Moscow Visit – 2004

The trip this year trip involved a 5-day visit to Moscow to see the Flying Legends warbirds display and the Festival of Aerobatics at Zhukovsky . Once again I travelled with George Pick Travel, a company specializing in aviation tours all over the world. GP Travel arranged the flight from London to Moscow, our hotel accommodation, Russian Visas etc.

Our Russian host was again Oleg Kapyrin who runs a Moscow-based travel company Krugozor and it was he who organized the minibus, passes, access to bases and museums etc and supplied our interpreter, Ilena.

This year we stayed at the Rossiya hotel - right opposite Red Square and the Kremlin.

The following is a day-by-day account of what we did, complete with photos as appropriate.

Friday 13th August

We flew with Aeroflot on flight SU242 in a Boeing 777 from London Heathrow to Moscow Sheremetyevo. We arrived at the Hotel Rossiya in the evening - tired but happy to be in Moscow.

Saturday 14th August

We departed the hotel by minibus at 8.30 am for the journey to Zhukovsky for the aerobatics festival - not knowing what to expect. The weather was absolutely attrocious, with driving rain and low clouds that persisted all day long. As soon as we got off the minibus I spotted that in the small static lineup was the Sukhoi P-42 record breaking version of the Su-27 Flanker, so I was quite excited at the prospect of taking some good close-up photos of this historically important aircraft.

The weather decided otherwise and I was reduced to taking a few photos from under the cover of an umbrella.

The whole flying display was cancelled - the weather was bad enough to ground the ducks, never mind the Frecci Tricolori, Patrouille de France, Russian Knights, Swifts, Team Rus - all the aerobatic teams due to take part in the display.

We spoke to the Frecci & Patrouille pilots who were also staying at the Rossiya - and they were all despondent at not being able to fly. That evening I had to dry my sodden trainers on the hotel heated towel rail!!!


Sunday 15 August

This was to be the main reason for our visit to Moscow - the Flying Legends airshow.

This was to be the first of a promised annual airshow commemorating the Soviet Union's part in the second world war - known to the Soviets as the Great Patriotic War.

The display  took place on the famous airfield at Monino and the organisers had invited participation from various warbirds groups around the world. Unfortunately, quite a few cancelled for various reasons, but there were some aircraft from the west - including the B-25 and T-28 sponsored by Red Bull, a scale replica of a Junkers Ju-87B Stuka from the Ukraine, a Boeing Stearman and various others.

On the Soviet side there were no flying warbirds - but the staff at Monino had wheeled out their exhibits and placed them in suitably wartime-looking dispersals - complete with earthworks revetments, underground bunkers, bomb and fuel dumps etc - all  the trappings of a Soviet wartime airfield.     

The weather was intermittent - lots of downpours, with occasional bright spells in between. The display site was reduced to a sea of mud and the poor old Russian public - who turned up in their thousands to see this first-time event - went away soaked and covered in mud, as did we.

The only flying was restricted to displays by the L-39-equipped Team Rus, the Swifts in their MiG-29's and the Russian Knights with Su-27's.

The promised 9-ship display by a combined Swifts and Knights team failed to materialise - probably due to the inclement weather. There were flying displays by a couple of the visiting sports aircraft - but none of the warbirds flew.


Monday 16 August

The first visit of the day was to the Moscow Aviation Repair Plant (MARZ in Russian) at Chornoye, a few miles from the centre of Moscow. This place repairs Mil Mi-2 helicopters and Antonov An-2 biplanes - although there was not much activity taking place during our visit.  Our host showed us around and answered our questions and apologised for the lack of activity - claiming that the staff were on leave. One intriguing exhibit amongst the 'boneyard' of Mi-2's was the An-2E Ekranoplan designed by the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) and displayed at MAKS 03.

From Chornoye, our minibus driver took us to the domestic airport at Domodedovo for a ramp tour. This airport is now Moscow's main gateway - rivalling the 'official' airport of Sheremetyevo. The facilities at Domo far outstrip those at SVO - which looks positively archaic in comparison.

Our final destination of the day was the old favourite - the sports airfield at Myachkovo, not far from Zhukovsky. This place is on the up - with lots of new facilities offering all sorts of flying activities and clubhouses for the various organisations operating from there. During our visit they even had a motor sports practice taking place - with Formula 3000 racers, motorbikes and sports saloons racing around the peri track.

One sad site at Myachkovo was the wreckage of the Li-2 that crashed whilst taking off from there recently - a sad loss to the fledgling Russian warbirds community.


Tuesday 17 August

A rather late departure for us - 9am - for the journey to Vnukovo Airport for a ramp tour amongst the arriving and departing aircraft, then back on the minibus for a trip next door to the Vnukovo Repair Plant - Zavod 400. Here we saw a few Tu-154's in various states of repair and were shown around a small museum they have created to celebrate their achievements over the years.

On the way back from Vnukovo, we stopped at Victory Park for those members of the group who had not been to Moscow before. To our delight, there was a new exhibit - a full scale replica Il-4 WWII bomber. It had only just arrived and there was to be a dedication ceremony for it on the day after our visit.

From VP, we travelled across Moscow on our way to Shermetyevo to catch out flight home - but on the way we stopped at Khodynka.

This famous museum is looking decidedly derelict - with the cranes and bulldozers of the developers closing in. It is to be hoped that at least some of the aircraft colllection can be saved for future generations  


Once again, I would like to extend my thanks to George Pick Travel for making the trip possible and to ‘our man in Moscow’ Oleg for organizing the visit!

If you ever want to go on an aviation visit to Russia – or to any country for that matter – I can recommend George Pick. If you want any travel arrangements made in Russia, then Oleg is your man.

I have no connection to either company, other than being a very satisfied customer.

Ken Duffey

August 2004.