Saturday 12th August 2017
A chance to visit Moscow for the first time in five years saw me travelling up to Heathrow on Friday 11th. Southern rail did their best to delay me; two trespassers (in two different locations) meant a four hour trip via London. I had decided to stay at the new Premier Inn which is attached by a very long tube to T4. This was handy as we were flying Aeroflot from that terminal on the Saturday morning. Before then though, I had the pleasure of a new automatic hotel check-in which entailed about 10 machines with two or three staff in attendance to assist. Can't they stand behind the counter and do the job! The automatic check-in also means no choice of room, but thankfully my keen assistant managed to change my room to the top floor (7th) which gave me a good view of the 27L threshold and a view across to the 27R threshold. Floors 6 and 7 are ideal, but 4 and 5 do give views. Room numbers required are in the range of 758-763, 765-789 odd only, 791-798 inc. If you don't get said room with a view, then all is not lost as the main stairwell has good windows overlooking the whole airport, plus there are windows which look out on the westerly approach.
According to the staff you can request a specific type of room when booking but I never saw that bit. The hotel had just opened this summer and was knocking out rooms for £30, so it seemed worth a try. The restaurant/bar was adequate, better than wandering back into T4 which was a 7 minute walk down the umbilical cord. Breakfast was also good, a "eat as much as you want" affair but the staff were completely confused when I said they should have trays to put the plates/glasses etc on. The food was quite divorced from the seating area so you ended up making two or three journeys (at least!) The other thing which confused them was when I pointed out the error in a sign which said the fire bell would be tested on Mondays at 12.30 noon. I suspect it's not been corrected yet.
The Friday evening turned out to be a bonanza of numbers either side of a nice lamb curry, noted were A320s SE-ROC SAS, D-AEWN/T Eurowings, D-AIUZ Lufthansa, CRJ EI-FPG SAS, C series HB-JBF/JCB Swiss, B787 C-FPQB Air Canada, B737 SU-GEH Egyptair, B777s B-1429 Air China and B-7367 China Eastern. The morning haul was a bit more like usual, just A320 D-AEWW Eurowings. I wasn't the only Moscow traveller to use the hotel that night, and by the morning I had "bumped" into most of the group with just a few new faces to me. A321 VQ-BEG got us to Moscow Sheremetyevo in three hours and twenty seven minutes, decent service on board although having wine but no beer seemed a tad odd. We landed at 1638 local, so a few hours of daylight remained to make some headway into the ever expanding Aeroflot fleet.
We were staying the whole week at the Radisson Blu hotel which sits over terminal E, we arrived into terminal D, but a short walk soon got us to reception where the ever reliable Olga awaited. Describing the room layout at this hotel is tricky; no rooms look directly at the airport runway, but some (20%) look down the arrival/departure tracks. Obviously you need a high room as well, probably 6 and above. Olga said she had a very nice view of the building site, it suited her fine! The hotel does have a roof top terrace including bar and restaurant, normal hours are 5pm - 2am. We managed to get access earlier on the following day.
There is a lot of building work going on here and I think some parts of the terminal are new additions. The domestic on the opposite side is now shut, although the planes are still over there, so buses take you over there. Going through terminal E brings you to terminal F where the "secret" restaurant is still going on floor 4. To reach it go past TGI Friday, up in the lift to floor 5 and walk down, or up to floor 3 and walk up! Yes, really. The lift doesn't call at floor 4, although confusingly, you can call it on 4 and go up or down! Moving on swiftly, the view from here is very good, close to the runways and looking over towards the domestic planes plus any visiting biz/cargo. The food and drink are also competitively priced, but don't try the schnitzel is my advice.
Being the first day here it was the usual headless chicken time, but here are some of the highlights; B737s VQ-BDC/BUD, VP-BPY/BYW Nordwind, B-5761 China Southern, A321 VP-BHN Nordwind, P4-NAS Air Astana, A330s HL8026 KAL, B-8383 Air China, B-8016 Hainan, B-6099 China Eastern, B-8019 Capitol, B-5929 Sichuan, VP-BYU Nordwind, il-76s 7T-WIP, RF-76325/6/7 FSB, Tu-204 RA-64024 DHL, B767 JU-1021 Mongolian, A320 P4-KBE Air Astana, An-72s RF-72011/7. Chall 300 CS-TFV, Globals P4-GMS, OE-INL, Legacies P4-KUL, RA-02858, Challenger VP-CLZ, F900EX VP-CLO, Hawker RA-02808, The Aeroflot fleet is also based entirely here it seems, so I started to "tick" them all off to see how many we would actually see over the week.
