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Tour Report - Moscow 2019

by Paul Giblin

Saturday 24th

A week in Moscow beckoned included the MAKS airshow at Zhukovsky, but first there was the usual rigmorale of obtaining the visa. This entails a ridiculous application form that takes a good few hours to complete with some of the most obscure questions known to man. Then to add insult to injury you have to pay between £100 and £200 for the pleasure. With visa granted it was off to Heathrow for a Saturday morning departure. This prompted a Friday night at the Feltham Travelodge, Heathrow offered a few numbers in the afternoon, B787s S2-AJV Biman, A6-BLQ Etihad, A350s ET-AUB, A7-AMF and HL8079 Asiana.

Saturday morning was straightforward, bag drop and security reasonably quick, then a meet up with various old friends in T4 where we awaited our Aeroflot flight. A few winners before we boarded, B777 A7-BES Qatar, B787s A9C-FE, A4O-SF and A6-BLW Etihad. Boarding was quick and done without any fuss, A320 VP-BME was our plane which propelled us to Moscow Sheremetyevo in 3 hours 19 minutes arriving at 1432 local. Food onboard was OK, drink wise they have wine but no beer which seems a bit odd for a country like Russia.

Our first lasting impression when we landed at SVO was the quantity of Aeroflot SJ100s parked outside the new terminal buildings. I think these are known as terminal A, B and C. The other side which includes the international flights are terminal D, E and F. At a guess I would say we saw about thirty SJ100s parked up, but over the days we were here we realised that most are all in service, just on a rotational plan whereby some don't fly for two or three days at a time. Aeroflot flights seem to be 24hrs a day even for domestic, so some of these SJ100s are quite elusive. The wreckage of the one that crashed is also still on the ramp, covered in a white tarpaulin. No parts were visible so no pushing the spotting boundary rules!

Once off the plane and into the terminal there was the usual mad rush of trying to read off everything in sight, no police/security in sight but plenty of cameras's I guess. We were soon through immigration and waiting for the bags which arrived on a baggage belt claiming to be bags from Helsinki I think. We were met landside by our guide David who had flown in earlier via Riga, and then we walked the short distance to our hotel the Radisson Blu.

The Radisson Blu is basically on top of the terminal E, we arrived into D, but they and F are all linked by walkways and it's not easy to tell from outside where one becomes another! The hotel has ten floors with the 11th being a restaurant/bar with an outside area. From here you have a fairly complete view of the whole airport. The main biz ramp is on the far side near the threshold, so reading off aircraft there is not easy, but these days that doesn’t seem to stop a reasonably accurate list coming to hand in no time at all.

Airline wise apart from Aeroflot you mainly see Nordwind, Royal Flight, Rossiya, Ikar/Pegasus and Ural. It has to be said that a lot of the aircraft from these airlines apart from Aeroflot are often on their third, fourth or fifth customer, so not too good if you only collect frames. As I said earlier Aeroflot seem to be 24/7 here, so there's a constant turnover of their fleet, all is based here I believe. The only ones we didn’t see over the week were in maintenance, either at SVO or in Orenburg and Hong Kong it seemed. I'm not going to list any Aeroflot, but I did have a checklist for their fleet and as far as western types are concerned I saw just about every aircraft apart from those in maintenance in the three or four days we were here. I didn’t see about five or six but they were in service, just didn’t catch them.

Once we got our room and dropped bags we went up to the top floor. Luckily we did have a partial view from the room, not many rooms actually have a view, so we could loiter a bit and see aircraft either departing or arriving. The restaurant opens from 1700 to 0200, but by special arrangement they opened up the doors late morning for us. Some of the international movements noted during the afternoon and evening included B787s VN-A869 Vietnam, HL8084 Korean, E190s SP-LNE/F LOT, B737 PH-BCH KLM, A330s B-5919, B-8968 China Eastern, B-5905 Hainan, B-6516 China Southern,B777 B-8970 China Eastern, A320 P4-KBE Air Astana and B737 B-1367 China Southern, Also present on the far side were Il-76s RF-76325/6/7 of the Russian FSB Border Guard, kept company by two An-72s RF-72011/6.

