It had been six years since our last visit to Moscow, so another was overdue, with the realization that the old Russian built airliners were going out of service, fairly quickly. Hoping to catch as many of these types as possible was a priority, with the visit to the airshow just part of this nine day Aeroprints tour, visiting all the airports around Moscow. The MAKS airshow is of course only held every two years, and although a trade show, is certainly worth visiting for the large Russian military presence, as well as hopefully photographing some of the many tasty aircraft parked around the airfield, not part of the show.
DAY 1 SATURDAY 15TH AUGUST
Flying from Bahrain with Emirates, first flight was EK836 at 0350 to Dubai, operated by an A330. Connection to Moscow Domodedovo (DME) was at 0935 on a B777-300ER, arriving at 1445L, with one night to be spent at the AirHotel (walking distance from the terminal). It wasn't until the morning when i would meet up with Ian and Craig, who had flown from the UK via Vienna with Austrian Airlines, not getting in until after midnight.
DAY 2 SUNDAY 16TH AUGUST
Pronounced 'Bickavo', Bykovo is probably classed as being Moscow's fourth airport, and was previously used for some regional passenger flights (with Antonov 24's etc), as seen during our first visit here. The large maintenance/re-work facility for IL-76's and Yak-42's etc seems quieter now, although there are still some aircraft present, with others including some nice charter and company aircraft. This place always seems to have plenty of interest. At the time, the airfield was about to be used as a park-and-ride for MAKS, as well as being used as a storage site for unsold new cars.
Starting outside the terminal, Aeroflot IL-14 CCCP-91484 is still on display, though not looking so good. Moving out airside, with various stops, we had the first instance of 'dont photograph this one and this one', which was to become the norm on some of the ramp tours. These included the MVD Russia (Police) Yak-40K RF-88301 & Mil-8's, as well as the MChS Russia (Fire) Kamov's and Mil-26T RA-06285 (another of which was later in the static at MAKS, which we shot outside and inside!). The first ramp stop had five An-30's and a couple of An-26's, with a line-up of five Yak-40's. Three of the An-30's were An-30D 'Siberian' aircraft, with new radar and additional fuel tank modifications (of which only six were produced): RA-30053 of Lukiaviatrans (all yellow/purple), RA-30063 of Novosibirsk Avia (in ex Aeroflot Polar colours) and RA-30075 (in old Aeroflot-style colours). The two An-26's were RA-26002 of Avialesookhrana and RA-26521 of '....... Technologies' (i cant read cyrillic!), while the Yak-40's included RA-87828 of RusJet (looking like Frontier Airlines!) and two AIST-M Airclub VIP aircraft, with RA-87953 painted in a very smart colourscheme. Close by was a group of seven Yak-42's, with three of them stripped to bare metal during maintenance, and two others in Elbrus-Avia colours.Then in front of the terminal were three more Yak-40's, including RA-87648 of Yak Air Service (which is said to be the oldest airworthy Yak-40), and a pair of Moskovia Airlines An-12's: RA-12193 & RA-12195, looking very smart and clean (recently painted?).
Next stop was a distant ramp with four IL-76's, all wfu with two of them in bare metal. The other two being RA-76849 of Aviast, and RA-76491 in full Aeroflot colours (although very dirty, with engines removed), which is ex Iraqi AF YI-AKP. Alongside were five An-72/74's, including RA-74001 & RA-74003 in ex Aeroflot Polar colours, RA-74047 of Baltic Construction Company, RA-74052 of Yamal Airlines and ST-GFF (operated by 'Green Flag'?), which was in very good condition. On doing some research on this latter aircraft, there is a link to a UN Security Council report, where it is mentioned to have been involved in breaking an arms embargo in Sudan! Not that unusual for Russian built cargo aircraft in that part of the world! The final stop was a large ramp with two more Yak-40's, a few 'GA' and three of the striking red and black Dexter Aero PC-12 air-taxi's (RA-01501 to RA-01503). Their initial plan to order Russian-built Sokol M-101T's (another was present... looks like a dodgy TBM-700 copy) fell through, instead going for Western built aircraft. Aswell as the PC-12's, they have also ordered twenty Citation Mustangs. And that was Bykovo done, a great start in great weather! So far i hadn't mentioned the weather, which can be very changeable. Day one though was great, as we left and hit the Moscow ring-road for our other airport today, Sheremetyevo (SVO)...
Previously the main airport for Moscow, 'Shery' has lost that spot to Domodedovo, with a lot of the major international carriers moving to DME. Having said that, SVO is still a very busy airport, with a good amount of foreign carriers aswell as a lot of domestic flights. After a quick stop at the technical school on the 'domestic side' of the airport, where only IL-86 RA-86103 and IL-76T RA-76460 are any good for a (half decent) shot, unless you brave being mauled by the huge dog-like beast there over the fence for the Tu-154, IL-62 etc! After passing the very nice Aeroflot IL-18 CCCP-75554, on display over the road from domestic Terminal 1 (which we would later return to shoot), we then proceeded airside for our full ramp tour.
