2016 IS FULL OF EVENTS:THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE INDEPENDENCE OF KAZAKHSTAN, THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST HUMAN’S FLIGHT TO SPACE, THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST KAZAKH COSMONAUT’S FLIGHT TO SPACE AND HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY. TOKTAR AUBAKIROV, HERO OF KAZAKHSTAN, HERO OF THE SOVIET UNION, MAJOR GENERAL OF AIR DEFENSE FORCES OF THE REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN, MAJOR GENERAL OF AVIATION (AND MANY OTHER HONORABLE TITLES), THE MAN WITH A CAPITAL “M” CELEBRATES HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY THIS YEAR. PLEASE, READ HIS INTERVIEW BELOW.
YOU SAID YOU HAD A DREAM TO FLY A FIGHTER AIRCRAFT ON THE OCCASION OF YOUR BIRTHDAY AS THEY DO IT IN RUSSIA.
One day a dream may come true.
IF NOT NOW, THEN MAYBE WHEN YOU’RE 80?
(laughing) There is an anecdote:
“Visitor: – How much cabbage can this animal eat?
Zookeeper: – About one hundred kilograms a day.
Visitor: – One hundred? In one day?
Zookeeper: – Right, but nobody would ever give it that much!”.
I am ready to fly and I can pilot but who would take on such a responsibility? One can do nothing about the age.Though, my student in Russia who is 63 years old still flies fighter planes at a test pilot school.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO OPEN SUCH A SCHOOL?
And what would we test there?
DO YOU STILL FLY NOW? NOT FIGHTER AIRCRAFTS, BUT SPORTING AIRPLANES?
Surely. But only in my spare time. My work takes a lot of time and even when I’m invited to fly, I often cannot participate because I’m busy
AREN’T YOU GOING TO RETIRE?
DO YOU LIKE WORKING? IF IT WASN’T FOR AVIATION AND SPACE, WHAT WOULD YOU DEDICATE YOUR LIFE TO?
I always work. I never could just mark time. One should reach extremum – the highest point – regardless the occupation. I’ve always wanted to achieve the heights in my work and become the master of my craft. I don’t want to overestimate myself, but, for example, when I used to work as a turner, I was the best. I’m sure I could have succeeded in any sphere chosen.
THERE IS A JOKE: “OUR PILOTS ARE AFRAID TO FLY MORE THAN ANYONE BECAUSE THEY KNOW HOW THINGS STAND WITH OUR AVIATION”. ARE YOU AFRAID?
If I were, I wouldn’t fly. I’m just a little wary of flying with our airlines. I feel it if a pilot is good at what he does: Unfortunately, not everyone is a true professional. True professionals won’t leave international airlines to work for Kazakh ones. I’m indignant that we hire the people who didn’t get their contracts renewed with the respected air carriers.
IT IS SYMBOLIC THAT YOUR FIRST FLIGHT TO SPACE AND THE FIRST HUMAN’S FLIGHT TO SPACE CELEBRATE ANNIVERSARIES TOGETHER EVERY FIVE YEARS.
Without being aware of it, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin assisted the propaganda of the Republic of Kazakhstan as a space country. Having opened the way to the space, this great man immortalized himself and Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome.
Yes, the fact that I was chosen back then (in 1991 – Ed.) is quite symbolic. At that moment I was the only Kazakh test pilot.
The status of a test pilot is not lower than that of a cosmonaut pilot. It’s just that a cosmonaut is a public figure while the names of test pilots are often kept in secret. A test pilot is a creator: we are the ones who have created the most technically and technologically perfect aircrafts that have been serving the mission of peacekeeping all over the world.
KAZAKHSTAN PROGRAMME YOU FLEW WITH WAS INNOVATIVE. CAN KAZAKHSTAN BE CONSIDERED ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF THE APPLIED SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH?
Yes. Kazakhstan programme was one of the remarkable ones in space exploration history. While earlier programmes used to focus on applied military aspects, ours was significant for agriculture, industry and medicine. I was lucky to work with the scientists Umirzak Sultangazin, Victor Drobzhev, Nagima Aitkhozhina and many others. But our innovative programme didn’t receive wide publicity. It was partially due to the fact that Kazakhstan was not an independent state back then.
WHAT PREVENTS KAZAKHSTAN FROM BEING ON TOP IN THE SPHERE OF SPACE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH?
Kazakhstan has a long way to go to achieve it. Firstly, we should have science. Science should be cultivated seriously and thoroughly. We should be a technological country and create our own technologies to keep up with the time and the whole world. We don’t even make cars, let alone aircrafts. Making (creating) and assembling parts are not the same things.