There seems to be a bigger biz presence here now, noted were F900 P4-RMA, Gulfs N198RL, B-8260, OE-LLL, M-SQAR, Legacies T7-VVV, P4-SUN, T7-PAM, F8X M-TINK, Challengers M-SPBM, T7-DYN, F7X M-OUNT, Hawker OE-GVB, CRJ 9H-ILB, CH350 9H-VCM and Mil 17 RA-25777 (it was on the biz ramp!). There are plenty of big hangars as well, so I guess there were a lot more biz we weren’t seeing. By the evening we declined the meal option in the restaurant, choosing to go down below the hotel just by the station where there are a number of shops, cafes and some bars. Burger King was our choice, not great but quick.

Sunday 25th

The Radisson breakfast was truly sumptuous and formidable. Still like a lot of top hotels, cold plates! Why do so many hotels not provide warm plates. Then your glass for fruit juice has just come out of the dishwasher and is hot!!! Rant over. After filling up as much as possible, fighting of the table clearers we returned to the room for a while. We had a partial view of movements and with FR24 running we were able to monitor what was going on. Staying in the room for a while also allowed a chance to catch up with some "paperwork", essential if you don't want to write down Aeroflot's all day long. It's also good to know which based aircraft you’re still after, that way you can concentrate of those alone.

Apart from numerous Aeroflot I logged B737 EW-290PA, CRJ RA-67230 Severstal, Legacy M-SAAN and A319 YU-APK Air Serbia. A regular visitor was B733 LZ-BOT Bulgaria Air, seen just once was B767 JU-1021 MIAT Mongolian. Mid morning we vacated the room, partly to allow the cleaners in and partly to get a spell of fresh air. We went up to the top floor and found the lift exit barred. In fact there are two lifts going up top, the hotel had only opened one, not very helpful when you’re in the other lift. After a bit of brain scratching we tried the other lift and got out onto the roof. No staff or spotters to be seen but plenty of aircraft. Ignoring Aeroflot for now other regular movements included Ikar/Pegas E190 VP-BZH, B757 VQ-BTM Royal, B777s VP-BJJ/P Nordwind, B777s EI-GES/U Rossiya, E190 SP-LMA LOT, B747F HL8043 Korean, A321 P4-KDC Air Astana, B767 VQ-BTQ Pegas, B787 HL 8083 Korean, A330s B-1041/8862 China Eastern, B-6135 China Southern, E190 EW-532PO Belavia and B747F G-CLAE.

There was also a fair amount of biz jet movements, noted were Legacy RA-02858, LJ D-COMO, Premier RA-02797, Gulfstream OE-IPE, Chall TC-ASL, Gulfstream M-RZDC, Global M-IGWT, PC-24 T7-RAY and CRJ D-ALIK. We'd whittled our Aeroflot down to just a handful now, so once it was dark we descended to Burger King again, the cheery server charging me a different price for exactly the same meal. On principle I complained and it was adjusted to the same as the previous day. How does that work eh?

Monday 26th

We now had a full group, a few stragglers arriving on Sunday. Some people took in a city tour with Olga on Sunday, apparently well worth it. Apart from another sumptuous breakfast, we managed to squeeze in a few numbers either side of breakfast - A330 B-1042 Capital, B747F VP-BIM ABC and B737 PH-BCG KLM. Today was our first spotting expedition, a trip out to Domodedovo. Spotting here is not good anymore, the windows that offered a view in the terminal are now airside and the airport is not interested in ramp tours anymore. Our €50 per person for a tour isn’t even loose change out here nowadays. It took us at least two hours to get there, the Moscow traffic is a nightmare 24/7. Two spots seem to be possible for some sort of view, bear in mind we were in a coach. One is a MacDs restaurant, not really suitable for a group, the other is an access road to a construction company depot, this runs along side one runway and offers a view of the other runway movements. This was it for the next four or five hours!