Russian airliners using Shery these days includes Aeroflot A319, A320, A321, B767, IL-96, MD-11F & Tu-154M, Aeroflot Don B737-500 & IL-86, Aeroflot Nord B737-500 & Tu-134, Nordwind B757, Rossiya Tu-154M and Transaero B737-500 & B747's. Aswell as these, the domestic side to the eastern end has a few derelict aircraft (Aeroflot IL-62 & Transaero B737-200), with the Air Bridge Cargo ramp close by with their busy B747F's, and a ramp used by An-72's and IL-76's (RF-) of the Federal Border Guard ('don't photograph').
To the western end are parking areas and hangars for the executive/company aircraft, as well as ramps for the very nice DHL Tu-204C and some airliners which may be out of service (short term or long term). After the domestic side, we drove around airside to the International side with Terminal 2, where we stopped by a taxiway for a while to photograph the movements. And that was the official stuff over for the day, as we then checked in to the very nice Novotel (close to Terminal 2) for the next three nights. However, with a few hours of daylight remaining, it was off into the terminal and up to the restaurant on the fourth floor, which has a good view of the international ramp/taxiway, looking towards the runway (with only 25R in use) and domestic terminal opposite. This was a great place to finish the day off each day, and as well as getting good food and drink, was good protection from the thunderous downpours that often happen around tea-time. Infact, our group pretty much took over the place each day! Back at the hotel, one downside though... the club on the bottom floor is now aircrew only, with no more 'dancing' girls!
DAY 3 MONDAY 17TH AUGUST
Today was to be a bit 'hit and miss', with some bad planning, some bad weather, but still plenty of good aircraft! The group was given different options today, with two coaches taking different people to different places. We had chosen to do the visit to Chakalovskia and head straight back to Shery, while others were also doing Chernoye, Dolgoe Ledovo and Monino. The plan then changed, with those only wanting to do Chakalovskia, also having to do Monino, because of the way the numbers worked out. However (and to cut a long story short), after doing Monino & Chakalovskia, we then had to return to Monino to meet the other coach and take some of that group back to Shery (while the rest went onto Chernoye). This resulted in a lot of wasted time, with the half day at Shery effectively cancelled by the time we got there. Anyway, of the two places we didn't do today... Dolgoe Ledovo is a chopper base, while Chernoye is an An-2 and Mil-2 re-work facility which we have visited previously. The best aircraft present this time being two Cuban An-2's (although just painted yellow with no registrations or titles, and a Cuban flag on the tail). So, not being too concerned about missing out on these, of the two visits we did complete today... Monino Museum and Chakalovskia, can both be described as being incredible and dissapointing (if thats possible!).
The Central Museum of the Air Forces at Monino has an amazing collection of aircraft present, though (maybe not surprisingly) the condition of a lot of them is quite poor. Certainly not all, but enough are so poorly displayed, as to spoil the overall look of the place, with no doubt a lack of funding being the issue. Entry costs total 450 Rubels (200 for entry & 250 for 'camera permit'), with the museum layout giving priority to the military types, whereas the airliners are all 'parked' (mostly in long grass) at the far end in a cordoned-off area. Aircraft types present include an An-8, An-10 (rare pax version of the An-12), An-12, An-22, An-24, IL-12, IL-18, IL-62, Li-2, Tu-104, Tu-114, Tu-124, Tu-144, Yak-40 & Yak-42. In particularly poor condition is the IL-18 (with paintwork totally faded), the Tu-124 has major upper fuselage damage (burnt-out after a fire in 2002, when apparently a group of kids got inside and lit a 'camp fire'!), while the An-22 was retired here after being damaged in 1987 (following a heavy landing at Addis-Ababa). The Tu-144 here made the first operational flight for Aeroflot on 26/12/75, carrying cargo between Moscow & Alma-Ata (thats a glamorous 'freighter'!), before being retired here on 29/2/80 after 320 flights. Also present among the many unusual aircraft, is a Mil-12, the largest helicopter ever produced. Although only two were built, so being another Russian 'white elephant', it was produced using An-22 fuselage sections! As mentioned, we hadn't planned to do Monino, after having done it twice before. However, we hadn't done a 'digital shoot' before, and the weather was dodgy on both previous occasions, so we we didn't mind that we 'had to' do it again. So, we now we have digital shots... though still in crap weather! I don't think there will be a fourth time!