Today was a rest day of sorts, so after a rather large breakfast and a short while viewing from the room, I debunked to the 4th floor restaurant in terminal F, noted were A320 EP-IEB Iran Air, the rest were all Aeroflot bar a handful of movements. These included B747S VQ-BHE, VQ-BVR ABC and A330 VP-BYC Nordwind. We then returned to the Radisson hotel where the roof terrace was opened early for our convenience. Although the view is very good you are in full sunlight, so after an hour or so we made a diplomatic retreat to the cafe in terminal F. Some of the late afternoon/evening treats included B777F HL8226 KAL, B747F G-CLAA Cargologic, A319 OK-NEO/PET CSA, A320 LY-SPC Ellinair, A330 B-6538 China Eastern, B777 VP-BJF Nordwind, B737 OK-TSR Smartwings, A330s B-5972 Hainan, B-8358 China Southern, C Series 300 YL-CSA Baltic, BBJ P4-AFK, Mil 17 RA-25777, Gulfstream RA-10203, Challenger OE-IMM, Hawker VP-CDE, CJ2 T7-APP and Global M-HAWK. Most of the non Aeroflot flights are daily and over the week quite a few repeated. Once it was dark we debunked into the adjoining terminal where we devoured some burgers and chips from JD burgers.
A few early movements were noted from the room either side of breakfast, A320 TC-ONJ Onur, B737 CN-ROJ RAM, B747 G-CLBA Cargologic and visible on the biz ramp Global M-IGWT. The breakfast service was one of those annoying ones where there were far too many "clearer-ups" who would have your plate and cutlery away in seconds. We departed the hotel at 0830 for Domededovo, the Moscow traffic was busy as usual. Our ramp tour here had been cancelled as had our ones at Sheremetyeveo and Vnukovo. There is also a very large amount of construction work going on. To make matters worse there are no landside views either so our options were very limited.
We stopped at a service area first which includes MacDonalds, and from nearby we could monitor arrivals. Most were readable, but some required a flight tracker back up. Obviously MacDs has free internet access even in Russia, but a group of 30 odd can't really stay there all day. From a location down the road we noted B737 EX-37801, P4-TAJ Somon, EW-294PA Belavia and SJ100s RA-89071 Yamal, RA-89077 Irline. The main movements here are Globus/S7 with Ural and Yamal also plentiful.. Then they changed ends which made it much more difficult, so time to move on. With another group having been here a few weeks earlier, we knew of just one suitable location and that in itself wasn't great but it would have to do.
One road goes past the end of the runway with an access road for construction vehicles, the coach dropped us off and we went on foot down this access road to a point where we were along side one runway with a view of movements on the other. There are large heaps of construction materials on the airfield so the views were not great! You also needed flight trackers to get any of the movements on the far runway. Having said all that we spent 3 or 4 hours along this very hot and dusty road, but we did get a few numbers; Excluding the afore-mentioned airlines we noted A320s UK32017 Uzbekistan, SX-DGV Aegean, ER-00001 Fly One, A9C-AN Gulf Air, Tu-154 RA-85684 Alrosa, B757 EZ-A011 Turkmenistan, B767 VP-BUX Azur, A321 A7-ADV Qatar, A6-AED Etihad, CRJs VQ-BFF/BNE Rusline, VQ-BOR UT Aero, B737 EI-FNU Meridiana, LY-AZV SCAT, EI-FCH Alrosa (seemed popular!) E190s VQ-BRX Saratov, Tu-204 RA-64017 Red Wings, A380 A6-EOP Emirates, B787 JA838J JAL, B777 HS-TJR Thai, A330 B-5971 Lucky Air, B757 RA-73017 VIM and Tu-214 RA-64516 Russia State.
It was then back to SVO for a look from the Radisson terrace, again a rush of Chinese liners were seen including A330 B-8426 China Southern, B-6122 China Eastern and B737 B-1748 China Southern (this flight is from Urumqi). Also noted were B777 CS-TQX Ceiba, A330 HL8002 KAL, B737F VP-BCJ ABC, PC-12 RA-01507, Gulf OE-LAI and Challenger 350 9H-VFA.
