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The fighter jet set
After that numbing board meeting, how about strapping yourself into a gleaming fighter jet and going for a spin?
The thought of taking yet another 14-hour flight for a board meeting had Rajeev Bhatia groaning in anguish. Foreign travel used to be the flashiest job perk for this 35-year-old consultant, but over the years, sterile business hotels and frequent flyer miles had long lost their charm. A chance conversation with an acquaintance changed all that. Suddenly, Bhatia couldn't wait to get to the Big Apple. The reason: the L-39 Albatros.
Fast and versatile, the L-39 (it features in a James Bond film) is one of the most widely used jet trainer aircraft in the world and a speed toy that collectors love to own. Unbelievably, Bhatia was going to be flying one in New York.
The chance to unleash his inner pilot was made possible by Thrillsextreme. in, a Gurgaon-based adventure sports and travel company that specialises in experiences that are unique and out there. Through word of mouth it has quickly gained a thrills-hungry clientele.
So if flying at 72, 000 feet - Thrillsextreme. in can also arrange for a flight in the supersonic MiG-29 Fulcrum - isn't your idea of fun, how about a ride in a submarine or a tank? Or even a flight into space?
Kunal Goyal, who started the company, was a part of the corporate rat race until just a few months ago when he decided to follow his heart and offer "discerning Indians a few unique activities. " His last job was as country head for an American software firm. Now he plays among jets and subs and real sharks that don't wear suits.
"I have always had a keen interest in adventure sports, " says the 33-year-old entrepreneur, who moved back to India after having lived in Australia for eight years. "After having lived abroad, I identified a few gaps in the Indian adventure market and decided to introduce some very unique experiences for the discerning Indian. Crazy and extreme. "
And given the list of activities that Goyal's company offers - their Facebook page lists quad-biking, Tyrolean traverse, swimming with the sharks and sky diving - there does seem to be a demand for these extreme vacations.
"Most definitely, " Goyal says. "We were actually surprised at the response. People in India are looking for unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Our packages are mostly aimed at people who are already travelling to these locations on holiday or corporate travellers. "
To date, 23 Indian customers have chosen to fly fighter jets. Not a cheap ride - it can set you back by Rs 1. 5 lakh to Rs 8 lakh, depending on the kind of plane and flying time. "The cost depends on the flight duration, type of fighter jet, location, altitude to which you go, etc, " says Goyal. "The most expensive fighter jet ride is in a MiG-29 Fulcrum, which takes you to the edge of space, approximately 73, 000 feet altitude or 23 km into the stratosphere. "
So what kind of training does one need in order to be able to fly a fighter jet, which you can in countries like France, Switzerland, Spain, Russia, Germany, and at New York, Florida and California in the United States?
For starters, you don't need any prior flying experience, just an appetite for stomach-churning fun. "You should be over 12 years old and that is all, " Goyal says. "People who opt for the fighter-jet ride are briefed before the flight on the dos-and-don'ts. You are primarily a copilot. However, if you're lucky and the pilot feels that you are confident, you might be given a chance to control the jet in flight for some time. "
No one has opted for a ride in a submarine or tank yet. Like fighter jets, this treat can only be enjoyed out of India. Goyal is hoping to get a license to start sky diving in India, which would be a first for a private company in the subcontinent.
But the biggest thrill for any adventure seeker is the opportunity to travel into space and Goyal is aiming to become the only Authorized Space Agents in the Indian sub-continent for the 2014 civilian Space Program. For $95, 000 (Rs 52. 7 lakh), you will - in 2014 - get to travel to outer space. The entire experience will last for one hour from take off to landing and the clients will be called co-astronauts. They'll be put up in a luxury resort for three days before the space flight. They will receive training and undergo medical examinations. And go home with a certificate and their very own flight suit as a souvenir. "We're in the middle of talks, " says Goyal, who's currently in Atlanta.
For Dilliwallahs, Goyal has a special treat in store. He wants to get some very expensive supercars and give people the chance to burn some rubber. "Obviously in a safe and legal manner, " he quickly adds.
Some names have been changed on request
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