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`BLUE ANGELS’ SWAP PLANES WITH SOVIETS

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Pilots from the U.S. Navy's elite Blue Angels impulsively traded planes with Soviet pilots in an unauthorized burst of glasnost at a Michigan air show this month, a newspaper said.

The Blue Angels allowed a Soviet pilot to fly a Navy jet for the first time ever when Valery Mentskji took the controls of an F/A-18 Hornet on July 10 in Kalamazoo, Mich., the San Diego Union reported Saturday.In exchange, Capt. Pat Moneymaker, the Angels' commmanding officer, was allowed to test ride a MiG-29 Fulcrum, one of the Soviets' most sophisticated aircraft.

The White House has learned of the event and reproved the Navy. The Bush administration has repeatedly turned down requests to let Soviet pilots fly the Hornet and the Air Force's F-16 Falcon, the Union reported.

"The Soviets have been interested in this sort of thing for some time," said Navy spokesman Lt. David Wray.

Moneymaker became the fourth American - and the first Navy pilot - to fly a MiG-29. The aircraft was previously flown by two U.S. civilians and an Air National Guard pilot.

Mentskji is the chief test pilot of the Mikoyan Design Bureau, the builders of the MiG-29. The Hornet he took on a 30-minute ride apparently was a two-seat trainer that is not equipped with advanced avionics.

Wray said Moneymaker cleared the flight through the chain of command, meaning he got approval from Vice Adm. Richard Dun-leavy, assistant chief of naval operations for naval warfare.

Still, the Pentagon is reviewing the air show swap to determine if the Blue Angels violated White House policy, said a spokesman.

"The policy is not for reciprocity. We don't fly their aircraft and they don't fly ours," said Lt. Cmdr. Ken Satterfield.