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"Chicken Kiev" - Flight Aboard an AN-12

By Jan Koppen
April 11, 2003

Jan Koppen takes us with him on a voyage aboard a classic AN-12, including descriptions of the cuisine... Included are Jan's own photographs of the voyage, detailing the aircraft inside and out.

Due to a sudden lack of freight capacity during November 2002, Ukrainian Cargo Airways Antonov 12 UR-UCK was chartered to operate a trans European flight for a major Dutch airline. The flight routed from Amsterdam to Budapest and then returning back to UCA’s temporary base in Ostend, Belgium, with the cargo finally forwarded by road to Amsterdam.

I had admired the Russian turboprop-freighters for a long time and enjoyed seeing them take off from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, on many occasions.
I found a possibility to secure a “ride on the jumpseat” on the aforementioned flight and arrived around 11.30 hours at the AviaTrading cargo-ramp at Schiphol-South.
At 11.47 a trail of black smoke could be seen lining up for runway 06 some five miles to the south of the airport. Two minutes later, laying four smoky trails across the polder, the An-12 roared into touch down. The Russian-built freighter shuddered to a noisy stop as the props were thrown into reverse.

The broker’s liaison officer introduced me to the crew for the upcoming flight. A veteran in An-12 operations, Captain Tikhnenko, a man of few words, would be commander of our flight. The other cockpit members comprised; Co-pilot Shamarin, Flight Engineer Yuschenko, Navigator Minakov, Radio Operator Nikonov, Ground-engineers Garbuza and Torshyn. These blond, muscular men more looked like the Ukrainian Olympic wrestling team than an An-12 flight crew! Our radio operator, resplendent in a grey, and one time Ukrainian Air Force overall, was next to the broker’s liaison officer, the only crew member with knowledge of the English language. He gave me a run down of the flight deck and procedures in case of an emergency. The flight deck was as it would have appeared in the ‘60s, except for the addition of a GPS navigation aid system. Fortunately the An-12 has a spacious cabin situated behind the cockpit to give place to all these crewmembers and this section is pressurized together with the cockpit. Due to these features it looks like you have entered a Russian submarine!

The round, slender body of the An-12 features a stepped cockpit and glassed-in nose, with the landing gear housed within external blisters. The somewhat elevated tail and a big cargo hatch (10ft. x 8ft.) ensures the convenient loading and unloading of large-size cargoes. The freighter was fitted out with a custom-made roller track system floor to enable the easy loading and unloading of pallets. Its large volumetric hold can carry up to four P6P pallets and has a internal crane. The An-12’s sturdy construction can handle a maximum cargo payload of an impressive 15,000 kg. Ukrainian Cargo Airways acts as the state enterprise on the market of air transportation since 1997. Their headquarters is in the city of Zaporizhia, Ukraine. The fleet of IL-76’s, IL-78’s, An-12’s, An-26’s, Tu-154B-2’s and Mil-8 helicopters are based in Kryvyi Rig and Melitopol.

The aircraft, UR-UCK (c/n 9346905), an An-12BK “Cub” of the early 1960s, had previously seen service with Ukrainian Cargo and Veteran Airlines under registration UR-11304. The first owner was the “Red Star Air Fleet” and consequently she still had the tail turret, of course without its double-barreled machine-guns.

Our load of four pallets giving 8.5 tonnes payload was in the final stages of loading which was done with the help of a forklift-truck. 6000kg of fuel was ordered and some minutes later a Shell refueler proceeded to replenish the tanks as requested. We would burn an estimated 2,400 kg of fuel per hour. After Co-pilot Shamarin had checked the weather, finalized the flight plan and paid the ground handler, I joined him for the final walk-around and then boarded the aircraft via the hatchway under the cockpit, as the side-door was blocked by the cargo.