We drove up to the terminal, doing a 180 at the last minute, then we could turn right down a very bumpy road where all the cabs and various other people were waiting for flights to arrive. This takes you past the fire dump, Il-62 86499 and Il-18 75834 still present along with a 737 and a Hawker. As you get parallel to the runway there is an unmade road which runs along side the runway and leads to some sort of truck depot. I was almost surprised that the coach driver was happy to go down it but I guess he was Russian! He did a u-turn so as to be facing the right way to depart and parked out of the way. We could read off everything that departed from this runway and you could see arrivals on the other side which with the aid of FR24 etc were shouted out to all and sundry.

There is also a small collection of stored aircraft which could be seen and partially identified from this point. The main airlines here are S7 and Ural with Red Wings, Yamal and Nordstar making up the numbers. In regard to S7 I believe a lot of their fleet (perhaps more than 50%) are based in eastern Russia which is 9 time zones ahead, so I still need a lot of S7. These are the ones you get in Beijing for example. Coming back to “Dom” you also get a fair few international flights, some of these being B737s 4X-EHI El Al, TC-CPB Pegasus, EW-437PA Belavia, A321s A7-AIA Qatar, A6-AEH Etihad, B757 EZ-A010 Turkmenistan, B767 4K-AZ81 Azerbaijan, A320s A6-AOE Air Arabia, EK32002 Atlantis, E190 4O-AOB Montenegro, B787 JA844J, A220 HB-JCQ Swiss and A350 9V-SMB Singapore. Movements here are pretty steady and it was probably only the combination of being out in the sun for hours and dodging the lorry dust clouds that sort of made us happy to call it a day late afternoon. We even got an extension from Olga and the driver, the latter putting in a very long day to be fair.

Before we left we drove around the GA area, no biz to be seen where they used to park, but in their place and wearing a very fine colour scheme was An-74 RA-74015 (google it). Another two hours or so on the motorway, plenty of snoring and we returned to Sheremetyevo. A few late night winners, the ramp is very well lit thankfully and the upstairs restaurant closes at 0200, not that I was up there that late. Noted were B787 HL7209 Korean, A320s P4-KBC/KBG Air Astana, A321 P4-KDD Air Astana, A330 B-6542 China Southern, F900 HA-LKZ, Ch 300 OE-HLL and King Air RA-02814.

Tuesday 27th

Last day for now in the Radisson Blu, and another sumptuous breakfast to negotiate. Either side of this we noted A330 B-1004 Lucky Air, A320s P4-KBD/I Air Astana, B767 VP-BLC Royal and B787 VN-A863 Vietnam. On leaving the hotel we drove around the perimeter slowly, a few chances to see some aircraft not visible from the hotel. We also got up close to the GA ramp which is conveniently right next to the road. A few extra biz, Challenger 9H-VVP, Gulfstream M-BHBH and A139 RA-01990. Il-62 CCCP-86492 is preserved outside the new terminal A/B/C area, I’m sure it’s been moved since I was last here. The technical school is still going with TU-154, IL-76 and IL-86 seen from a little way off, there may have been more. The road system has been changed so we didn’t pass by like before. Carrying on round we pass under the new taxi way which leads to the new runway. Both these are completed and presumably will be in use by year end. We then set off for the next part of the trip - Vnukovo

Again another long coach journey came to pass, thankfully made a little bit more interesting by Olga enlightening us on Russian history as she often does. Quite a lot ties in with English and other European history, embarrassingly she knows more about our heritage than most of us. Late morning we arrived at Vnukovo, too early to check-in, so time for some spotting around the airfield. We first made a short drive past the terminal area, nearby is the VIP ramp, two An-148s RA-61707/12, IL-96 RA-96104, Tu-214 RA-64523 and A400 18-0094 Tu - AF. The latter we assumed was due to the Turkish President being a guest of president Putin at the show, not that I'm suggesting he came in the "grizzly".

