To Russia with Love

It was after the vodka shots, while the old Siberian woman was showing Dallasite Bill Signs a Russian dance, that Signs realized he needed to fly his single-engine Cessna across Russia}. “I realized that Russians weren’t evil,” he says, “and they should know that we’re non either.”

That Siberian nightclub encounter in June 1991 launched Signs’ series of “’Friendship Flights,” the third of which, “Friendship Flight ’93,” takes off the first week of June. As with last year’s two-week air trek. Signs’ ’93 trip will take hi in to towns and cities throughout Russia where he will dispense gifts and Western wisdom ’in some places that haven’t seen American in 50 years,” Signs says.

Three single-engine planes and 11 people comprise the traveling crew for the three-week journey, and the ’93 expanded it nerary also includes Mongolia, Japan and (he hopes) China.

The first ping the group does when hitting a new destination is fuel up-not always easy to do when there are local politicos and red tape that must be dealt with.

“Although,” says Signs, “during a fill-up in Kotlas, the tab for 60 gallons of gas and fees came to $3.” He laughs, saying he got the absurdly low price just because the officials liked him. “So it evens out.” (In last year’s two-week trip, he notes, he spent less than SI00 in the cities.)

After giving airplane and USA memorabilia to locals, the group often finds itself straining to handle the overwhelming hospitality, “The people there want you to meet everyone in their family,” Signs says. “We’ve had people bang on my hotel door at 2 in the morning, wanting me to meet their brother, eat sausage and drink vodka.”

Signs, owner of Swedish Auto inc. in Farmers Branch, hopes to help people from both countries realize their common bonds. But sometimes he finds the Russians different in the most surprising ways.

“They all had cable TV before I did.” Signs says.

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