Today we had another 0830 departure, this time to Vnukovo. Thankfully the traffic was behaving itself this morning and Olga kept us interested in the coach with some more Russian history. We stopped just short of the Tu-104 CCCP-L5412 on a plinth where there is a petrol/service station and from here we could read off departures which thundered out at a fairly low level. Apart from the usual airliners here, UTAir, Pobeda and Rossiya we were treated to firstly SJ100 RA-89040, followed by IL-96 RA-96023. Also of note were Cit 560 YU-PZM, E190 4L-TGU Georgian Airways (nice to see in daylight!) and A319 OE-LJG. After about 45 minutes they changed runways and this location was not much use anymore. We then followed the perimeter to a known location - the motorway bridge, from here you can monitor movements and get a good view of the main biz ramp. The coach parked up on the opposite side of the main road, where there is a small side road and cafe. Most of the group debunked over the bridge where we found two Japanese lads photographing from the bridge. I don't think they were too amused to be disturbed by 30 odd spotters. From the bridge we could read off most of the biz on the ramp, plus a few Tupolev's left behind. As far as I know the rework business here has now shut. Some of these biz are regulars to the UK shores, but here are some of those logged; Gulfstreams 9H-LZM, OE-IIE, T7-ZZZ, N550PM, Globals SP-ZAK, 9H-PVL, CS-GLF, TC-KRM, 9H-TOR, OE-IVG, OE-LAA, OE-IBC, Legacies D-BEER, HB-JFL, VP-BGV, M-OLEG, VP-BGL, OK-SLN, D-ADCP, RA-02777, CRJs LY-VTA, 9H-YOU, LY-ZAB, Falcon 7X N887X, LX-LMF, Challengers OE-LDN, P4-AAG, 9H-VFI, F900 P4-RMA, 9H-VFG, 9H-JGR, Hawker LY-LTA, CJ2 9H-ZRH, A319 D-ALXX, B400 ES-NXT, Chall 300s RA-67224, LX-AVT, OY-SPB, G150 N162RU, A318 M-HHHH, Cit 560s D-CGAA.
A number of the Transaero fleet lie dormant, plus left behind in the rework area are Tu-154 RA-85740 and An-12 RA-11025 amongst others. A few "Russian built biz" were also noted - Tu-134s RA-65700, RA-65726, RA-65727, RA-65905, Yak 40 RA-87227, Yak 42 RA-42423, SJ100s RA-89019/31 Gazpromavia. We spotted all afternoon from this location, some movements of interest included A330s TC-JIT/P/O/L/S and B737s TC-JVL/JGO THY. I guess these may have filled the void left by Transaero on bucket and spade flights to Turkish resorts. Other liners included A310 EP-MNO Mahan, A330s EI-FNX/FSF I-Fly, B737 A6-FDQ Fly Dubai, A340 M-IABU (in hangar) and B737F VP-BCK/VQ-BVF ABC,
The other aircraft of interest here are the Russia State fleet (VIP aircraft) but needless to say these are not very easy to get, however multiple telescopes (tubes as called by Olga) and cameras do help when you stop briefly in the coach. Noted were Il-96s RA-96018/20/22, Tu-154s RA-85084/85843, Tu-134 RA-65979, TU-204s RA-64057/58, Tu-214s RA-64523/516/522/505/524/506/517, Il-62 RA-86540, An-148s 61719/723/727/720/716 and Il-96 RA-96104. We then left for the hotel, taking the scenic route through town which meant we got stuck in traffic, but on the flip side we did stop and look at a blue Tu-134 - RA-65694. Back at SVO it was a quick visit to the terrace on more than one occasion, this time netting SJ100s RA-89015/41/42, B737s B-7971 China Southern, 7T-VKS Air Algerie, A320 P4-KBH Air Astana, Gulfstreams M-BHBH, M-RZDC, Chall 300 RA-67250 and CRJ 9H-ILA.
