagin barely have time to land these days — they are quickly refueled and soar into the sky again. Valentina Bakuleva was looking forward to the opening of the flying season. Finally, it has become possible to get off the ground and sail through the clouds! A programmer by education, she is a pilot at heart. In order to attend training classes at the aero club outside the city, the girl has also learnt to drive a car. The conquest of space, likewise Belarusian Marina Vasilevskaya, has become a new challenge for her.

Pashkovo Village, Mogilev District.  Pilot Valentina Bakuleva

There is no limit to perfection

“Flying has been my dream, I have always looked at the sky,” Valentina admitted and recalled how she had got to the aero club, “My friends saw an advertisement that the aero club was recruiting young people for the air sports section. I understood that it was my chance. I was just the right age — under 23 years old.”
After a long separation, Valentina ran up to her Yak 52. This sports trainer aircraft is called the pilots’ ‘study desk’. The girl deftly jumped onto the plane’s wing, from there into the cockpit, put on headphones and looked at the dashboard.
“Before making our first independent flight, we study theory — from aircraft design to aerodynamics, we take exams. Then we hone our skills on the simulator, fly with an instructor. Afterwards, the piloting technique is personally checked by the head of the aero club. The pilot has to improve piloting skills all their life. This is the beauty of airplane sport for me — you can never reach the limit of the skill,” explained the girl.

Clear prop!

Meanwhile, aircraft technician Yuri Donskoy approached the aircarft. Do you remember the character Makarych from the legendary Soviet movie Only ‘Old Men’ Are Going to Battle? In the same way, Valentina said to Yuri Donskoy before takeoff, “Clear prop!” The aircraft technician also used to fly, having been in aviation for 38 years. His son is a pilot. He proudly noted that their planes were real movie stars and were filmed in Katyusha, In August of 1944, and more.
Before each flying season — it is the fifth one for Valentina — it is required to undergo a medical examination. Health should be perfect. After all, the pilot experiences tremendous amounts of g-forces during takeoff and manoeuvres. “An hour before the flight, you need to eat, but not a lot. To maintain good physical shape, I do figure skating, swim in the pool. I have taken up stretching recently and become interested in horseriding. I have already completed five skydives,” shared the girl.

Aircraft technician Yuri Donskoy

‘Bird’ flying style

At the All-Russian competitions in air sports in Surgut, within the framework of which the Union State competitions were held, Belarus was represented by the youth team of the Mogilev DOSAAF Aero Club. The team returned home with three gold and three bronze medals! Valentina was captain of the team and took the fourth place in the overall standings. Then Mogilev hosted the competition.
“Now we are going to start preparing for the next championship, practise the ‘straight vertical’ manoeuvre, where it is necessary to hold the aircraft at a right angle, as well as aerobatic manoeuvres, whose execution begins with the inverted flight position,” noted the pilot. “We train with different instructors which is very useful, because you take note of individual piloting styles. Each pilot has their own flying ‘handwriting’ — smooth, sharp, energetic... Mine is called the ‘bird’ style.”
Valentina’s head teacher is Denis Shkarenda. This instructor pilot was awarded the Order for Personal Courage. In 2022, while making a training flight with a cadet of the Military Academy, he showed professionalism and courage amid the emergency situation related to engine failure, and managed to land the plane without casualties. We met Denis after his flight with another cadet. Valentina admitted that she also dreamt of becoming an instructor in order to instil love for the sky in others.

Instructor pilot Denis Shkarenda and pilot Valentina Bakuleva

A new dream

Valentina recalled her first solo flight, “Emotions can be compared to if you have seen fireworks up close! It was August 7th, 2020. I did not tell my mother so as not to worry her, but she somehow felt, so she found my christening certificate and saw that the date of its issue coincided with the date of my first solo flight. She then confessed to me that she immediately calmed down because I was under the protection of the guardian angel.”
According to Valentina, pilots are superstitious people. She has an amulet on her wrist — an airplane on a red thread. “When a pilot lands an airplane after the first flight, it is customary to spray the plane with water from a bucket as a sign of salute. A pilot should fall from the plane’s wing into the hands of colleagues, and they throw the pilot three times into the air. It is considered a bad omen to be photographed before departure, and it is customary to wish a soft landing,” the pilot revealed some traditions.
By the way, the girl has quite an earthly profession — she is a project manager in an IT company. In order to attend her training classes at the aero club, which is four times a week, Valentina has obtained a driver’s licence. After mastering the aircraft, learning to drive a car was not rocket science for the girl, “The sky is addictive. It is so beautiful that it is hard to describe in words! When the sun rays break through the fluffy clouds, something unimaginable happens to the heart.”
Valentina Bakuleva remarked that the popularity of air sports had been growing in recent years. More and more young people are eager to master the art of piloting. As for the girl, she is inspired by the example of a Belarusian woman, who has conquered space,
“Like everyone else, I was following Marina Vasilevskaya’s flight into space. I represented my country at competitions and I understand how important it is for a person to glorify their Homeland. Marina Vasilevskaya became the first cosmonaut of sovereign Belarus, she went down in history. For sure, every Belarusian is proud of the fact that we have conquered this peak. This is a fantastic project. Now I have a new dream: I want to fly into space.”
Trainer aircraft Yak 52

By Yelena Kukshinskaya

Photos by Andrei Sazonov