BUT WHERE IS THE SCIENCE WE USED TO HAVE?
When the Soviet Union collapsed nobody had a moment to care about science. We started doing business that required lawyers and economists. Later we thought better of it but it was too late. Talented scientists got an opportunity to work abroad and many of them are working there now. Today everything – equipment, machinery, technology – is different from that of the Soviet times. We need new specialists who are good at new technology. We were right to create Bolashak Scholarship program.But everyone knows that the state wasn’t ready to provide the graduates with jobs here. Many of those who had studied under Bolashak stayed abroad and many of those who came back to Kazakhstan found themselves without a job. I know it from my son’s example – he was invited to work at the Boeing plant and they even asked me to persuade him to work there. However, he decided to return to the Motherland and, as his father, I’m grateful for that. But here he didn’t get a job because only economists and lawyers were required…
YOU SAID THAT COSMONAUTS ARE PUBLIC FIGURES. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF SCHOOLS BEING NAMED AFTER YOU? DO YOU VISIT THOSE SCHOOLS?
I guess it’s right because it has psychological and educational aspect. When young people see such examples they think: I’ll be able to achieve my goals too.
Yes, I visit the schools. But visiting all of them is physically impossible because they are situated all over Kazakhstan and sometimes in remote locations. But whenever I have an opportunity I certainly visit the schools. I really hope that people at the head of them are using my name the right way – that is, for patriotic education with the idea like “aspire to learning and achieving the best results”. When I meet people I can see the eyes of boys and girls lighting up after my stories. Children need the right role model.
DID YOU HAVE YOURS?
Sure. When I was studying in the first form, there was Olga Iosifovna teaching in the next classroom. She was a very good teacher and person, always kind and attentive to children. When our teacher was ill, Olga Iosifivna was substituting.Despite being prankish and not too diligent in studying, I always tried to behave and study better with her, I listened to her attentively because I just couldn’t let her down.
Besides that, I used to find some useful traits in every character of the books I was reading, the traits I would like to copy. Fortunately, at that time, after the war, the real heroes like Bigeldinov, Luganskiy or Abdirov were popular. Thanks to them I decided to become a pilot. When I met Talgat Bigeldinov in person I understood that this man really deserved to be a role model.
WHAT DOES YOUR 70TH BIRTHDAY MEAN TO YOU?
Seventy is a considerable age. I’m grateful for it, first of all, to the Almighty, and secondly – to my parents. At times I think that my father who passed away at 50 and my mother who deceased at 64 gave everything of themselves to me, their descendant, to reach such an age.
MIGHT THIS BE THE INFLUENCE OF THE ENERGY YOU GOT IN SPACE?
Of course, all cosmonauts get some charge of energy from the flights. But they are also affected by radiation. Many of them suffer from cardiovascular diseases as flights affect health. Another thing is the desire you live with. You should simply have a great desire to live.
WHAT MOMENT WAS ETCHED IN YOUR MEMORY DURING THE FLIGHT TO SPACE? WHAT CAN YOU REMEMBER NOW AS IF IT WAS YESTERDAY?
Many people remember the start. But what I remember most is the landing. The dynamic of landing effects your health and impressions of the flight. The impact is so strong that if you don’t grit your teeth, you’ll lose them. When we were landing, I saw that we were flying at an incredible speed right towards a power line. I still remember the thought that came to my mind at that moment: “Is it possible we are to die here after surviving it all over there when we’re so close to home?” But we were lucky and we flew past the power line without touching a single wire. That was maybe a gift of the destiny.
In general it’s symbolic for me that I happened to go to space in the year of the country’s Independence. Before my flight it was already predetermined that we would become an independent state. At that moment it was one year after we had announced that everything located in the territory of Kazakhstan – KazSSR back then – was the property of the Republic. The rockets and carrier rockets at Baikonur were included. It was already telling something about the beginning of the movement towards independence. We were just waiting for us to be ready to declare independence. It is symbolic that the landing happened in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan and it was right before the declaration of Independence.
The 25th anniversary of the first Kazakh’s flight to space and the 25th anniversary of our country’s Independence are the two great events that are inseparable from each other. The flight of the first cosmonaut to space is a milestone in the history of any country. For the newly-appeared independent Kazakhstan the fight of the first Kazakh cosmonaut was the supreme gift.
WHAT IS A GIFT FOR YOU? WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT GIFT IN YOUR LIFE?
I like gifts and I like giving presents a lot. The best gift for me has been the one I got from my son and daughter-in-law. Timur and Dinara gave me a grandson – little Toktarlan. It was on August 9, 2014 – and it is the greatest gift I could only dream of.