Today was a slightly less hectic day. We were away again at 0830 to the very quiet airfield of Myachkovo. To say there wasn't much going on or much about is an understatement, but it was nice to get a free ramp tour. The first things seen on the ramp were two Mil helicopters - RF-32832/32782 and a Kamov - RF-32801. We were then escorted along a line up of L-29s which were in a rather poor state; I think they were for spares only. An An-2 RA-07326 hid along side a hangar which we were allowed to look into. We then drove across to the main GA area where an assortment of pilots and mechanics viewed us with some curiosity. Apart from a WFU An-30 RA-30047 the most interesting aircraft here for me were two amphibians - exact details still unknown. They were registered RA-1377G and RA-1417G, built in Samara, twin tailed and smaller than a Goose/Mallard. We had a pilot showing us around but he was none the wiser about their make/model. A derelict An-2 RA-32314 was also noted as we departed the airfield. Just down the road from the airfield in Turavskaya St was a small convenience store with An-30 RA-30043 on the roof!
Next stop today was the Monino Museum which despite reports that say it may close this year, now seems to be going upwards. They've got a proper entrance area with a kiosk for paying and a gift shop where you can buy all sorts of tat. Two hangars with older delicate aircraft are now open; we were shown around one of them by the museum curator who gave us some interesting background facts. Once we'd listened to our curator, we were then let loose into the main outdoor area. I have been here before, but I got the impression that they've spent quite a lot of time and resources on not only the aircraft but the grounds and signage etc. There is still a man with a whistle who quickly tells you off if you stray into "non-public" areas. I can't imagine why anyone would do that. There are probably 130 aircraft here all in all and some of the early jet bombers are truly amazing to see.
We wandered around for a few hours, everything was very quiet. A bonus to visiting this museum is that it's located very close to Chkalovsky which has many interesting and special aircraft. Although there is no guarantee to seeing anything flying in or out, it would be unusual to not see anything. Luckily we were treated to a very fine stream of departures. First up was Tu-134 RF- 65992, then an Il-76 RF-78833, next Il-62 RA-86496 and last but not least a cave monster (Tu-154) RA-85586. As we drove away we also saw flying IL-62 RA-86539 and Tu-154 RA-85559. A quick stop in a town called Zarye found Mig-21 - 27 Red up a pole.
Last call of the day was Chernoye where they didn't seem to want us arriving before 4.30pm, here are a sea of An-2s and Mil-2s. There are about seventy or eighty An-2s here, some are just fuselages, a handful are derelict, but there are also some complete ones, plus they have a hangar/factory line where they are working on others. The mil -2s are a similar story but they are quite closely packed together and many of both types are well buried in long grass. One of the problems is that many still wear their old registrations, some wear two or occasionally three numbers, and most have con numbers somewhere. A lesser problem is that Chernoye like most places in Russia employs rather vicious dogs in a security role. These are usually on a very long chain and the name of the game is estimating the length of the chain. I think I was shrewd in letting some of the keener people measure the chain lengths.
One batch of helicopters was off limits with a human being guard; these had the air of military activities sometime recently. With our escorts who let us wander about within reason, we logged a good few this afternoon, trying to sort them all out even now a few weeks later is still a hard job. It was then back to SVO and the hotel for some food and a few numbers from the Radisson terrace. Noted were LJ ES-PVH, Gulfstream RA-10203, A330s B-5966 China Southern, B-8550 Capital and Challenger OE-IMM.
Today was originally going to be the day we went to the show, but as the show had been moved to July it was now a spare day. Plans for what was happening instead were not very forthcoming, I guess when you have already got all the visits arranged it's not easy to fill the day with anything else. However, Olga and Mark did their best and another museum which had other exhibits as well as planes was found and visited. Before this though, we went to Vnukovo which for many of the group was perhaps the main airport to visit. Once we had been there a while, the coach carried on to the museum, with an expected return to VKO of about 4pm. This worked well as some people were happy to spend the day at Vnukovo, others were happy to visit a new museum. I had been to the museum before so I decided to stay at VKO.
New ones noted at VKO included CRJ M-ANTA, A320 HA-LWR Wizz, A319CJ P4-MGU, A330 TC-JNZ THY and E190 4L-TGV Georgian. A few new biz were also noted, Global A7-CEE, F900EX LX-GLD, Challenger 9H-BOM, Cit 680 D-CAWX, FA7X TC-MMM and Challenger 300 RA-67224. We also got another look at the Rossiya VIP fleet, Tu-214s RA-64523/4/6, Tu-154s RA-85019/843 and Il-62 RA-86540 noted. We then said farewell to the museum party and our coach, taking up position by the motorway bridge as before. Movements now changed ends which didn't make too much odds, it just meant we walked along the perimeter fence to a spot where the locals parked and viewed from. What could go wrong?