Also from here, some aircraft inbound to nearby Chakalovskia were making reasonably low approaches over the museum, with the following photographed... RA-65991 Tu-134A-3 (with 'stinger' tail) and 12 Red An-12 of the Russian AF, along with '87200' (no prefix) Yak-40 of the Beriev Design Bureau. From here, it was on to Chakalovskia, a major airbase also known as 'Star City', and a real highlight of the trip. Having similarly described Monino, this place could be described as both amazing and frustrating. As mentioned, at other airports we were told 'don't photograph this one and this one'... well, here you are told 'don't photograph any of them, any of them, any of them and any of them'. It's very, very frustrating, but then we knew to expect this after visiting previously. Where to begin? Well, from first entrance to the last stop, for me, the best was visible at the start, close to our entrance gate. Parked among the trees close to the end of the runway are the aircraft tasked with providing an airborne command post platform for the country's political and military leaders in time of major emergency. The Russian equivalent of the USAF's E-4B NEACP (National Emergency Airborne Command Post) aircraft, the Russian AF use the IL-86 for this role, operated by the 8th SPAD/VzPU here. Its not that long ago that these aircraft were unknown to the public outside of Russia, and are still very rarely photographed. Four aircraft were converted for this role: RA-86146 to RA-86149 (with RA-86147 not present today... see later!), and have been variously described as an 'IL-80' or 'IL-87'. However, most reliable sources use Ithe designation IL-86VKP 'Maxdome', with the aircraft just having 'IL-86' painted in the usual place (on the nose). The name used is an obvious referral to the huge SATCOM fairing located on top of the forward fuselage, with other major modifications being two large electric generator pods mounted on pylons under the inboard wings, and at the rear, a housing for the VLF trailing wire (similar to the E-4B). Also, in addition to other large blade antennae and canoe-shaped fairings, the aircraft also have a retractable refuelling probe fitted below the cockpit on the left side. Of the four aircraft, two are still painted in old Aeroflot colours, while the other two seem to have been fully modified and painted in a newer scheme. These two have also had all the pax windows removed (as part of the protection against a nuclear explosion), including the portholes in the doors. Infact, all the doors have also been removed with the exception of the forward left and rear right.
Upon entering the base, a member of the security police boarded the coach and watched like a hawk to ensure we were following the strict instruction of no photography, except for the few aircraft that were 'allowed'. As we drove past the 'Maxdomes', visible through the trees, the road then entered airside, passing lines of special Tu-134's (with 'stinger' tails) and IL-18/20/22's, followed by Tu-154's and IL-62's. Frustrating as hell! Aswell as these types, the airfield also has a large amount of An-12, An-24, An-26, An-72 and IL-76's. There was also a few Mil-8's present, along with a line of fighters in the distance, and further still, at the other end of the runway, an active An-22 parked-up! More frustration! However, we could then see a Tu-154 and an IL-62 were getting ready to leave, so hoped that we could maybe get some take off shots, which thankfully we were then able to do (after driving around the other side of the airfield where we could get off the coach), with the IL-62 departing for a spot of circuit-bashing! Driving around the end of the runway towards the ramps where we could shoot, the road passes VERY close to the ramp with the 'Maxdomes'. With frustration now at boiling point, and the guard in 'ultra-alert' mode, you just have to accept the fact that you 'ain't gonna got any shots'! Driving past these rare as hell aircraft, perfect for a shot in the sun, we could then also see that there were two specially modified IL-76's behind them on the same ramp! These turned out to be the two aircraft also modified to for the same 'Maxdome' mission, RA-76450 and RA-76451. These have the designation IL-76VKP (or IL-82), and have similarly huge fairings on top of the forward fuselage, aswell as the nose windows blanked out. It's not known if these are still in service, alongside the 86's, or if the 86's have now replaced them?
Upon reaching the first ramp where we could get off the coach, we were told which aircraft we could photograph, with various Tu-134's and Tu-154's getting worked. These included Tu-134A RA-65927 (ex Gromov Air) in a nice VIP scheme, and very nice Tu-154M/LK-1 RA-85655 of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (which has also been used as an Open Skies mission aircraft). A nice touch on some of the 154's and other types is the application of the unit badge of the 223 Flight Unit (8ADON), which operates most of the transport types here. Also present, at the end of this ramp were IL-22 RA-75901 and IL-18's RA-75478 & RA-75496, with the latter still thought to be active. From this ramp we then drove to another which had a couple of An-12's and three An-72's to shoot, before moving on to the next with more An-72's and IL-76's, including the very nice IL-76MD Flying Hospital RA-86906 in the new colours with a 223FU badge and Red Cross on the tail. From here it was back along other lines of aircraft and back out the way we came in, past engineless IL-86 RA-86112 in Atlant-Soyuz colours, and of course the elusive 'Maxdomes'. However, after tormenting us during two trips to Russia now, who was about to have the last laugh?... see later!
