In Russia, the name of Svetlana Vladimirovna Kapanina is well known to aviation enthusiasts. A pilot, an athlete, as they say, from God. Multiple world champion in the women’s competition in FAI competitions.

Svetlana Kapanina has spent more than 30 years at the helm of aerobatic aircraft! Svetlana Vladimirovna mastered such aircraft as the well-known aerobatic Yak-52, Yak-50, Yak-55, Su-26, Su-29, Su-31 and their modifications, Extra 300, Extra 330. And this is hardly the whole list!

Svetlana Kapanina, 2022, performance during an air show in the Moscow region (Balashikha), Chernoe airfield. Photo: Alexander Seregin with the support of Canon Professional Service RUS

Sports aviation in Russia is still alive, and, in many ways, thanks to the efforts and efforts of people like Svetlana Vladimirovna. There are only a few of them in our country, so each of these wonderful people, who have been ill with aviation since a young age, has a special account in the flying world. Svetlana’s achievements are a separate voluminous article. Her introductions are discussed, people talk about her, and even compose wonderful musical compositions (thanks to the bard Nikolai Anisimov from Belarus!).

After a speech in 2022 at the Sky aerofestival in the Moscow region at the Chernoye airfield (see report) and a speech at the Kubinka airshow (see report), Svetlana Vladimirovna Kapanina kindly agreed to answer her questions and tell about the current state of affairs in sports aviation in Russia and the world.

Svetlana Kapanina, 2022, performance during an air show in the Moscow region (Balashikha), Chernoe airfield. Photo: Alexander Seregin with the support of Canon Professional Service RUS
About aviation sports and technology

Question: Svetlana Vladimirovna, how has the aviation world changed, from your point of view, since the moment you first aviated an aircraft as a pilot, if we compare it with the aviation of today?

It has changed dramatically! The first thing is that all flights were free earlier, there were plenty of planes to choose from and it was possible to fly … Now everything is exactly the opposite: there are no planes, funding is minimal, and, accordingly, the flight time is less than the minimum …

Question: how radical are the changes that have occurred in sports aviation over the past 20-30 years, as far as aircraft technology is concerned?

Production of the world’s best aerobatic aircraft by Sukhoi is closed. To participate in competitions, you have to rent aircraft from the rivals from abroad.

Question: You speak warmly enough in almost every interview about the aircraft of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, I mean such sports aircraft as Su-26 and Su 31. But for many years you have been flying the German Extra 330, due to the fact that the production and support of Sukhoi sports aircraft no longer exists in Russia, as we know. Can you share your experience, describe in words as far as possible the feeling of piloting Su and Extra planes? What are the differences, what are the features of both planes and the nuances of aerobatics?

It’s no secret that I love Sukhoi planes and I fly them with great pleasure if I have this opportunity. This is the best aircraft in the world, not only in its appearance, but also in terms of aerodynamic and strength characteristics. And in terms of ergonomics and ejection system, there are no equal ones in the world.

Of course, Extras also have their advantages, such as light ailerons and high angular speed of rotation, but the main advantage of Extra aircraft is the two-seat version of the plane for aerobatic training.


Question: Do you know about any projects of the production of sports aircraft in Russia? Or, perhaps, are there any such projects in which you are involved?

There are a lot of debates but nobody went further…

Svetlana Kapanina and Romain Fall, 2022, pair performance during an air show in the Moscow region (Balashikha), Chernoe airfield. Photo: Alexander Seregin with the support of Canon Professional Service RUS
About flights and SK team!

Question: Now you pilot Extra 330, but in addition to Su and Extra are there any other sports aircraft that you have flown or you would like to try to fly?

Of course, I flew on Yakovlev aircraft of which I would like to pay your attention to the two-seat training aircraft Yak-52.

Question: A sports plane is like a racing car, in order to race, you need a serious technical team to work with the car, I think. Do you agree with this comparison? As for aviation, how are things going with your aircraft maintenance? Who prepares the aircraft for performances? How much work must be done to the plane? And maybe some kind of upgrade is needed to suit your style of piloting?

Of course, I agree. Each pilot adjusts the aircraft for himself: some like heavy ailerons, others like light ones. Also, the way of sitting in an airplane is of great importance, everyone chooses personal “pillows”.

Question: How close to reality a well-known Nikolai Anisimov’s song «Aerobatic Rock-n-Roll Svetlana» describing the cockpit during aerobatics? And do you have a favorite aerobatics figure?

Nikolai shows the atmosphere of the flight in all the necessary colors.

