Born in 1937, Popovich enlisted in the Air Force in the post-war years to revenge the fascist killings in her native village in Smolensk Region. She would tell the Russian media her family was to repeat the fate of many others burned or shot dead by fascists on a killing spree in the village if it was not saved by local militias.
The horrific experience left a deep imprint on her. Popovich was only 16 when she wrote a letter to Soviet Minister of Defense Voroshilov asking to let her become a professional pilot, a career then closed to women. She would add several years to her age to pursue her dream, pretending she was 22 at the time she started training.
Since Popovich claimed she was six years older than she really was, and that deception was reflected in official documents, her “official” age differed from her actual one and caused confusion over the years.
In 1961, Popovich became the only Soviet first class test pilot and in 1964, a military test pilot. A year later, she broke the sound barrier reaching the speed of 2,320 km/h on a MiG-21, a supersonic jet fighter and interception aircraft.
During her long career in aviation, she flew 40 different planes and helicopters, setting 102 aviation world records.
Ten of these records were set on the Antonov An- 22 Antei heavy military transport aircraft, which remains the world’s largest turboprop-powered airplane to date. She retired in 1984, having flown nearly 6,000 flight hours.
After her retirement, Popovich focused on her other long-time passion, the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. She was outspoken about her own experiences with UFOs, claiming to have witnessed them herself three times, first in 1962, and collected numerous accounts of sightings around the world.
She also claimed to have met the mythical Bigfoot creature during a trip to the Pamir Mountains in 1982.
In her book “UFO-Glasnost” she even wrote that Soviet military and civil pilots have reported some 3,000 UFO sightings and that the KGB had the debris of five crashed UFOs hidden away, claims she reiterated in public interviews.
“I believe UFO do exist, its behavior is logical, its behavioral motives are sensible, its origin is artificial…I made another conclusion for myself, a warning – you need to be cautious and vigilant when encountering UFOs, as sometimes these meetings can be tragic,” she wrote in her other book, “UFOs over Planet Earth,” in 2003.
Popovich was awarded one of the highest state honors in the Soviet Union, the Hero of Socialist Labor, the Order of Courage in 2007, and other decorations.
Legendary Soviet first class test pilot Marina Popovich, dubbed “Madam MIG” for going supersonic in the cockpit of a MiG-21 fighter jet, has died at the age of 86. The aviatrix developed a passion for the extraterrestrial, claiming to have encountered UFOs and a Big Foot.
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