After about an hour the local constabulary stopped by and obviously seeing a group of 10 or so came up and made enquiries. They checked a few passports, and then said spotting was OK but no photography. This didn't really make any odds as they were landing from the other end, so no problem. We did tell them we were there until about 4pm and that seemed to raise a few eyebrows, but they went away and we carried on spotting with a few locals. About another hour passed and we got a second visit from the police, but in different uniforms. They were less friendly, but just said we had to be at least a certain distance away from the fence rather than what we were. I guess we were about 4 foot, they marked out about 6 foot! In addition to that, no photography allowed.
So over these first two or three hours we noted Gulfstreams M-INSK, HB-JGB, S5-JVA, M-GULF, Challengers HB-JFJ, M-MARI, OE-IGA, A7-CEG. Globals 9H-VJR, T7-OKY, OE-IEO, M-YOIL, M-TSLT, M-IUNI, Legacy D-AVIB, M-IMAK, M-ABEC, Hawker LY-HCW, Tu-134s RA-65994/95, King Air OE-GFM, Cit 680 SP-EAR and Yak 42 RA-42365. A few more liners crept into the book, A340 EP-MME Mahan, A320s 4K-AZ80 and TS-IMO Nouvelair, A330 TC-JIT THY and BBJs RA-73000/4 Gazpromavia.
I think there are two situations which always spell trouble for spotters - thick fog and presidents! We now got a third visit, this time from the pair who had stopped first and the one who spoke English made it clear we had to go, as did the locals stood nearby. Then he mentioned the "president" word and things became a bit clearer. Obviously we didn't ask anymore questions; he just said we needed to remove ourselves to the other side of the road from where we would still have some view, albeit not much. By this time there were also a few more police in strategic positions, so time to do as we were told. We dispersed a bit and I ended up a bit further down the road (on the other side as told) to the main group. From here we continued to monitor a few departures, and then the military police turned up and just stared at me and one other spotter across the busy road. We avoided their gaze and strangely they seemed to just ignore us. The main group who were not far from me (also on the other side as told) were then visited by the police again and they had to walk further away (about 20 yards) where they took residency in the very small cafe. After about 10 minutes the military who had been staring across at me and one other chap finished their fag break, jumped back in the car and drove off, over the junction and round to us. A sort of friendly wave then followed and we went to the cafe as well. We could still monitor departures from here and some sort of ice-cream eating competition then ensued. I think a rather well known Crawley fan won with 5 ice-creams downed!
After a while the coach and its museum group returned, the cafe did some very good trade. The police still hovered about, eventually Vladimir the great departed and within minutes all the security was gone. We returned to the bridge, read off a few movers and shakers, and then it was time to call it a day and head back to the Radisson at SVO. Despite the restricted viewing, we probably didn't miss much as I think the scheduled flights were put on hold for a while, and if we did miss anything then there's nothing we could do about it. We got back to SVO a shade earlier than other days and this resulted in a few extra numbers. Noted were A330s HL8003 KAL, B-5935 Hainan, B-5960 Sichuan, B737 B-7968 China Southern, A320 P4-KBG Air Astana, Challenger M-SPBM, Global LX-NAD, CRJ RA-67229 and Legacy P4-MSG.
Today was our last day in Moscow, some of the group were going home, farewells were said over breakfast. The majority however were carrying on with a two day extension to Ulyanovsk. That was later in the day, first we had some other places to visit. First call was still at SVO, but on the far side where the domestic terminal used to be. I wasn't paying full attention, but I think it has gone. The whole area resembled a very large building site. Il-62 CCCP-86492 is still preserved here amazingly. We had a visit to the Civil Aviation Institute which was presumably shut as students were on their summer break, hence why we could get in. There are just three aircraft outside here, Tu-154 RA-85663, Il-86 RA-86103 and IL-76 RA-76460. They asked us in advance which one we would like to go inside, apparently the 76 was requested, guess which one wasn't open! Anyway, looking around the IL-86 was intriguing. We then departed SVO, total time to drive around the airport was about 90 minutes, it's now one way traffic whilst they work.