You can’t choose your favorite figure, otherwise the rest will be offended;)

Svetlana Kapanina, 2021, performance during an air show in the Moscow region (Balashikha), Chernoe airfield. Photo: Alexander Seregin with the support of Canon Professional Service RUS
Svetlana Kapanina, 2022, performance during an air show in the Moscow region (Balashikha), Chernoe airfield. Photo: Alexander Seregin with the support of Canon Professional Service RUS

Question: At one of the recent shows of the Sky Festival in Balashikha near Moscow you showed paired aerobatics with Roman Falem. Piloting looked extremely impressive. Can you tell us about pair aerobatics? Was it your first experience or have you already flown in such a composition at shows? What is the peculiarity of pair aerobatics on sports aircraft? Where did this idea come from and will you develop it in the future?

Aerobatic flights are both complex and interesting. I have a dream to create a female aerobatic team on Sukhoi aircraft. Perhaps someday it will come true, but as for now we flew with three aircraft in China and for the first time in Russia at the festival in Cherny. Our group even has the name «SK TEAM». I hope this group will prosper and win the hearts of people!

Question: What can you tell us about Romain? This pilot is not well known in Russia, as far as I know. Was it his first aviation show in Russia?

Romain is from France. But he wanted to be in the Russian national aerobatics team and he wrote to our President of the Russian Federation. Now he has Russian citizenship and is part of the Russian national team from the city of Moscow.

Question: Speaking of the future! You are a trainer who trains recruits and not only in the world of sports aviation. As far as I know, you are based in the Moscow region in Serpukhov at the Bolshoye Gryzlovo airfield. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of working with young pilots? Who are they? Where do you find them? How do you train and is there any progress in there training?

I have very few athletes. I still pilot myself but coaching takes a lot of time and effort.

Roman Fahl. Photo: Alexander Seregin with the support of Canon Professional Service RUS
Svetlana Kapanina, 2021, performance during an air show in the Moscow region (Balashikha), Chernoe airfield. Photo: Alexander Seregin with the support of Canon Professional Service RUS
About the problems of sports aviation and the Russian Championship

Question: The question of holding competitions is very interesting. I mean the World and European Championships. In Russia these events, as well as the Championship of Russia and the Championship of Moscow, are covered only by very specialized media. They were not even mentioned in the mass media a year or two ago. What is the reason for this in your opinion? Aviation is not interesting to people, is it? Or is it due to lack of communication?

Aviation sports is elite and not quite accessive. This is the main reason why it is not so large scale.

Question: The experience of «First Flight» and the Russian Aviation Races and your own experience show openness to the public. But no points of contact with the public have been found. The attendance of the championships is almost zero (in Russia and Moscow). In connection with this case, we are talking about the fact that there are many excellent pilots in Russia, piloting interesting aircraft, who could also take part at least in air shows, but they prefer to enjoy piloting without sharing it with the public or not knowing how to do it. Don’t you think that, with rare exceptions, the community of aviators in Russia is too closed from the public and inconsistent among themselves?

Flying at air show is not easy and most importantly is very responsible. There should be great experience for doing this. After all, an airplane does not forgive mistakes, and there are more than one thousand people on earth who need to be in safety along with to see the beauty of flight.

Question: in your opinion, what is needed in order to hold the Moscow Championship in Bolshoye Gryzlovo or Drakino at the DOSAAF airfield and attract the attention of the public, because the Sky festival in Balashikha has been held on a grand scale for many years, especially we can see it in the year of 2021? And few people knew that the Moscow Championship of 2022 was held in Bolshoye Gryzlovo…

It must be admitted that the classic championship is not so interesting for the public, because not everyone understands the intricacies of aerobatics and the difference between pilots. But there is one of the exercises that we have not recently paid enough attention to is very interesting — this is freestyle. With proper organization, it would be possible to gather people for the closing ceremony of the competition with this 4th exercise.

Question: from the point of view of an ordinary viewer sports aviation is small nimble airplanes that make various figures high in the sky that not everyone can appreciate them visually. But if you could pull together sports and airshow, when you fly a few meters above the ground then the interest of the public may appear, since it is very important for people to have contact with a pilot who has just won or was close to it. The idea of combining sports and shows seems to be a good one. Is it possible and is it necessary for aviators in your opinion?

Of course, this is exactly what needs to be shown to people. Freestyle must be with music accompaniment and piloting must be close to the public. Then the interest will increase.

Question: Svetlana Vladimirovna, you are a well-known person all over the country, isn’t it time to share your experience, your history, biography with people? Have you ever thought about writing a book? Maybe even with small description of aerobatics, and other points related to flight experience? Should we expect this book in the near future?

Yes, you should. I’m not a writer, but I have some drafts. Perhaps someday a miracle will happen in the form of memoirs.

Thanks a lot!

The interview was prepared by Alexander Seregin, Editor-in-Chief of ANO ASPRA IMAGES, AVIA IMAGES, 2022

The author of the photos: Alexander Seregin

Translated into English by Elena Romanova

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