Next stop was near the terminal where you get a good view of the VIP aircraft that aren't on the VIP terminal. This is quite a large number of aircraft and although discretion was requested, the lure of all those Tu-204/214, IL-96 was too much for some of the group! I have a lasting memory of the tour guide (who will remain nameless but I suspect most people will know) climbing up a telegraph pole to try and get a view of the blocked aircraft. Oddly nobody either in the airport, or the workmen whose property the said pole was on blinked an eyelid. Some of those read off included Tu-214s RA-64505/527/515/528, Il-96s 96012/17/18/20/22, Y40 87968 and Tu-154 85843. A few civil bits were also seen from here including A310 EP-MNO, A320 UK32017, B747 EI-XLG Rossiya, B767 P4-MES and Gulfstream VP-CML. Next we drove to the other end of the airport, an area well frequented by locals and spotters, just near a road bridge, with some very well placed concrete slabs which are next to the fence and allow you to take close up shots of aircraft departing and landing. On the other side of the road is a small shop out of view but very popular due to it being very affordable!!

We stayed here on our raised platform for the next few hours, some noted included Globals M-NAME, M-YVVF, CS-DOM, Legacy’s D-AHOI, D-ARMY, D-AVAN, UP-EM018, E190 4K-AZ66 Buta, Y40 RA-87972, SJ100s RA-89036, RA-89048/50 Gazprom, Gulfstreams EI-EGO, G-OGSE, D-AGVI, VP-BAK, N730EA, RA-10205, Challengers HB-JTZ, D-AAAX, B787 UK78701, Ch 350 RA-67221 and F900 RA-09001. By mid afternoon we returned to the coach and went to our Hilton hotel located across the road from the terminal. It has eleven floors and a fantastic view of the airport. Vnukovo is very big and even being ten floors up you can’t see the very large biz/GA ramp. You can see one side of the terminal plus the VIP ramp and more importantly both runways. We had room 1054 which was an excellent result, I’d suggest evens between 1044 and 1056 would be similarly very good. But, if you don’t get a room with a view - fear not. The top floor has a restaurant/bar area which is available 24/7 so nothing really can be missed.

Once we’d settled in it was plain sailing so to speak. A few more in the log included Tu-204 RA-64058, SJ100s 89019/29 Gasprom, Legacies OE-LLG, VP-BGT, VP-BGL, M-RCCH, CRJs VQ-BIX, M-ANTA, 9H-ILV, G200 M-SASS, C750 D-BLDI, Gulfstreams D-AUTO, 9H-SSK, T7-IIA and Chall 650 T7-AIR. On the airliner front we saw A319 4K-AZ05, B757 UK75705 and A320 UK32022 Uzbekistan. The highlight for me was the arrival of three Mil 8s onto the VIP ramp - RA-22324/25 and 25533. The VIP aircraft seemed to be permanently active with Falcon 7X RA-09090 a late evening arrival. Plenty of food options in the hotel and naturally a MacDs about 5 minutes walk away!

Wednesday 28th

The Hilton breakfast was in my opinion not as good as the Radisson, but it was still fairly comprehensive. Either side of breakfast we logged Il-96 RA-96021 which had returned during the night from Sochi plus 96016, also Tu-214 RA-64521, An-148s RA-61716/27, An-124 RF-82011 Air Force, A few more based liners went in the book plus about ten Mil 8s which are the VIP fleet I believe. We then set off for the wonderful Monino Museum which is well worth the visit; sadly the motorway was yet again very grim. Not much had changed since my last visit, but the museum still shows signs of being improved and there were plenty of visitors to appreciate that fact. I’ve never seen so many incredible looking bombers anywhere else in the world, it never fails to impress. One of the other reasons for going to the museum is its close proximity to Chavlosky and we weren’t disappointed as late afternoon we had two arrivals. First over was Tu-134 RF-90914 with a stinger tail, and then followed by Tu-154 RA-85563. Once we had spent a few good hours walking around we made a quick visit to Zarye for a preserved Mig 19 - 27 Red.

