An aviation enthusiast travels to Russia in search of World War II fighter planes and discovers, not unsurprisingly, that nothing in Russia comes easy.
Intrigued by German aircraft since childhood, the author dreams of acquiring a rare WWII German fighter plane. Twenty-one years later, he receives a call about some warbirds in a far corner of Siberia. He goes to work immediately wrangling business partners and investors for what will undoubtedly be an expensive trip. His boss/friend becomes his partner, and the two begin the difficult task of planning the excursion. They field strange and frustrating requests from middlemen, including a gentleman called the Admiral who expects $10,000 to guarantee their safety in an area he purports to control. As they come to learn, greasing palms is the only way to get things done in Russia. So begins Page’s treacherous and often hysterical journey, where everything, including information on where to get a cup of coffee, costs. The pilots who fly them are sometimes drunk, van drivers and their owners request extra payments mid-ride, extortionists hound them on the street–everyone wants something from the Americanskis, as they are haplessly shuttled from one aircraft graveyard to another, where planes beyond repair are offered at extraordinary prices. They even acquire a KGB tail. It’s not until a second trip, this time to St. Petersburg, that the men find a decent treasure, a Messerschmitt Bf109 German fighter. Requests for cash continue to pour in, and Page risks dipping into his own pockets to get the plane to his Denver warehouse. While the story doesn’t paint a pretty picture of Russia and its citizens, the author’s recollections are jaunty, and his eye for humor and the absurd keep the toilsome story upbeat. Historians, aircraft enthusiasts and adventurers will appreciate this impassioned hunt for his beloved craft.
Warm, funny, with a touch of suspense, this adventure will delight anyone who’s sought an illusive prize.