So, from here it was back to Shery (via the unwanted stop at Monino), and straight up to the restaurant for a few shots to finish the day off, with just a few aicraft to mention being photographed... RA-87353 Yak-40 Lukoil-Avia, HL7764 B777-200ER Korean Air and LZ-BOQ B737-500 Air Italy/Bulgaria Air (all white with small logo on nose). The following day was to be our last chance to photograph at Shery, and even though we had booked and paid for another visit, we made a last-minute decision to stay here for the day (as the weather was great), to take landing shots. It turned out to be a fairly good choice, as even if we had decided to miss out on the base visit to Tver, which was one of the main reasons we chose to go on this group tour! Tver is the main base for the amazing Antonov 22, but having been before, we decided to sacrifice it. That, and the fact it's a long six-hour coach trip there and back! As mentioned earlier, today's decision also came after missing out on getting landing shots at Shery yesterday, after wasting so much time on the coach. As it turned out the group that went to Tver had a fairly successfull visit, getting landing shots of an An-22 coming in, and getting inside another. Another very nice aircraft present was an Angolan AF An-72, although it couldn't be photographed, being hidden behind trees! As well as Tver, a few of the group also made another visit, to the helicopter base at Klin.
DAY 4 TUESDAY 18TH AUGUST
After going back to shoot the IL-18 outside Terminal 1, we then headed to the end of the runway to get landing shots of aircraft on finals for Runway 25R. These days, there are no problems with this, with the police obviously used to it now, and don't care. So, we then spent a good seven hours here, in great weather, before heading back to the terminal when the threatening clouds rolled in around 1600. Not including Aeroflot Western built types, highlights from the landing shots were... RA-85832 Tu-154M Rossiya, RA-64024 Tu-204C DHL, N834MH B767-400 Delta, VP-BKP B737-500 Aeroflot Nord, N189DN B767-300 Delta, EP-IBK A310-300 Iran Air, PH-CKB B747-400ERF KLM Cargo, D-ANNC A320 Elite/Blue Wings, RA-85779 Tu-154M Rossiya, RA-85135 Tu-154M Aeroflot, OK-NEP A319 CSA, P4-NAS A321 Air Astana, OH-LXL A320 Finnair, RA-85637 Tu-154M Aeroflot, VQ-BAL B757-200 Nordwind Airlines, TC-JFD B737-800 THY, VP-BIM B747-400ERF Air Bridge Cargo, RA-96008 IL-96 Aeroflot, VQ-BBT B757-200 Nordwind Airlines, VP-BKU B737-500 Aeroflot Nord, EI-DTU B737-500 Transaero, RF-76325 IL-76TD Federal Border Guard (no titles), VP-BVU B737-500 Aeroflot Don, TC-JPH A320 THY, HA-LOP B737-500 Malev, RA-85665 Tu-154M Aeroflot, OK-MEL A319 CSA, VP-BGX B747-300 Transaero, VP-CAE Gulfstream 450 Crocus Group, RA-65052 Tu-134A-3 Aeroflot Nord, RA-85627 Tu-154M Aeroflot, EW-276PJ CRJ-200ER Belavia, RA-85643 Tu-154M Aeroflot, RA-85769 Tu-154M Rossiya, SX-BKG B737-400 Olympic, VP-BYU B737-500 Aeroflot Don, PH-BXC B737-800 KLM, YL-BBQ B737-500 Air Baltic, VP-BRN B737-500 Aeroflot Nord, RA-85644 Tu-154M Aeroflot, F-GRXM A319 Air France, VP-BZC Gulfstream 550, VQ-BAK B757-200 Nordwind Airlines, VQ-BDQ MD-11F Aeroflot Cargo and RA-86141 IL-86 Aeroflot Don. Then back at the terminal, best of the aircraft photographed included RF-26272 An-26 Federal Border Guard (no titles), RA-46692 An-24RV UTAir Express (overall pale blue), B-6089 A330-200 Hainan Airlines and RA-86113 IL-86 Aeroflot Don. It was then back to the Novotel for the final night, with MAKS tomorrow...
DAY 5 WEDNESDAY 19TH AUGUST
After checking out of the Novotel at Sheremetyevo, we set off in plenty of time to reach the airshow by opening time at 10am. Even though today was a trade-day (so the crowds would not be so bad), it was still better to be early rather than risk getting caught up, plus there was also the Moscow ring-road to deal with, which can be a nightmare. As it turned out, we entered the show at 10am with modest crowds, and after filling out a registration form (and given a trade day pass) we then proceeded through a security check, which (for some) involved being asked to drink a small amount of any liquids which were being taken in! I guess to ensure no one was taking in liquid explosive (or maybe vodka?)! Prior to going through the gates though, we had just had the chance to photograph one of the stars of the day, which was'nt part of the show. Our coach had used the 'VIP' entrance at the far end of the airfield, and drove through a ramp containing a few very nice aircraft. As well as a few IL-76's, an early IL-96 and the first IL-114 built, there were two IL-38SD's. Wow!
