Putin in the pilot seat
16 August 2005 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin flew in a Russian supersonic bomber today and took part in the launch of cruise missiles in the Arctic.
The Tu-160 bomber, also known as a Blackjack, took Putin to major naval exercises in Russia's frigid north.
Russian news agencies say the 52-year-old Putin had to endure 2 1/2 times the force of gravity during the five-hour flight, during which four cruise missiles were launched near Vorkuta, 2,000 kilometers north of Moscow. The missiles successfully hit targets at a nearby testing ground.
The planes also refueled in midair and performed a risky low-level pass 200 meters above ground at a speed of 900 kilometers per hour before landing at a military airport near the Arctic port of Murmansk.
Putin, smiling and dressed in full pilot's gear, said in televised comments after landing that he enjoyed the flight.
"There was little risk," he said. "I think a man in my position should try to see how it all happens."
(Reuters/Interfax/ITAR-TASS)See also:International Air Show Opens In Moscow"