Russia Tour 1995

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This is an account of a tour I made in 1995 to Russia during the week of the Moscow Aerospace show and gave an excellent look at the changing aviation scene in Russia. This tour was one of many to Russia organised by Alpha Mike Tours and all credit must go to Andy Marsh, the late Rudi Voller and our Russian guides for organising the tour and the photographic access.

Day One

Arrived at London-Heathrow airport in time to board British Airways B767-300 G-BNWD in time for the 3hr flight to Moscow-Sheremetyevo airport. Visiting on this day was EY-85717 Tu154M of Tajik Air on a vip visit. Arrival in Moscow allowed a brief glimpse of lines of tantalising Russian aircraft parked around the field followed by a frustating 4hr queue for the immigration. Eventually a brief stay in the restaurant in the international terminal allowed a panoramic view over the airfield.

Sheremetyevo airport was the home base for Aeroflot's international division and many of the resident aircraft were those that had been seen regularly around Europe in the years before. The more interesting side of the airfield is the domestic side. One end of the airfield has the ramps formally used by the aviation institute with the weather research fleet. The other far corner contained a ramp with a number of instructional airframes including a Tu22 'Blinder' bomber. In between was a long line of parked and disused aircraft with the the domestic terminal in the middle. Highlights for me included a weather research IL-18 (RA-75449), Tu134's of Archangelsk Airlines and Volair and some 16 Il-76 freighters (never too common in Europe).

Day Two

An early departure to Vnukovo airport to catch our chartered flight allowed an hour or so viewing from the cafeteria in the terminal. Vnukovo is one of Moscow's busier airports with flights from European Russia and the Caucasus. Based airline Vnukovo Airlines dominated with it's fleet of Tu154M's and IL-86's some of which had been painted in their new colour scheme. Also this is the homebase for the Russian Governments transport fleet of Tu134's/Tu154's/Il-62's/Yak40's and newly delivered An-124 seen on the far side of the airport. Other highlights included a Yak42 of Kuban Airlines Moldovan Tu-134, Armenian Tu154, two IL-18's and an anonymous Tu-204.

After this it was time to be bussed over to our steed for the next two days, (Antonov An24 (RA-46259) of Bryansk Avia (although still in Aeroflot colours) for our 1hr 20min flight to Sasovo to the southeast of Moscow. On take off another helicopter landing ground was noted not far away from the airport with a number of large Mil's parked up.

Landing at Sasovo was a surprise as there is only a bumpy grass strip here. This airfield was home to one of Aeroflot's flying training schools and with some 20 Let 410's and some 80 Antonov An-2's in a mixture of basic Aeroflot and polar red colour schemes. Free reign was given to wander about as there was no activity during our visit. Preserved by the airfield entrance was a Yak52 on a pole.

We returned to our An24 for the hour flight to Nizhny Novgorod (formerly the closed city of Gorky) for a short visit. The small terminal here is flanked on one side by the ramp used by Ministry of Interior Il-76's (all in Aeroflot colours) and behind the civil terminal was a large military area with some assorted helicopters visible. Among the variety here were 4K-65702 Tu134A of Azerbaijan Airlines and RA-64451 Tu134A still carrying it's previous marks of XU-102 of Air Kampuchea. Finally tucked in a corner were a collection on crop spraying An-2's.

Finally we left on the last leg of the day to Chelyabinsk to spend the night in the Aeroflot crew hostel located at the airport. Most of the based airline of Chelyabinsk Air Enterprise were present on arrival comprising Yak42's and Tu154's. Notable resident was CCCP-75599 IL-18 in use for ground training and the mortal remains of another converted into a storage shed by bricking up the ends of the fuselage!

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Day 3

Day 3 started with a short ramp tour at Chelyabinsk. Very little change overnight, although a Yak42 of Dneprovaia visited during the tour.

Back on our An24 for the return leg to Moscow. Our first stop was at Ekaterinburg. This was a busy airport at the time of our visit so much so the airport could not spare a bus to take us! Eventually after a lengthy wait a beat up 18 seater bus turned up! This was a memorable ramp tour with 30 people + camera gear sardined into the bus. We were not allowed to walk any distance on the ramp so we had to make rapid exits and reboards every hundred yards or so to take photographs! Photographically this was one of the most interesting airports on this tour with a variety of operators all with new color schemes. Ural Air with An24's ,Tu154's and Il86, Ural Interavia Il76's, SpAir An12's and Il-76's and visiting Bashkiran Airlines An24's among others. Off in one corner of the airport was a military ramp with assorted transport aircraft including an interesting looking Tu134.

After an all too short visit we departed to Perm. This was a small airport with the usual assortment of An24/Tu134/Tu154's. Dumped here was an early build Tu134 (CCCP65625) and visiting was a polar colored Antonov An12. Sharing the runway was an active regiment of Mig-25's some two dozen being noted in revetments on take off. Also visible on take off was a secondary airfield not far away with large numbers of An2's and a solitary Il-76.

