Moscow Visit – 2005

This year I went to Russia with Ian Allen Travel - attracted by their promised itinery of visits to airbases at Ivanovo, Ryazan & Lipetsk as well as the MAKS airshow at Zhukovsky.

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

Monday 15th August

We flew with Aeroflot on flight SU242 in a brand new Airbus A321 - named after M Muzursky - from London Heathrow to Moscow Sheremetyevo. We arrived at the Hotel Cosmos in the evening - tired but happy to be in Moscow.

Tueday 16th August

We departed the hotel early 7.00 am for the long drive to Ivanovo-Severnyi in a luxurious 45-seater coach. On arrival we got rather excited at seeing the fins of numerous Il-76 Candid transports and resident A-50 Mainstay AWACS aircraft sitting on the ramp. We were met at the main gate - and accompanied to the Museum of Transport Aviation inside the grounds. The party split into two - one half going inside the museum to be shown around and given an interesting talk on the history of Transport Aviation. The other half went over to the outside museum to photograph the aircraft on display. Having finished the talk, our party decanted outside and photographed the three airframes on display - an Li-2, An-2 and Il-14.

The other half of our group returned - and it was then out turn to be let loose to photograph the resident museum pieces - an An-12BK, An-12BK PPS, Il-76, An-26 and An-22.

We were expecting to be able to visit the operational ramp with its rows of Il-76's and A-50's, but this was not to be - and we boarded our coach in a downhearted mood - a four-hour drive to see just eight airframes was a little disappointing.

From the VTA base we drove a short distance to a sports airfield - with Yak-18T's, Yak-52's a few microlights and an immaculate, privately-owned Ka-26 helicopter. Somee of our party took up the offer of aerobatic flights in the Yak-52, while others elected for the more sedate, four-seat Yak-18T.

Tired and weary from the long journey - we arrived back at the Cosmos hotel in Moscow at 10PM - but no sleep for us !!!


Wednesday 17 August

The highlight of this visit - the trip to Lipetsk - was to have taken place on Thursday - but at the request of the base, was switched to Wednesday.
In order to get to the base at a reasonably early hour and to spend as long as possible there, an early start for the 8-hour drive was called for.
The tour organisers - in consultation with the members of the group - decided that we should set off from the Hotel Cosmos in Moscow at 01.30 in the morning!! 

Having arrived back from Ivanovo at 10:00pm - some of us felt there was little point in going to bed - so we stayed up until 01:30 - and wearily boarded the coach !!

Travelling through a deserted Moscow in the middle of the night was an interesting experience - but soon we were on the highway south, sleeping as best we could on the coach.

Dawn saw us making an entrance into a Russian town called Elets, and ever alert for such things, I spotted a MiG-25 on a pole in the middle of the road.

After asking the driver to stop, the coach suddenly came awake as 45 weary Russian aircraft enthusiasts decanted from the coach to take photos of the big MiG - much to the bemusement of the locals!

Settling back onto the coach, we continued on our way to Lipetsk - where we were met by a police escort. Blue lights flashing and sirens blaring, we were escorted to the administrative centre of the 4th TsBPiPLS in the middle of town, arriving at 09:10 - a marathon  7hr 40min drive.

After a comfort break, we were shown around their small museum - and allowed to take photos of a MiG-19 on a pole at the war memorial just outside the gates.

From the town centre, we drove in the coach - again with the police escort - to the base of the 4th Krasnoznamionnyi ordena Lenina Tsentr Boyevogo Primeneniya i Pereuchivaniya Lyotnogo Sostave imeni V.P Chkalova ( in English - the 4th Centre for Combat Application and Training of Aircrew awarded with Red Banner and Lenin Order and named after V.P. Chkalov) - the abbreviation of 4th TsBPiPLS is a bit less of a mouthful!.

Following our minor dissapointment at Ivanovo, our hopes were not high - but we were to be very surprised !!!

At this premier Russian Combat Training base we were treated to a full-blown flying display involving all the bases' aircraft types - Su-27, Su-25, Su-24 & MiG-29's       

The welcome we received and the hospitality provided was just incredible, the flying display was stunning, the Centre's band was in attendance, they provided a lunchtime snack - consisiting of 'pilots food' provided by a field kitchen - there were souvenirs and patches to purchase - the whole day was even rounded off with an excellent meal in the officers mess!!

The local TV news team was present - and we gave them a few interviews - ably translated by our very own Irina!

The final icing on a very scrumptious cake was a chance to meet the pilots and talk to the base commander, Major General Alexandr Karchevski.

The long coach journey was well worth it - we were all in very high spirits as we left the base for our hotel in Lipetsk. In fact there was little conversation - I think we were all stunned by what we had seen!