Russian Navy IL-38SD 19 Red was present here, along with Indian Navy IN306/DAB. These aircraft were known to be present, with well publicised problems. The Indian Navy got their first three IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft back in the Seventies, with a further two arriving in 1983 (the five aircraft being IN301 to IN305), and are operated by INAS315 'Winged Stallions' at INS Hansa, Dabolim, Goa (hence the 'DAB' on the fin). In 2002, a pair (IN302 & IN304) collided over Dabolim while performing an airshow routine, killing all 12 onboard. Russia then donated two more aircraft (free of charge), IN306 and IN307, to replace the crashed aircraft. In 2001, an upgrade contract was signed to modify the aircraft to IL-38SD (Sea Dragon) standard, with a modification being the large ESM/ELINT 'pod' held above the cockpit on struts. A really bizzare looking bit of kit, the Indian aircraft differ from Russian Navy IL-38SD's by having three struts, compared to the 'lattice-structure' of eight struts on the Russian aircraft. Problems arose though when the Indian Navy expressed unhappiness with the upgraded aircraft's performance during tests (when it failed to spot a submarine). Contract payments were then suspended until further improvements and tests were carried out, even though the Russian side say there was nothing wrong with the aircraft, and it performed as stipulated in the original contract. However, the Indian's were still not happy and refused to take delivery, resulting in the aircraft involved being parked-up in Russia for an extended time. Subsequently, a new target-finding system dubbed 'Morskoy Zmey' is being installed which may result in all the aircraft being completed and accepted, even though today there are still two aircraft parked at Zhukovsky (the other being in a hangar somewhere). In the meantime of course, the Indian Navy, which operates the IL-38 alongside the Tu-142 Bear in the Maritime Patrol role, have now ordered eight Boeing P-8I Poseidon aircraft for this mission.
Russia's showcase airshow 'MAKS' is held every two years, and this years probably couldn't be called a 'classic'. However, there was still more than enough to keep most enthusiasts happy, with several particularly nice aircraft present. As well as an early display by water-bomber Beriev BE-200ES RA-32768, just after we entered the show gates, a nice Antonov 32 also departed (with a dramatic take-off), '48119' of the Russian Aircraft Corporation. Highlights then of the static and flying aircraft photographed then included... RF-32767 BE-200ES MChS Russia, RF-32780 Mil-8MTV-1 MChS Russia, UR-NTK An-70 Antonov Design Bureau, '88164' Yak-40, YL-KSH/1 & YL-KSS/3 L-39 'Baltic Bees', RF-00509 Mil-2 ROSTO, RA-46395 An-24B Letnye Proverki I Sistemy (Navaids Check Agency), RA-41252 An-140-100 Yakutia, RF-32821 Mil-26T MChS Russia and 07 Yellow Mil-26 Russian AF. Then a real highlight, RA-09309 An-22A Russian AF (painted in a camouflage scheme, Wow!), along with 10 Red Tu-160 Russian AF ('Nikolay Kuznetsov'), 21 Red Tu-95MS Russian AF ('Samara'), 50 Red Beriev A-50 Russian AF (IL-76 AWACS), RA-91003 IL-114LL RADAR MMS Design Bureau, RA-78854 IL-76MD-90 Russian AF (re-engined with PS-90A-76 turbofans), RA-96101 IL-96-400T Polet Flight (freighter), RA-82041 An-124-100 Russian AF and CCCP-77115 Tu-144D Aeroflot. Certainly the most popular exhibit in the static, this was final '144 produced (which never went into service with Aeroflot), still looking mint after being restored and re-painted just prior to MAKS 2007. Other static included '61701' An-148-100B Rossiya, VQ-BCL EMB-120RT Region Avia, VP-BMN CRJ-200ER Air Volga, '55204' M-55 Geophysica Myasichchev Design Bureau (Russian U-2ski), '85712' Tu-154M (all white with VIP interior), N390EU Premier 1A Hawker Beechcraft Corp, N60125 Beech 350 Hawker Beechcraft Corp, OK-UGM Let-410UVP-E20, RF-43885 Mil-8AMT Russian Customs, RA-22477 Mil-171 (VIP interior) and 804 Mig-29KUB Indian Navy, at the end of a line-up of Russian AF helicopters & fighters.
Flying aircraft included CSX62219/RS-50 C-27J Italian AF RSV, '94005' Tu-334-100 Tupolev Design Bureau (second prototype), '97003' Sukhoi Superjet 100-95 Sukhoi Design Bureau, RA-06100 Mil-8T Russian AF and RF-32820 Mil-8MT MChS Russia. This was involved in an interesting display, picking up an Audi Q7 with a hoist in front of the crowd and plonking it down next to a taxiway. The Q7 then drove off to meet the Superjet after its flying display, to tow it back in off the runway! Audi was a major sponsor of the show, hence their participation with the flying display!