Finally arrival back at Moscow-Vnukovo with a selection of Tupolev airliners from Air Moldova, Armenian Airlines and Kazakstan Airlines.

Day 4

Today a full day was spent at the Moscow Aerospace Show held on the once secret test airfield of Zhukovsky. The trade show was situated within a large area in the middle of the airfield next to the runway neccessatating a drive through some of the off-limits areas on the way in. On the field was a breathtaking variety of aircraft from civilian airliners to military jet fighters, many being retired test aircraft and chase planes. Most current and many other test aircraft belonging to the Russian aviation industry are probably to be found somewhere on this airfield. In addition many active aircraft also use the airfield with some 40 Il-76's from various cargo operators being present on this day. Some of these test planes were on show in the display along with a selection of new military and civil aircraft. Noted within the dump area was a very rare Tu126 'Moss' AEW aircraft. Elsewhere a selection of Tu95 'Bears' and three Tu144's supersonic airliners. Also noted was an IL86 test airframe dumped behind a hanger. Go here for a selection of images taken on this day.

Day 5

The first day exploring Moscow area aviation involved a long drive out of the city to Yegorevsk. This is the site of a training school with a selection of airliners for ground instructional purposes. Inmates included a couple of early Tu154's, Yak42's and An24's. Highlights included an ex Air Mali An24 still wearing it's marks of TZ-ACK. This aircraft was reported to have been returned to the Soviet Union in 1972 and may well have been here for a very long time! The other highlight was a Tupolev Tu-16 'Badger' bomber to which access was allowed to the cockpit. One other example was in the process of being scrapped.

Returning to Moscow a visit and tour of Bykovo airport was made. Notable for it's Ilyushin Il-14 'gate guard' Most of the services here are to cities within western Russia using a mixture of An24 Yak40 and Yak42 airliners with based carrier Bykovo Avia operating many of the flights. A large overhaul facility mainly for Il-76's takes up a large area to the right of the terminal. Present on their ramp were embargoed Libyan Il-76 5A-DNA and Indian Airforce example K-2661. Other highlights included An24's of Turkish carrier MAS Air (recently returned from lease) and a variety of colorful Yak-40's including RA-21505 operated by Gazprom.

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Day 6

Early morning departure for our ramp tour at Domodedovo Airport. In front of the terminal building monster turboprop Tupolev Tu-114 CCCP-76464 is preserved on a plinth while the fuselages of two more of the type lurk by the hangers used as storage facilities. This airport mostly handles traffic from the Russian far east and former Soviet Republics with Domodedovo Air being the resident operator with large numbers of Il-62's and a few operational Il-18's! This airport is also a major freight airport with Il-76 and An-12 freighters being common many with based operator Aviatrans. Other highlights included Tu154's of Uzbekistan Aw, Tyumen Avia, Tajik Air and Kazakstan Aw. The only western built aircraft seen here was N525MD DC-10-30 operated by Kras Air.

The remaining part of the afternoon involved a return visit to Vnukovo airport. Much quieter than our previous visit but this time we had a ramp tour organised which allowed more photographs to be taken. Visitors included a Yak42 of Kuban Airlines and Il-76 of based airline ALAK and a Chilean AirForce C-130!

Day 7

No airport ramp tours today being a Sunday but a chance to drive around Moscow and visit some of the aircraft on display in the city.

First stop was the display in Victory Park. Among assorted military hardware were 16 ex military aircraft including a Lisonov Li-2 (Soviet built version of the Douglas DC-3) an Ilyushin Il-2 WW2 ground attack fighter (over 36,000 of these were built in total!) and early versions of the Mil-24 'Hind' and Mig-29 'Fulcrum'

The Armed Forces Museum was visited next. Amidst a wide range of military hardware and memorabilia were 14 aircraft including an example of Il-28 'Beagle' bomber and a Czech built L-29 Delphin jet trainer as well as the usual assortment of Mig types. On show in the museum building are parts of Gary Powers U-2 spyplane famously shot down in the 1960's.

A short visit was made the the Park of Economic Achievment, where amongst the display pavilions, CCCP-42304 Yak42 and CCCP-85005 Tu154 are preserved.

Final museum of the day was the large collection of military aircraft at the Central Air and Space Museum on the edge of the factory airfield of Khodinka and can be found behind the Aeroflot bus station (we drove past here in 1992 without knowing about the museum collection!). A good variety of post war military aircraft are on display, some of the highlights for me were the Il-14 transport, an early Mil-1 helicopter and 2-seat trainer version of the Mig-25 'Foxbat'. Also here was an example of Yak-38M carrier bourne VTOL fighter. For a selection of photo's from these collections go here

An evening visit to Sheremetyevo airport rounded off the day. Not particularly busy but some quality visitors including Il-76's EZ-F428 of Turkmenistan Al and K2665 of the Indian Airforce, MIAT-Mongolian Boeing 727 MT1054, Baikal Airlines Boeing 757 N321LF, Orient Avia IL62'S and a long way from home VN-A116 Tu134 of Vietnam Airways parked by the domestic terminal.

