ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Sergey Ananov wants you to know his helicopter did not technically crash. A crash, he says, is the result of a pilot's mistake. His helicopter made a forced landing on water in the Arctic. And that's where we pick up this story of survival. Mr. Ananov, welcome to the program.
SERGEY ANANOV: Thank you very much.
SHAPIRO: You were trying to break a new record. What was the record you were trying to break?
ANANOV: Correct. That was the attempt to become the first person to circumnavigate the world in a helicopter weighing less than one ton.
SHAPIRO: And you had nearly completed your journey when your helicopter went down.
ANANOV: Yes. I'm proud to say that I crossed all Russia and I crossed United States of America and Canada. And I was looking forward to finish it successfully in Moscow again.
SHAPIRO: So you were in the Arctic between Canada and Greenland. Your helicopter goes down, and from what I understand, it just sank like a stone to the bottom of the sea. What did you do?
ANANOV: I made my way out. And I just managed to grab on the life raft. I swim to the lump of ice that was 50 meters from me. Thirty-seven hours I was trying to stay alive.
SHAPIRO: Trying to stay alive - and the challenges include polar bears.
ANANOV: Exactly. About four hours later, I was lying covered by the life raft and suddenly I heard the loud breathing of a bear approaching me. And I just was caught by surprise and I decided to catch him by surprise in reverse. So I jumped out of my life raft and frightened him and I was roaring et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
SHAPIRO: Wait, wait, wait, you were roaring and what? Like standing with your arms up in the air, waving your hands. What were you doing?
ANANOV: I just rushed at him and I was angry. I was angry with myself, with the situation, with the idea that it's the final moment of my life because I was quite sure that he will eat me.
SHAPIRO: And how did the polar bear respond?
ANANOV: It was ridiculous because, you know, I acted when you pretend to be a monster with the children. You know, I work like...
ANANOV: I chased after him. And the bear, he run to the edge of my ice and jumped to another ice. I couldn't follow him because I am not the ice jumper, you know? So...
ANANOV: And he started walking slowly away. Unfortunately, there was a thick fog there, which was my biggest problem after the bears.
SHAPIRO: Because nobody could see you through the fog if people were trying to rescue you.
ANANOV: Yes. There was a rescue operation ongoing, but they couldn't see me. They couldn't see my flares and I had only three of them.
SHAPIRO: You had only three flares and there was thick fog.
ANANOV: Yes. I spent - I spent two flares the first day. The second day - and I just said to myself I would use the third flare when I could see a rescue team or they could see me. And the fog disappeared after two days and I saw the beamlight of a ship and then everything was already easy.
SHAPIRO: Did this experience teach you anything about yourself that you didn't know before?
ANANOV: No. Frankly, no because I know myself very well. I'm 50 years old and maybe I never spoke with God with such a passion that I spoke when I was lying there. I gave him some promises and I usually do not - didn't do that.
SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Have you kept the promises?
ANANOV: I am keeping them. It's a long process because I gave (laughter) I gave several and they're not easy.
SHAPIRO: That's helicopter pilot Sergey Ananov who hopes to try again to become the first person to fly solo around the world in a helicopter that weighs less than a ton.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.