Zhukovsky is of course famous for being a main test and research facility, with many interesting and 'sensitive' aircraft present, some of which may be visible during MAKS. On the opposite side of the runway are hangars and parking areas, with more hangars and ramps behind the static line. As well as those that operate from here or are present for testing, some aircraft visible have been taken out of service, with others present for maintenance or upgrade etc. These include a load of 'derelict' Tu-204's, including RA-64001 (marked as a 'Tu-234'), and the odd-ball Tu-155 CCCP-85035, a converted Tu-154 powered by hydrogen and LNG, as well as Tu-144LL RA-77114 of the Tupolev Design Bureau. This was used in a join test program by Tupolev, NASA and Boeing for new SST research. Re-fitted with Tu-160 engines and painted in a new colour scheme, it flew 26 times between 1996 and 1999, before making the final ever Tu-144 flight on 14/4/99. It has been parked here since, and not looking too good, although there are plans to try and preserve it (as with '77115). Finally, also seen (by some) was the secretive Mig 1.44 prototype. Some people got distant shots (though i can't recall the serial) of this advanced fighter, which has been described as like a Russian version of the F-22 Raptor. Quite a large aircraft, with forward canards, it apparently uses 'Plasma' stealth technology. Now parked up outside with a cover over the front end, the project may have been cancelled? And that was the MAKS done... all in all a good show, though the flying display was a bit 'sparse' (but then it was a trade day), as we left and headed to Domodedovo, where we would spend our final four nights. After checking (back) in to the AirHotel, we spent the rest of the day on the outside balcony of the top 9th Floor, which gives good views of departing traffic, off Runway 32R, with highlights... RA-65577 Tu-134A-3 Izhavia, RA-87247 Yak-40 Bugulma Air Enterprise, EW-253PA B737-500 Belavia, RA-42336 Yak-42D Kuban Airlines, RA-85743 Tu-154M Moskovia (Gromov Air), SU-GBG A320 Egyptair (new colours), RA-11868 An-12BP Atran Aviatrans Cargo (based here, operates regular mail flights), RA-85769 Tu-154M Rossiya, UR-42383 Yak-42D Donbassaero, RA-85796 Tu-154M UTAir, RA-46505 An-24RV Mordovia Air (basic ex Aeroflot, no titles), RA-42326 Yak-42D Sar Avia (Saratov Airlines), RA-87849 Yak-40K Bugulma Air Enterprise and RA-46690 An-24RV Polet Flight.
DAY 6 THURSDAY 20TH AUGUST
Today we were to do both Domo' and Vnukovo, with our first of two planned airside visits at Domo. This large airport certainly has a lot of aircraft present, and far too many to detail! After a security check and being given an airside pass, we boarded a coach which was to take us to various points around the airfield. First stop was the main hangar area and ramps with various IL-76's, including four MChS Russia aircraft. Also present were RA-86559 IL-62M of the Russian Government (a WEF Zurich visitor earlier this year), and one of the many Domodedovo Airlines IL-62's that are now PWFU here, after the last major operator of the '62 ceased operations in October 2008. These large ramps are also used by Transaero for their B747's, with VP-BGU, VP-BGY & VP-BPX present at the time. From here, landing traffic vacating Runway 32L passes very close, and we managed to hang around for a short while to shoot some of this stuff, including RA-73008 B757-200 Vim Airlines, UR-DNL ERJ-145EU Dniproavia, 4K-AZ04 A319 Azerbaijan Airlines and UR-WRG ERJ-195 Wind Rose Aviation, which is ex Nas Air and has a nice image of the Sophia Church in Kiev on the left side. As well as landers, '32L is also used by 'heavies' for departure (being slightly longer than '32R), with another of the busy Transaero B747's taking off, -400 VP-BKL (which is ex ZS-SAK). From here, we then spent some time parked close to Runway 32R to get some rotation shots, which included Ural Airlines IL-86 RA-86078 and Tu-154B-2 RA-85508... both aircraft types with not much time left in service.
Then, from here it was to the large 'storage' area, to photograph the twenty-odd aircraft which are almost certain never to fly again. Most are 'dumped' on the grass with engines removed, and include Tu-154's of Gromov Air, Moskovia, Magadan Airlines & Air Union, Tu-134B-3 RA-65694 of Air Union, IL-86 RA-86117 of Armenian Airlines and two IL-18's... RA-75834 of Astair and UN-75111 ex GVG Airlines. The most numerous type though are IL-62's, of Alpha Airlines, Domodedovo Airlines, Magadan Airlines and Airstars, aswell as the very interesting VIP Libyan registered aircraft 5A-DKT. This has an 'interesting' history, reportedly operated for the Libyan Government and then 'Jetline International', it had been chartered by other African leaders and involved in other 'activities' with various registrations (EL-ALM and 3C-QQR), before ending up here three years ago. Still intact with engines and parked on hard surface, who knows, there may be more to come? Infact, i have 'previous' with this aircraft, photographing and getting inside it at Ras Al Khaimah on my first visit to the UAE. Making our way out, a very nice 'Western' aircraft to stop and shoot was Tajikistan registered EY-777 B737-800 of Somon Air. And that was it, the first Domo' ramp tour complete, mostly in overcast conditions, though the sun did pop out now and again, as we left and headed for Moscow's third airport...