Day 8

Today involved a second morning's photography on the ramp at Domodedovo, this time including a short tour around some previously unvisited areas of the airport. Highlights today included an Il-76's of Scoda Air and Kras Air, Tu154's of Bashkirian Al and Samara Airlines, a Yak40 of Air Tartarstan and Il96's in the colours of Domodedovo Air.

In the afternoon a tour of the airfield of Myatchkovo was arranged. This airfield had a variety of light aircraft, helicopters and turboprop airliners. Large numbers of Antonov An30 transports belonging to Myatchkovo Air Services were parked up, apparently rarely used. Aviatrans had a small number of freight aircraft parked including An12 RA-11901 and a number of An32's. About a dozen Mil-8 transport helicopters in a variety of colours also were noted as well as a number of smaller Yak18T 4 seat light aircraft and Yak52 trainers.

The highlights though had to be airworthy Il-14 (01146) and giant Mi-6 helicopter (RA-21132) still in Aeroflot marks. During my previous visit in 1992 large numbers of Mi-2 light helicopters and a number of Il-14's were here, but all had sadly been scrapped.

Day 9

This morning was a much looked forward to visit to the Air Force Museum at Monino located at the Air War Academy to the east of the city. Any body with an interest in Russian aircraft cannot fail to be impressed by this museum with contains virtually one of every type operated in the Soviet Union from WW2 supplemented by numerous prototypes and record breaking aircraft. Most of the aircraft are displayed outside with some of the older types and gliders preserved inside along with displays telling the story of Soviet aviation. Most of the larger aircraft here have been flown in over the years by using a temporary runway that is apparently only fully useable during the winter when frozen solid!

Some of my personal highlights include the Myaschichev M-50 'Bounder' four engine jet bomber, Tupolev Tu144 "Konkordski" supersonic airliner, giant Antonov An22 freighter and worlds largest helicopter the Mil V-12. Since my first visit here in 1992 some 20 new exhibits had arrived including (surprisingly) an American supplied Bell P63 Kingcobra, a P39 Aircobra and a Douglas A20 Havoc bomber. These three aircraft were supplied as lend-lease during WW2 and have been part of the rumoured store of WW2 aircraft supposed to be kept at a military site in the Moscow area. Another unusual recent exhibit is the Bartini VVA-14 Wing-In-Ground-Effect aircraft/boat! a type of aircraft the Soviets investigated as potential long range troop carriers for the Navy.

Some of the larger aircraft look worse for wear having been in the open for so long. This museum deserves to be ranked as one of the great aviation collections of the world and I look forward to visiting again sometime.

On the return to Moscow a brief detour past the airfield at Chkalovsky saw a few tantalising glimpses of large numbers of transport aircraft. Some of these are military transports and others are connected with the Russian space program. Unfortunatly visits here were not possible at this time. However noted close to the road were the four Il86VKP airbourne command posts that recently moved in from Zhukovsky. A few other aircraft were identified as the flew over the museum while on finals to land.

On the road back to Moscow at Tupolev Tu104 (CCCP-42485) was noted in the distance in a military camp, now apparently used for anti-terrorist training. Further along a number of helicopter wrecks were noted at the helicopter test airfield at Lyubertsy (apparently closed).

Our last tour of the day was at the airfield of Tushino. This is the nearest to a pure general aviation field of anywhere visited as this is used by the Russian sport flying organisation. Types included Yak52/18T, An-2's and Mi-8's with a few aerobatic types visible in a hanger. Two airworthy Il-14's were duly photographed. A small compound near the main gate contained a collection of wrecked ex military types but closer investigation was not possible.

Finally the day was rounded off by a short visit to Sheremetyevo airport. A number of intersting visitors were noted including Moscow Airways An-12 (RA-11318), Tu154's of Baikal Airlines,Sakha Avia,Turkish charter company Holiday Airlines and two Il-86's of AJT Air.

Day 10

The last day in Moscow before heading home. A return trip to Vnukovo was made. Today a tour of the ramp had been arranged with highlights including Tu-134's of Korsar and Adjarian Airlines and a Yak42 of Kuban Airlines.

The afternoon was taken up by an organised tour of part of the ramp at Sheremetyevo. This allowed a closer look at some of the more interesting aircraft parked here, notably the weather research IL-18's and parked transport aircraft.

Other interesting aircraft included the Moscow Airways An-12 from yesterday, a stored Exparc Il76, former Dobrolet Il76, a selection of helicopters and one of the first Russian biz-jets - HS125 RA-02800.

Finally it was time to head for home after a memorable trip having seen thousands of different aircraft and taken hundreds of photographs.

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Anhedral Aviation Tours & Photography
Created 1st February 2003 Last update 1st November 2003