Thursday 18 August

After an overnight stay in the Hotel Lipetsk, we set off early on Thursday morning for the four-hour drive to Ryazan - arriving at Dyagilevo at lunchtime.After spending some time on the coach trying to negotiate the concrete security blocks on the main entrance and failing miserably, the coach had to slowly reverse and we were directed around some side roads inside the base - until we finally arrived at the museum!

With 45 camera-wielding enthusiast on the loose, we were very disciplined and slowly made our way around the perimeter of the exhibits so that we were not in each others way when taking long shots.

Soon however, the line started to spread out - with the quicker ones moving ahead and having to wait for the stragglers - why do some people take so long to take a photo ??

Having 'done' the periphery and, with mutual approval, we 'broke ranks' and dived into the centre of the exhibits to take close-ups etc. I think everyone got what they wanted.

One unexpected bonus was the arrival of a Tu-134UBL pilot trainer - which landed and taxied in to park just in front of us. It disgorged a load of passengers - which looked like wives and children who had been on a shopping spree judging by their baggage!!

Having sated our appetite on the real aircraft - we were shown inside the base museum with its artifacts and displays showing the proud history of Long Range Aviation - the Russian name for Strategic Bombing.

From Ryazan it was back onto the coach for the relatively short (compared to what we had been doing!) drive back to Moscow and the Hotel Cosmos.


Friday 19 August

Having been fairly soberly dressed whilst visiting the Russian Air Force bases, it was time to relax and put on the shorts and tee-shirt for the hot sunshine and MAKS!!

Following and early 7am start, we arrived at the main gate - and were expecting to make our usual entrance -where  all the VIP coaches have gone in previous years - but no, it was all changed around again!

The main gate is now used for all the shuttle buses bringing in the locals who had parked their cars at Bykovo airfield, or who had come by train or metro.

As we glanced down the avenue beyond the main gate we could see four airframes that have recently been put there as 'gate guards' and we were all hoping to photograph them.

We recognised a Yak-38U, MiG-27, MiG-17 and the only example of the jet shturmovik from Ilyushin - the one-off Il-102. But wouldn't you just know it !! we were directed away from the main gate away to the eastern side of the airfield - and into the entrance by the Ilyushin ramp - where they had set up the security entrance for VIP coaches.

After the coach had beeen thoroughly checked over by security (although I don't think the sniffer dog will ever recover from eating the contents of Irina's packed lunch!), we got off the coach and made our way through the individual security scanners while the coach drove inside and up to its parking slot on the far end of the static display ramp.

Arriving at the Ilyushin end meant that we had to make a long walk down the length of the ramp to get to the 'main area' - but what the heck, no-one said it would be fun!!

As we transitted the ramp, I took the attached photos of the static display - determining to 'do' the flying on Saturday.....


Saturday 20 August

Another day at MAKS - same early start, same security routine...

This time, I was determined to photograph the flying display, so we made our way to the western end of the flightline and settled down to take photos. The trouble was, the Russian public do not have the etiquette to understand that when you arrive early and claim a pitch - it is yours !!! They arrive later - and promptly crowd around you - and even push in front. Most frustrating !!!

Anyway, I took some photos of the flying in the morning, but left the pitch to have a beer and something to eat - so failed to photograph the brand new Su-80 twin turboprop and the Ansat ARH helicopter!

Still, what I did take came out OK.....


Sunday 21 August

Sadly, our last day in Russia.

The day was spent at the VVS museum at Monino and the aircraft repair plant at Chernoye.

We had been told the day before that there had been a fire at Monino - and as a consequence, our visit might have to be cancelled.

We arrived at Monino expecting the worst, but the curator told us  (via Irina) that a spark from a welders torch had set fire to the hangar containing the early pre-WWI artifacts . They lost some irreplaceable documents and artifacts, but luckily, the fire was contained.

The old hangars and reception area were hidden behind a large panelled fence - and what we at first thought was the gutted skeleton of the old wooden hangar turned out to be the metal girders of a brand new hangar. It was the welding of this new construction that set fire to the old!!

There was an artists impression of the new museum on a billboard - (which I failed to photograph - sorry!) - which is due to open in November 2005!!

The 'park'  area - containing all the outdoor exhibits - has also had some money thrown at it - the pathways have been tarmac'd and low, chain-link fences have been erected.

This is all good news as far as the museum is concerned - it means that some money is being invested. But it does mean that us enthusiasts will no longer be given free reign to go where we like !!

In fact, some of the guys in our group made their way over the fence to a 'dump' area to investigate - and were promptly shooed away by museum attendants with shrill whistle calls.

So next time, we are all going to take whistles - and confuse the hell out of everyone !!!

From Monino we went to the Moscow Aviation Repair Zavod (MARZ). This plant specialises in the repair/upgrade of Mil Mi-2 helicopters and An-2 biplanes.


All in all this was a superb trip with Ian Allen Aviation Tours - my thanks to Steve Comber the tour guide and to my old friend Irina for providing the usual friendly, funny Russian presence.

©Ken Duffey

September 2005.