Our second call of the day was Patriot Park on the outskirts of Moscow it seemed. This is an extremely large exhibition area, a bit like Earls Court or the O2 arena complex but much larger. Next week they were staging an Army week with all sorts of vehicles. On display would be tanks, helicopters, radar systems, missile launchers etc etc. About a mile or so from the entrance is one area that houses aircraft and helicopters. There were about 25 in all, pristine conditions, whether their identities are known I'm not sure. I think all evidence of con numbers have been removed or covered up. There were Mig 17, 19, 27, 29, 21, Su-9, 15, 24, 27, Ka-27, Ka-29, Mil 2, 8, 26 and a L-29, 39. I think my database infers that a few have come from another museum - Savasleyka? They all looked immaculate and added to my list of 52 blue, 14 yellow and so on.
As I said, back at the entrance they were assembling the exhibits for the forthcoming tradeshow and somehow we seemed to walk in and mingle with the workers, nobody said anything. Here were an An-2, some mil 24/38s, some with two numbers like 2302/341. I'm not sure if one was a code or exhibit number maybe. Some were unmarked Police mils, very impressive, shame no numbers. Despite the show not actually being on yet, there were a lot of people about including us. From here we made the relatively short drive to Vnukovo for our evening flight. First we stopped by the bridge again for a short while; this allowed us a look at the GA ramps. A few more biz were logged, Legacies D-AERO, VP-BGT, D-AROM, CRJ RA-67220, D-ALIK, Challenger 9H-VCH, RA-67224, F900EX M-AFAJ, F900DX M-DADI, Gulfstream TC-REC, LJ TC-CMB, TC-MEN, Hawker VQ-BVA, CJ1 RA-67428 and Chall 350 CS-CHE A few hours before the flight we went to the terminal.
Security was tight here, at least for getting in that is, one of those airports where you have to go through a security check before you can check-in. We were flying UT Air to Ulyanovsk and I was quite impressed to be able to check in on a machine. We secured a cheaper fare by only having hand luggage. Once through, the terminal was very busy and a few of us were rather cautious about deploying telescopes or bins in the terminal, but slowly we tested the water and nobody seemed to notice! Well if they did they never came and saw us.
The first aircraft to stand out were a line up of 5 Gazpromavia SJ100s - RA-89018/19/20/29/54, B737 VQ-BMP Yakutia, an assortment of Rossiya and an even bigger assortment of UT Airs. A few new VIP /military aircraft included Il-76s RA-76719 (couldn't resist reading that off when it landed), RA-78838, Mil 8 RA-27018, Tu-204 RA-64059 and Tu-214 RA-64523. Apparently the Mil 8s are used for Presidential flights. We had no problems in the terminal, best place to go is right down the far end where there are fewer people and a very nice "jacket potato" food place.
By about 7pm we were boarding B737 VQ-BJU UT Air, bound for Ulyanovsk which took 74 minutes and included a complimentary glass of water - either with or without gas! There was a time difference of 1 hour, we landed at 2137 and were greeted landside by our local guide Marsha. At this point I will try to explain exactly where we landed. The original airport (code ULV called Baratayevka) is now closed for airline traffic apparently, albeit I think we were the only flight that day. I don't know which runway we landed on, but we did a long taxi, passing a number of An-124s and an Il-76, all very dark. We disembarked to a large porta cabin which is apparently now the airport. In daylight during the following days I can see this is adjacent to the factory complex. The road leading away from this porta cabin was along a disused taxiway, although I'm not 100% sure it is actually disused. Someone suggested that this linked the factory with the old airport?
One way or another we had arrived, my ticket said ULY rather than ULV. It was not an issue for me, but there are people who would have being going nuts not knowing where they were exactly! We had a half hour drive or so into town where a typically Russian hotel awaited (Olga's description). Back at the airport we did manage to read off An-124s RA-82043/46/47 Volga-Dnepr and Il-76 RA-76952. We had a relatively early start in the morning, so once I got to the hotel it was time for sleep.
