Born for the sky: Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov obituary

Born for the sky: Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov obituary

Володимир Б. Володимир Б.
Air Force of Ukraine History Україна

Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov was one of the drivers of the modernization of the Ukrainian Air Force, an example for young people and a symbol of invincibility for all Ukranians.

He was proactive person who strived for self-development and for development of what he loved – Ukrainian combat aviation.

Read about Andrii’s life, his service and contribution to the development of Ukrainian Air Force.

Life story

Andrii Pilshchykov was born on February 3, 1993, in Kharkiv, and spent his school years at the local Gymnasium No. 116. He became interested in aviation exactly at that time and visited airfields in the Kharkiv region.

Since 2008, he has been engaged in air spotting and posted his photos on the website spotters.net.ua. He was one of the founders of the spotting movement in Kharkiv. Andrii took hundreds of photos and actively managed his theme-subjected blog until 2019.

Andrii made his first flight on an Kh-32-912 Bekas aircraft with a pilot from the Civil Air Patrol NGO. Later, during his service, he himself conducted such classes and field trips for this NGO cadets.

“We met you when you appeared at one of the field airfields as a teenager in love with the sky. You was interested in everything related to aviation. To a certain extent, looking at you and your passion for aviation, the idea of creating an aviation training cadet center for young people who dream of flying and are fond of aviation was born,” the organization commented on the first meeting with Andrii.

Andrii was among the twenty students who were admitted to the first cadet center.

After graduating from the gymnasium, he tried to enter the Ivan Kozhedub National Air Force University, but he failed the first time: his eyesight failed him.

He wasted no time in entering the National Aerospace University – Kharkiv Aviation Institute.

Studying at the Ivan Kozhedub National Air Force University and serving in the Air Force of Ukraine

Having undergone vision correction, he tried again and finally succeeded – in 2011 he entered his dream university. The same year, he was sent to Myrhorod, where the Clear Sky 2011 exercise was taking place. It was probably the first time he saw an F-16 with his own eyes.

During his studies, in 2014, he visited Norway, where he sat in the cockpit of a local F-16.

Andrii’s training course was the first to be held under the five-year program. He made his first solo flight on a MiG-29 fighter on April 19, 2016.

In the winter of the same year, he graduated and joined the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade in Vasylkiv.

Throughout his service in the army, Andrii fought against outdated Soviet “traditions,” but he was opposed by “old school” officers.

He was constantly helping the Air Force press service make high-quality photos and videos. He also helped them significantly improve public communications.

In 2018, Andrii participated in the Clear Sky 2018 international exercise.

In 2019, he appeared in perhaps the most famous photo in the history of Ukrainian aviation, which was printed on T-shirts and painted on the walls of buildings. It shows Andrii sitting in the cockpit of a MiG-29 fighter with a French flight helmet.

In the same year, he traveled to California, USA, where he completed an internship at the Air National Guard Base. During his internship, he flew an F-15.

In California, he got the call sign “Juice”. He got it from American pilots who noticed that Andrii only ordered juice at the bar.

During his stay in the United States, he was impressed by the attitude of the locals towards the military.

“During a break between flights, we went to a pizzeria in our flight suits, made an order, and when it was delivered, the waiter said: “The bill has already been taken care of.” Andrii asked: “How, by whom?” And he saw a man, a veteran, at the next table. He [veteran] said: “God bless America! Thank you for defending our country in the air.” This attitude was quite unusual. It was even more unusual when the patrol police stopped by the cafe and the American pilots paid for the police officers’ order, saying: “Thank you for protecting our families while we protect America.” Andrii saw how pilots, military pilots, are treated in America, and he tried to do everything he could to make sure that pilots in Ukraine were treated the same way.”

In the United States, Andrii established close ties with American pilots and politicians, with whom he communicated closely until his death.

“Juice visited me and showed his absolute passion for flying, fighting, and defending his country. My heart is broken, as with every fallen hero of Ukraine. This one just stings a bit more personally. Godspeed Juice. Nickel on the grass,” said Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

In 2021, Andrii left the Air Force of Ukraine and wrote a note explaining the reasons for his decision.

Full scale war

On the day of the Russian invasion, Andrii packed, took his personal weapon, gave his car to the infantry, and rushed to his military unit.

He served in an airfield security unit for the first few weeks, then filed a report and returned to the Air Force.

