Story #103. The Pilots' Dynasty: Two Young Men Continue Their Forefathers' Job

August 4, 2023
Dmytro and Mykyta - the next generation of pilots in the family dynasty.

This summer, Dmytro and Mykyta are completing their studies at the Kharkiv National Air Force University, named after Ivan Kozhedub, specializing in flight operations and combat use of the An-26 [military transport aircraft]. After graduation, the students will be sent to serve in units.

Dmytro and Mykyta did not hesitate when choosing a career. They became aviators after following in the footsteps of their forefathers.

"I decided to become a pilot because my family, in particular my father and grandfather, were very keen aviation enthusiasts. However, my path has brought me closest to our joint passion. My grandfather was a flight engineer on An12 airplanes and Mi-8 helicopters, whereas my father, wanting to be just like him, was deemed medically unfit to do so, meaning he had to alter his dreams and work in fuel services. He took part in international UN missions in Africa and frequently flew around Ukraine.

I want to, for the both of us, fulfill my father's dream, as it has also become a part of me," says Dmytro.

When asked what is so remarkable about the profession of a pilot, Dmytro answers concisely and carefully. This trait is common among both students. After all, aviation, like any military occupation, encourages discipline and precision, and their answers showed precisely that...

"The beauty of flight lends a certain romanticism to this profession. When you fly high and look down on the clouds below you, it looks like a huge stormy ocean that has frozen over. This feeling is incomparable to anything else. Meanwhile, I also value practicality in my work because I realize that it will help people."

Mykyta's grandfather, father, and brother were also pilots:

"Our dynasty started with my grandfather. He flew Su-24, MIG-21, and MIG-23 bombers and fighters. Later, my father followed in his footsteps and flew L-39s and SU-25s. My older brother also piloted an attack aircraft. I chose a different path - transport aviation."

Mykyta expresses a strong desire to join a combat transport brigade and transport troops and military cargo.

"I enjoy it because it involves assisting attack aircraft, transporting missiles and ammunition. This enables our Air Force to liberate our territory from the occupiers as soon as possible."

The Air Force has its own set of traditions and superstitions. Some of them, according to Mykyta and Dmytro, cannot be neglected.

For instance, a pilot should not take photos before a flight. It is a bad omen. They say that the photo could become your last.

The first rule of aviation is to never say "last flight". The correct wording is "most recent."

Pilots have a special initiation ritual.

Before their first solo flight, a cadet must purchase a carton of cigarettes. They take one pack of cigarettes and write something meaningful on it, such as "Never give up." 

The rest of the packs are laid out on the ground in front of the plane, labeled with the cadet's call sign.

The cadet must run over this "mosaic" with the airplane's front wheel. After that, they exit the cockpit, and their comrades throw the cadet in the air as many times as there are digits in the call sign.

The cadet then distributes all the packs of cigarettes to his team: the team lead and the pilot-instructor. After handing out all the cigarettes, the cadet keeps only one for himself and treasures it for years, stowing it away in a safe place. At the end of his career, the pilot smokes one of these cigarettes as a symbol of retirement.

Nika Krychovska
Journalist at UkraineWorld