The second and final stop of the day was to Chernoye which is always a late afternoon visit. I’m not really sure whether this airfield is civil or military, it seems to be the former but I’m not sure. Anyway, it’s home to an enormous number of An-2s and Mil 2s plus a few other bits. It’s also guarded by numerous dogs on long chains so you get escorted around by people in military uniforms who tell you where to go and where not to go. One batch of helicopters are Ukranian Air Force, they always seem very touchy about these!! You also have to be very careful where you walk as there’s lots of long grass and ideal conditions for snakes and other such like beasties. After a few hours getting hot and very grubby we returned to the Vnukovo Hilton hotel for some late evening spotting.

You might not expect much of consequence to have happened but four Il-76s had arrived, RF- 76743/76693/78833/76768 plus Tu-214 64523. A few more liners were logged too including a pair of Scats - UP-B3712/29 and SJ100 RA-89135 Azimuth. Some food and a few beers in the bar finished off a very good day.

Thursday 29th

Today was show day and soon enough we were back on the motorway heading for Zhukovsky, albeit in heavy traffic as usual. In fact for once we didn’t get delayed too long, but the signage at the show for our coach entrance seemed to be non existent. This resulted in us driving up and down the perimeter much to many peoples annoyance. It also annoyed greatly the security people at the VIP entrance which we made a very good job of blocking in our coach! On the plus side we did go pass Tu-144 CCCP-77114 so that was nice to see, I think now restored in “CCCP” fashion. Eventually we did find the right entrance (unsigned), obviously one of the ones we paused at twenty minutes earlier. It was in the end a bit of a brucie bonus as it took us past a ramp with many stored Il-76s and we parked adjacent to the Sukhoi area where all the SJ100s are parked, plus numerous other aircraft, many of which have been there for a long long time. I won’t attempt to list all these, but as you’ll see later in today’s report we actually ended up with an extremely comprehensive report.

Once we were off the coach we had an entrance into the show that didn’t seem to be being used by anyone else. It was also a bit like Farnborough where you have to give “work details” and then get issued with a pass. As we went through this and the inevitable security we were walking along side the very big storage area. Lots of soldiers on point duty along the route but they didn’t seem to take any exception to people reading off all the numbers. In regard to the show it was a combination of military and civil, old and new I guess. Russians seem to like their helicopters and there were many different examples to be seen. One of the newer types has a capacity larger than a Hercules apparently.

Some of the resident aircraft here are placed in the static like the Tu-155, Tu-144 and an Il-76 with a propeller. Along with their love of helicopters there were plenty of fighters on show. We therefore made a slow walk around the static reading off the stored numbers as and when they appeared through the trees. Quite a lot of these stored aircraft are well weathered and actually seeing the registration isn’t always easy. The flying display was a bit spasmodic, not that much in quantity but some interesting types. It was also quite a novelty to see about fifteen helicopters launch and do one big flypast, then many of them returned and did solo performances. Some of these performances went on a bit too long, there’s only so much you can do in a helicopter. We took up base on the grass next to the runway and watched the show for a few hours. The new MC-21 airliner was also on show, three examples about the airfield, apparently will be renamed Yak-242?

By mid afternoon we made a weary walk back to the coach, it was a fairly hot day to be honest. Back at the coach we saw the Su-54s display, impressive to say the least, we also walked around the coach park a bit to get a few more numbers which we’d probably missed when we arrived in our haste to get in the show. Once we had all onboard it was time to go and we assumed we would leave via the same gate past the Il-76 ramp but we were in for a surprise. They directed us through the sukhoi ramp area, past all the stored liners and hangars. The sound of camera’s clicking on board the coach was deafening, although we did have to obey orders from Olga to “down camera’s and pipes” when we went past some security people. Pipes are one of her words for telescopes! I hadn’t realised there were so many fighters parked up amongst the bigger stuff. We also managed to get most of the hangar contents I believe. The route out even seemed to detour to go past the maximum number of aircraft it seemed. I think we cleared the whole ramp, definitely the majority.