Vnukovo is also still a very good place to see Russian built types (for now), being mostly used for domestic serivces. The airport is also noteable as being the base for Rosiya - the Russian State Transport Company (Government) fleet of transport aircraft, a large amount of executive & company aircraft, and the VARZ400 Rework maintenance facility. On arrival, first thing seen, displayed next to the main highway, is ex-Aeroflot Tu-104B 'CCCP-L5412'. Really CCCP-42507, it is painted with 'Vnukovo' titles (in crylic), and was put on display after the original 'monument', also painted as 'CCCP-L5412' (really CCCP-42450) was scrapped in 2004.
The plan today was to just hang around the landing end, and we parked at a pull-in by an old Police Station not far from the terminal. I say 'old' police station, as after photographing the first arrival we saw, the police then turned up and shifted us! After speaking with our Russian guide, they informed us that we could take photographs, but would have to move further away from the airport, and that there was a petrol station round the corner which was OK. So, after the ten minute walk back out of the airport (passed the Tu-104), we found the said petrol station, where we then stayed for the next few hours taking landing shots, which was fine. As well as the busy fleet of UTAir, which is the main operator here, with Tu-134, Tu-154, B737-500 and ATR-72's, other aircraft then photographed included... VQ-BCF B757-200 Yakutia, D-CATE Cessna 680 Jetline, LX-SVW Falcon 900DX Global Jet, 9H-AFB Learjet 60 Europe Executive Jet Services, VP-BST CL604 Norasia Schiffahrts GmbH, OY-NAD CL850 ExecuJet Scandanavia, VP-BFY A320 Vladivostok Air, RA-85778 Tu-154M Gazpromavia, EK32005 A320 Armavia, RA-86125 IL-86 Atlant-Soyuz, VP-BET B737-500 Sky Express, D-BAVA Challenger 300 (ex M-TAGB), RA-87971 Yak-40 Rossiya, RA-85457 Tu-154B-2 KMV, VP-BHA B737-500 Sky Express, RA-85837 Tu-154M Vladivostok Air, RA-42375 Yak-42D Kuban Airlines, VP-BBL B737-300 Atlant-Soyuz (new colours) and RA-26191 An-24B of TsSKB-Progress.
And that was the days business done... back to Domo for the last hour or two of daylight and something to eat and drink in the terminal. Here, on the second floor we were able to photograph through the windows, and had been given an official letter to authorize this (in case we got pulled by any cops). The letter was also supposed to authorize photography from the car park to the left of the terminal, though some people were still getting hassle here. Infact, photography through the windows, although giving a great view over part of the ramp, was not ideal, with a tint in the glass and reflections to deal with, so we didn't bother much from here. Outside was better, with the fence around the car park overlooking another part of the passenger ramp, as well as the Atran An-12 ramp, with take-off shots on '32R quite close. We had a few options for the next day, which was kind of a 'free day'... we thought about staying at Domo, and try and find a spot around the end of the main landing runway. We also considered hiring a car and going back to Vnukovo for landing shots (though when we asked about a hire car in the terminal, were told they didn't have any!), but in the end took the option of going back to MAKS...
DAY 7 FRIDAY 21ST AUGUST
The friday at the airshow was a semi-public day, so obviously the crowds were bigger, though we got inside early enough (and again through our 'VIP entrance') to avoid getting caught up in it. On entrance, more shots the two IL-38SD's, and after getting into the show, we had a fairly relaxed day, after doing all the hard work, photographing everything on our first visit. Besides, today was mostly overcast, so we were glad to have shot everything in the sun a few days earlier. Plus, a few aircraft had actually left, including the An-70 and An-148. After walking through the static, the flightline at the end had a welcome new visitor, 02 Blue An-24 Russian AF. After shooting this, as we had spare time, we then decided to see if we could get any of the aircraft parked on the ramps close to the hangars at that end, actually outside the show. This meant exiting the show along this small road being used as a VIP entrance, which we clarified with the police there, that it would be OK to go out and return the same way. After shooting the half dozen or so aircraft there (nice stuff), we then tried to walk back in... and guess what! 'Nyet'! A different cop, who didn't speak english, was trying to tell us that we had to go around and join the main public queue (which by then was about 10,000 people!), while we were trying to tell him that our tickets had already had the stub removed, so we couldn't use them again anyway! In the end, another cop who spoke broken-english, walked us around to the public entrance and took us in a side gate... phew! The aircraft that almost led us to disaster... RA-88306 Yak-40 Jet Air Group, 3X-GDR An-12 Don Avia Cargo, RA-76352 IL-76TD Aviacon Zitotrans, and Tu-134's RA-65783 Aeroflot, RA-65907 Alrosa-Avia, RA-65908 Rus Air and RA-65790 Jet Air Group. Well worth the hassle!