“In 2022, he told me: “You can’t even imagine, these are not fights; these are battles. When we flew out, there were two to four of us, and they had 12 to 20 airplanes. And we still tried to win.” He called Russian pilots cowards. After the very first launch in their direction, they immediately turned and flew away. Because it’s all Russian bravado: they are used to flying and bombing Syria, where there is no opposition to them,” said “Stalker,” Andrii’s mentor from the Civil Air Patrol organization.

“Stalker” said that the “Ghosts of Kyiv” was Andrii’s idea.

“The commanders approved this idea as trolling the Russians, who said they had destroyed all the aviation on the first day of the war. And Andrii, who had such a caustic trolling style, said: “And here we are on the very planes that they destroyed, which are not there – we are fighting them so much. And who are we? Ghosts!” says “Stalker”.

It was a photo of Andrii wearing a French helmet taken in 2019 that Ukrainian and foreign media began to publish, claiming that it was the legendary “Ghost of Kyiv.”

His aircraft used HARM anti-radiation missiles and JDAM-ER precision-guided bombs.

He had strong skills, he could hit such small targets as the Orlan reconnaissance drone, which looks microscopic against the MiG-29 fighter.

“Juice had the charm and looks of a movie star, the warrior spirit of a Cossack and a loyalty to Ukraine beyond words. Every drop of his energy went went into improving the life of others around him. I’m beyond privileged to have called him a friend and brother. You can never replace someone like Andrii, you can only use his life as an example of how to better live your own. He was a national treasure of Ukraine. Eternal glory and God speed brother! I will forever miss you,” said Colonel Rob “Tigger” Swertfager, 194th Fighter Squadron, California Air National Guard.

Andrii’s role in the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine

Andrii became one of the main drivers in the discussion of the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

In June 2022, Andrii and his comrade Vladyslav “Moonfish” visited the United States as part of an official delegation to lobby for the provision of F-16s to Ukraine. This group also included the famous American actor and film director Sean Penn.

The pilots and delegates managed to meet with prominent senators and congressmen, including Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who used to be a pilot of the KC-135 Stratotanker.

After the meeting, on June 17, 2022, Adam Kinzinger introduced the Ukraine Fighter Pilots Act to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill was also cosponsored by Chrissy Houlahan, Ted Lieu, Susan Wild, Tom Malinowski, Abigail Spanberger, and Mike Levin.

Andrii spoke confidently in interviews with major U.S. media, which also greatly influenced further decisions [concerning F-16].

“I believe that more than any other person out there, “Juice” is responsible for the F-16s coming to Ukraine. He did countless, tireless interviews with western media, pleading for modern jets, and when that wasn’t enough, he traveled across the ocean to look the American Senators in the eyes and to tell them that Ukrainian pilots can fly anything. And the Senators believed. Now, the jets are coming and when the first F-16 crosses the Ukrainian sky, Juice will be there,” said Adam Makos, an American writer and military historian.

In May 2022, Andrii Pilshchykov was awarded the Order for Courage, 3rd grade, by a decree of the President of Ukraine.

Charity work

Andrii was actively involved in the work of the Neopalyma Kupyna Charity Fund (UCF BURNING BUSH) to help aviators, which is going to be renamed in his honor.

Andrii, who went by the call sign “Juice”, was the driving force for this foundation. His unique competencies and professionalism made every hryvnia and resource spent bring maximum benefit.

“For Andrii, the sky was the call of his soul and his life’s work. Even when he wasn’t flying himself, all his thoughts and actions were directed toward aviation and aviators,” Andrii’s mother, Liliya Averyanova, wrote on her Facebook page.

Accident over Zhytomyr region

On August 25, 2023, the crews of two L-39 combat trainer aircraft collided in mid-air while performing a combat mission. The pilots of these aircraft were Andrii, Major Viacheslav Minka and Major Serhiy Prokazin.

At the time of the accident, Andrii had 500 hours of flying time and was performing combat missions in extremely difficult conditions.

“He was courageous, principled, uncompromising, always defended his own opinion to the end, and actively advocated in the Western media, in particular on the issue of providing Ukraine with modern F-16 fighter jets,” described Andrii the military of the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade.

According to Prosecutor General’s Office, criminal proceedings have been opened over the plane crash in the Zhytomyr region.

Andrii was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major.

Air Force of Ukraine History Україна


Follow Militarnyi on Telegram to stay tuned for the latest news about the Russo-Ukrainian War and military news from around the globe!