The journey back on the motorway for once seemed to be a lot better. Back at Vnukovo we had a procession of legacies arrive just as we returned, T7-AKM, M-OLEG, P4-SMS, Challenger RA-67228 and Ch 300 RA-67221. Five Il-76s were parked up including RA-78842, 76669, 78831 and 78838. A few more noted from the room included A340 4K-AZ86, A320 UK32012, B757 UK75702 and Tu-214 RA-64521. A few late night biz were also snapped up either side of food and beer - Challenger D-AAAX and Cit 560 YU-PZM.

Friday 30th

Today was the last full day of the trip and a few numbers were seen before we departed the Hilton. Yak 40 RA-87971, A330 EI-GEW I-Fly, Challenger 300s YR-TRC and OY-SPB. Our first stop this morning was Patriot Park near Kubinka. This is a very large exhibition centre with many buildings and halls. It also features a military museum containing about twenty five aircraft. Before we reached the museum we went to another area where Mil 24 27 yellow, Mil 8 72 yellow and a An-26 were displayed. No id for the latter at the moment. It was then into the museum where most of the aircraft are displayed outdoors. Inside are tanks, military vehicles and a few aircraft. The weather was perfect for walking around and very few general public so the photographers were happy.

Once we were done here we headed into town so to speak, calling at the Vadim Zadorozhny technical museum. This is another wonderful museum with the majority of exhibits being cars and motor bikes. They have some of the most famous and notable cars here, Stalin’s car for example. I think to be honest the museum can’t quite make its mind up what it wants to show the most but the cars are definitely an incredible sight. Aircraft wise it’s mainly fighters, Yaks and old Migs plus a Ju52 wreck. From here we headed back to Sheremetyevo. Once we got back to the Radisson Blu, most of the group headed off to the airport for their flights home, but we were stopping one more night. I had reserved the same room, mainly because it had a view of the airport and also to see if the chewing gum was still under the sink. Room 844 was ours and no chewing gum!

Once we were organised we set off for the cafe in terminal F which hardly ever has any customers to my experience and today was no different. There is another cafe adjoining with no runway view so maybe both are served by the same kitchens. Who knows. Once we got there we found some of the group who had returned earlier plus others who had checked in and preferred the view from here rather than airside. A few noted before darkness included A330s B-8862/1041 China Eastern, B-8959 Tianjin, B787 HL8081 Korean, B737 OK-TVV Smartwings, Legacy M-ABEC, Gulfstream RA-10203, N127GG and King Air RA- 02800/812.

Saturday 31st

Last day of our trip and we awoke to spotters nightmare - dense fog. Looking out at the ramp we couldn’t even see the nearest aircraft assuming there were any of course. The only plus to this was we could take advantage of the sumptuous breakfast a bit more than usual but there’s only so many sausages, eggs and beans one can eat. From the breakfast room we could see the fog starting to lift a bit so we headed over to the cafe in Terminal F - floor 3.5 for a couple of hours. Chinese liners were the order of the day again, A330s B-1043 Capital, B-1059 Lucky Air going in the book. B747F HL7639 was also noted along with B747 VQ-BIA ABC. By eleven we returned to the hotel and went to the terminal, we had been able to check-in the night before, so just a bag drop, security and we were airside waiting for our afternoon flight home. A320 P4-KBC and Challenger RA-67250 were a few added before we boarded A321 VP-BOC for an uneventful flight home. We landed early at Heathrow managing to put a few more liners in the book as we taxied in.

All in all a good trip, thanks to Aeroprints for their organising, and to Olga who makes it all happen.