So, back into the show, we headed to the crowdline for the flying display. As it was a public day, we were really hoping this would be much improved compared to wednesdays'. However, and to be honest, it was terrible! Beriev BE-200ES RA-32768 again started the show with an impressive drop of red, white & blue fire-retardant, but from then on it was downhill! Apart from a couple of the SU-27 teams, it was dis-jointed with long gaps, only to be filled with light aircraft and homebuild's etc. No flypasts or displays by front-line Russian AF fighters and bombers etc as we had hoped for, though credit to the Russian Knights, who displayed with their four remaining aircraft, after two had collided a few days before the show during practice, with one pilot being killed when his chute didn't open. As we gave up and went looking for some grub, we then probably missed the best part of the flying display... the Sukhoi Superjet in formation with two SU-27's and two Mig-29's! Typical! That was it then, one day to go, with ramp tours planned for Vnukovo and Domodedovo...
DAY 8 SATURDAY 22ND AUGUST
Back at Vnukovo, they were landing from the opposite end to our previous visit, and as we had a minibus (as well as the main coach), a group of 'shooters' left the 'spotters' behind and drove around to the other end of the airfield to find a good spot for landing shots. Although overcast, we then spent a couple of hours there and got a reasonable amount of landing traffic, before we then left to meet our mid-day appointment at the VARZ400 Rework facility. After speaking with somebody from another tour group, who had already done the ramp tour at VARZ' we knew we were in for a real treat! But would we manage to photograph it?! Remember all the fuss about the Russian AF IL-86VKP 'Maxdome' aircraft at Chakalovskia?! Well, the missing aircraft, RA-86147 was here, having some work done, and was sat on the ramp! OMG! As the coach stopped on the ramp, people were of course getting shots of it through the windows, before we were inevitably told 'no photographs of that' when we got off! So, as the group spread out and walked around the ramp, photographing the other half-dozen aircraft there, the security were watching us closely to make sure no cameras were pointing towards the 'Maxdome'. Of course, they couldn't watch everybody all the time, and as there was various places in between aircraft and vehicles etc where they couldn't see you, lets just say, i'm sure most people got ALL the shots they wanted! In total, the VARZ ramps also contained eight Tu-154's (including Polish AF 102), with two Atlant-Soyuz IL-86's (one outside), two Yak-42's, IL-76TD RA-76489 Aram Air (ex EP-RAM), Tu-204C RA-64008 and EMB-120RT RA-02854 of Atlant-Soyuz. A fantastic visit then, with a real gem, before on to Domo, for the final airside visit of the tour...
As with the previous visit, we followed a similar pattern of driving around the various ramps and stopping to get take off shots etc. Also, as it was sunny this time, we again visited the main 'storage' area and 'did it all again', before returning to the ramp that we couldn't do on the first visit, as we didn't have a 'Follow-Me' car. This ramp was like a short-long term parking area, with some aircraft WFU, and contained a good selection, including Transaero B747-200 VP-BQA, three Domodedovo Airlines IL-96's, Air Union B737-300 EI-DNT, Russian Government IL-62 RA-86559, ex Tatartstan IL-86 RA-86142, a Kras Air B767 with no reg (or engines) along with various Tu-154's. While out on the active ramps, highlights included the only active IL-62 to be photographed on the tour, RA-86570 of the MChS Russia, along with RA-85828 Tu-154M Daghestan Airlines, A6-EIJ A320 Etihad, 4K-727 Tu-154M Turan Air, RA-64011 & RA-64017 Tu-204's of ATU, RA-64509 Tu-214 Transaero, VQ-BBN & VQ-BDC B737's of Tatarstan Aircompany, RA-88188 Yak-40 Severstal, RA-42382 Yak-42D Volga Avia Express, UR-42383 Yak-42D Donbassaero and 40-AOA ERJ-195 Montenegro Airlines. Finally, over on the Atran Aviast Air ramp, An-12's included RA-11756 (wfu?) and RA-93913.
And that was the tour pretty much over, with one final night in the hotel and everybody leaving the following day, on various flights. That night, after being treated to the delights of Russian aircraft for the last week, a few of us decided to sample the other delights of Moscow, and headed into the city! This ended up walking around Red Square, which looks amazing at night, before checking out the nightlife at several bars and clubs. After an 'interesting' night, a few of the group had gone their own way and didn't get back to the hotel until the next morning, but enough said! And so, as our departure day arrived, Sunday 23rd August, Ian & Craig were again flying Austrian Airlines via Vienna to get home, whereas i was on the Emirates flight a few hours later. A couple of final aircraft photographed as we waited for our flights, included a nice pair of Tupolev's to finish the trip off... RA-65086 Tu-134A-3 Volga-Aviaexpress and RA-85756 Tu-154M Daghestan Airlines. And that was it, as i boarded Emirates flight EK134, departing at 1800 for Dubai on a B777-300ER, arriving at 2300 and connecting onto EK835 to Bahrain, off at 0230 and in at 0245 on an A330-200. All in all a very good trip, with the inevitable ups and downs that Russia especially always seems to provide! Dos Vedanya comrades.