We set off for the factory this morning, where they were having a sort of holiday/families day and somehow we were allowed to partake. I did notice a desk which advertised "foreigner's registration", but why they would expect anyone not local to turn up is beyond me. This was basically a local event with stuff for kids and music/food etc, not an airshow or anything like that. We didn't have to show any id to get in, and two very charming ladies from the place escorted us in. Well, marched us in. It amused me that a lady in high heels could walk twice as fast as some of the group (none were wearing heels before you think that). Outside the building was An-124 RA-82081, and then we went in. Some plain clothes security were obviously watching us as we went in, they said something to our guide, so we were on a very short chain. First up were three 76s, line numbers 0109, 0110, 0201 (one of these was in the next bay of the building, off limits, but visible by going to the toilet block!), then we had three 124's, just one getable - 82041, then a Tu-204 64014 and a SJ100 89087.
We emerged out of the other end, still in a "crocodile" formation, and the area immediately in front of us contained food/drink and loads of tat! There was also a very nice line up of stored aircraft. Olga said with a glint in her eye that we had seven minutes to go and buy souvenirs etc. If you know Olga I think you will know what she meant. We managed to read off four 204s, 64034, 64041, B-2872 Air China and SU-EAK. I think there was one more unmarked, but it was way beyond the tat stalls. We then marched back through the hangar, where I noted parts of 76s, numbered 0202, 0203 and possibly 0204. These three fall into the area of "what do you count" etc.
It was then out and back on "ze bus", making a quick stop down the road to see an Il-62 RA-86458 (unmarked) at the Aviastar Technical College. Further down the road, possibly called Tupolev Prospect was a L-29 30 black up a pole. Why don't we have things like this in the UK?
Next stop was the Ulyanovsk museum, located just next to the old airport and all outside. A very fine collection of about 40 aircraft, ranging from some helicopters - Mil 1 CCCP-17411, Mil 4 CCCP-35277 to Y-18Ts RA-44251/92. Also a large number of airliners, Tu-114 CCCP-76490, Il-14 CCCP-06132 to Il-62 CCCP-86650, Tu-124 CCCP-45017 and Tu-144 CCCP-77110. The latter had pride of place in the museum it seemed, as when we arrived a senior official from the museum led us to a point next to it where he told us various facts about the museum and then at great lengths detailed all the winning points of a Tu-144 over Concorde. This was all translated by our local guide who I think struggled understandably with some of the aviation terminology. A theme also it seemed of this holiday was having live music and singing in the middle of the museum, blaring out through speakers. We politely listened to the official and looked interested until we were released to our own devices. I'm not sure I've ever seen a museum with so many airliners, even better was that the majority were winners.
Next stop was the old airport which we were told had been shut for a year or more, however there were still runway movements by the training school which is based there. There were also some airliners left behind, Il-76 RA-76503, Tu-154s RA-85617/85315, Tu-134 CCCP-65078, An-26s RA-26025/544, Yak42 RA-87315 and An-2 RA-70155. Near the terminal building were Tu-154s RA-85609/765 Aeroflot and 85774 Gazpromavia. The training school flew about 14 Yak-18s, 3 M101ts and an enormous number of Da40s. I wonder if the runway is only partially shut, so they can still use half of it. Regardless of that assumption I couldn't see any work in progress.
Our next stop was a field called Byely Klyutch, I'm fairly sure this spelling is incorrect but I haven't yet been able to find a definitive name. The main theme here was jumping out of planes and playing very loud music etc but there was a small line up of planes which a man with a very loud voice took us along and explained all the inns and outs. A compound that contained a lot of interesting aircraft was off limits. We did manage to get Mil 8s RF-96364/94991/00296/00235/93104, An-2 c/n 1G8514, Wilga 35 RF-00624, An-2 RF-00419 and a mil 2 07 black.
That was just about it for the day, other than stopping at a flight simulator/ATC training center where we were shown all manner of simulators. I can't say that they really float my boat, but one of the instructors who was with us did say his previous experience had been flying various types including Il-76s. Our coach driver came in with us and he was more excited than most of us, more often than not he was up front first. Dead keen, I think he had a very good day all in all. We got back to the hotel a tad early, basically we had seen everything that there was to see. The hotel had a roof top terrace with a very fine view, 3 or 4 An-124s sitting on a ramp about ten miles away for a start. A few beers up here, then a nearby restaurant for food and some dark beer.
