The Third Yeltsin Story

In this story Boris was not directly involved.

I was flying as flight escort and translator for an IL-76 carrying Yeltsins’s limos and security vehicles into NYC. Yeltsin was scheduled to speak at the UN that week.

It was late at night, we were headed into JFK. Cleared to fly the Carnousie VOR approach. The Carnousie VOR approach was a bit odd because the VOR is off the field and it has a visual segment.

These are things the Russians did not know.

As we fly over the water I’m thinking, ‘Hmm, we just fucked up. Shouldn’t we be turning left to follow the breakers?’

I look at the Captain’s Nav Display, it shows us on course.

I look up at the nav radios. They are tuned to the JFK VOR, which is NOT the NAVAID that the approach is based off of.

I’m trying to explain this to the crew: yes, you’re on course, but you’ve got the wrong navaid tuned. Just then all of Yeltsin’s secret service guys barge into the cockpit.

‘Piotr, где статуя свободы?’

Uh, where is the statue of freedom? Trying to translate…Crap. Just realized they were looking for the Statue of Liberty.

And it just passed off our right wing.

And I was looking up at the torch, that’s how low we were.

Actual radio transmission from JFK tower: Aeroflot, where are you going?

Captain: We are on course!

Phat: No you’re not! You’re flying the wrong approach with the wrong navaid tuned!

JFK tower: Aeroflot, do you have the airport in sight?

Captain: Airport in sight!

JFK tower: Aeroflot, you are cleared to land on ANY runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Secret Service guys: So we just passed the Statue of Freedom?

Phat: Facepalm.

I called the tower after we landed, expecting to get a lot of grief.

The ATC controllers said, don’t worry about it, it’s a diplomatic flight and we can’t do anything about those.

Just as I was getting ready to hang up the tower controller said,, «we could hear you in the background and it sounded like you were having a worse day than us!»

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