Last day in Ulyanovsk and Russia, all the itinerary had been done so we had a very relaxed morning with a 1030 departure back to the airport. I won't disappoint you all in not mentioning breakfast; here it was definitely challenging rather than sumptuous. The coffee machine was erratic, there were two jugs of milk next to the cereal, looking identical, but one was more yoghurt than free flowing milk. The bread rolls were generally fresh, but the odd one was like a grenade, so probably left over from the day before. There was a very strange looking omelette, perhaps it wasn't? Hot food was OK. Mainly rice based with vegetables, and some sort of hash browns. It was all quite edible even if an unusual mix.
Back at the airport we sat in a waiting area a bit like a doctors surgery, then suddenly something was announced and the handful of locals rushed up to be checked-in. A hangar next to the porta cabin come terminal contained a "green" IL-96, alas the driver didn't want to stop, but it didn't seem to carry any number from a quick view we got. The check-in staff were very insistent on the bag weight allowance, all hand baggage was weighed, any excesses were duly fined and charged. Through security we had a view of the aircraft we had seen on arrival, but there were cameras in the room, so we decided to be sensible and wait until we were either on the ramp or aboard, there was nothing we could get from the room that we wouldn't get from the plane. Our plane back to VKO was B737 VP-BXU UT Air and before we departed we logged additional to arrival, An-124s 10 black, RA-82079, RA-82024, RA-82068, Tu-204s 64150, RA-64053/56. RA-64040, An-26 RA-26525 and a L-29 RF-00126. The flight back took 68 minutes, another complimentary glass of water, arrival into VKO at 13.44. Landing back at VKO we managed to log a few more bits on the taxi in and from the pier when we got off. Noted were Citation YU-PNK, Legacy P4-SMS, A319CJ M-RBUS, Tu-214s RA-64517/21 Tu-204 RA-64058, TU-154 RA-85843, Tu-134 RA-65919 in the fire area, plus a few new Rossiya and Yakutia. Also around were A320 YK-AKE Syrianair, A340 EP-MMB Mahan and B757 EI-EWT I-Fly. I think partly because of the potential traffic delays in Moscow, we set off for SVO without having any further looks and also I suspect Olga wanted to get rid of us and get home!
Back at the Radisson we collected our luggage, nobody available in the hotel to bring the bags out, so it was "D.I.Y" time. We thanked Olga for her sterling work and patience, then departed to check-in. Aeroflot automatic check-in lets you get through to the final stage, then say "no" , go to a desk! I hate that. Thankfully it had remembered my choice of seat, so I ended up with two spare seats next to me. According to the seat plan, the plane was nearly full, oddly when we took off, it was no more than two thirds. The queue for check-in wasn't too bad, probably made worse by our oriental friends who all seem to insist on having multiple excess baggage. All sorts of strangely shaped artifacts wrapped up. I pity the staff that has to sort it out. We got through eventually, but the passport queue was almost at a standstill. They seemed to take about 2 to 3 minutes to process each person. Luckily they opened a new channel near us and we beat off the opposition.
Airside we were into the last few numbers of the trip, Premier RA-02787, Challenger 9H-VCC, Chall 300 D-BAVB, Challenger M-SPBM and An-72 RF-72016 were noted. A few more Chinese liners as per normal A330s B-6082 China Eastern, B-5972 Hainan and B-8870 China Southern. The latter was a touch of the Hemington's as it taxied by us as we pushed back. A330 VQ-BQY was our plane back to Heathrow, although we departed late by 45 minutes, we only landed about 15 minutes behind schedule on 09L. However, it then took 25 minutes to get onto stand, and a further 45 minutes in an immigration queue where all the "e-gates" were turned off, and there were just three staff, later just two to process all the T4 arrivals. What an impression for anyone visiting the UK.
My thanks go to Aeroprints and Mark Osborn for his hard work in making it all happen, and to Olga and other local guides who fix it all when you're there. Although the lack of ramp tours was annoying, more so for the photographers of course, all in all we still came away with a very good tally. To my knowledge we only missed one Aeroflot plane at SVO (which I now know wasn't there as it's been sold), and saw a good majority of most of the other airlines. Bizjets were plentiful, albeit some are regulars in the UK, but the home grown Russian types still score heavily.