At 12.30Z “Uniform Kilo 345” (our flight number UKS0345) called Schiphol ground for start clearance, which was duly received, and with the pre-start checklist completed No. 1 starter was engaged. In less than a minute the 4,000-shp Ivchenko AI-20K engine, driving AV68 four blade constant speed propellers, was stabilized at low speed. Numbers 2, 4, and 3 were then started, taxi clearance was given and with Number 1 and 4 up-shifted to high speed, we powered out towards the hold for runway 19L. With the deafening deeply-pitched roar of the Ivechenkos piercing our ears, we had to wait on departing traffic before lining up. A KLM Boeing 737 followed by a Iberia Airbus departed within some minutes after each other. During the hold for 19L the other 2 engines were up-shifted and with clearance given Tikhnenko steered us onto the runway and lined up on the “zebra crossing”. With our Captain handling the aircraft, the brakes were applied and the throttles advanced to take off power. After the brakes were released, we lurched forward. Rotation occurred at 105 Kts. at 12.51Z, and after an initial climb rate of 1600ft/min, and landing gear retraction at 900ft, we poured a fresh smoke supply over the polder just aft of the threshold. With the cabin reverberating to the deep roar of the Ivchenko turboprops, speed was maintained at 160kts and the climb rate reduced to 900ft/min, followed by a slight left turn onto heading 186 degrees and climb to 4000ft. Yuschenko constantly monitored the engine instruments and made fine adjustments to the power levers to keep each engine at the same power setting. At 12.57Z Amsterdam control cleared us to 27000ft (approximate 8600 meters according the Russian altimeter) and instructed us to contact Dusseldorf control. They directed us onto a heading of 157 degrees to the “ARP” beacon. Climbing out to our assigned cruising altitude, we overflew Germany’s industrial Rhur district. Despite the heavy din, the An-12 cockpit is relatively quiet and vibration-free at climb and cruise power.

Once we had settled into our cruise, one of the engineers served some of Ukrainian’s finest cuisine in the crew rest area of the An-12.
The main dish consisted of boiled chicken (perhaps “Chicken Kiev”) and as dessert a thick slice of fatty bacon with fresh tomatoes; – I refused politely!

Dusseldorf gave various heading changes but we maintained our height and arrived over the Fulda VOR at 13.54Z. Then turned onto a heading of 132 degrees for beacon LNZ. Handing over to Linz control at 14.35Z the elevation of the ground ahead rose, snow could be seen on the higher slopes and an increasing illumination becoming visible as dusk caught the lumbering Antonov. An opportunity to listen into the airwave for a change, produced little traffic, with only some Tyrolean commuters working the frequency.

At 14.57Z the descent was initialized and the throttles were retarded to give 1300hp and the descent rate increased to 1000ft/min with an airspeed of 250kts. 15.05Z and Bratislava control instructed a descent to 17,000ft, change heading to 095 degrees and to contact Budapest on 120,375. We reported our position and gave our speed. After several minutes in descent we leveled off at 9500ft and Yuschenko throttled back to give 800hp on each engine. Budapest approach gave further successive headings to put us on an intersection with the runway Instrument Landing System (ILS). Overhead the city, with its illuminated historic buildings and bridges, Ferihegy Tower was contacted 5 miles out and we were cleared to land on runway 13R with a wind speed of 10kts from 180 degrees at 5 degrees Celsius. With localizer capture, the final checks were carried out and gear and flaps selected. We watched Tikhnenko grapple with the ILS down to short finals as runway 13R grew ever closer. As we crossed the perimeter fence, Tikhnenko brought his plane exactly on track and made a smooth touchdown exactly at 16.32 local time.
Props went into reverse and we came to a noisy stop abeam the cargo terminal. Following the receipt of parking instructions from the tower to taxi to our designated stand, we pulled up next to a DHL Airbus A300F, registered OO-DLR and spooled down the power plants.
Our sturdy Antonov behaved impeccably and performed her duties perfectly!

The cockpit hatch was opened followed by the cargo door at the rear of the aircraft. Our Hungarian airline representative and his ground crew were on hand to meet the aircraft, and the pallets were off-loaded within a few minutes. New cargo was also quickly loaded and the aircraft refueled. At 18.25LT, UR-UCK, using call sign “Uniform Kilo Sierra 346”, smoked her way out of Ferihegy airport into the dark of the evening, en-route to its temporary home at Ostend Airport, Belgium. I left Budapest the next morning on a regular flight to Amsterdam.

Hopefully our leviathan will keep finding more lucrative opportunities to earn its keep and be around for many more years to come.

Special thanks to Mr. Rob Williams of the West Midlands, England, for his editorial consultancy.

Written by
Jan Koppen

Jan Koppen lives near Amsterdam's Schipol airport and has been an aviation enthusiast since a child. Currently, he works for KLM Cargo as a Capacity & Flight Optimizer.

8 User Comments:
Username: Ruslan [User Info]
Posted 2003-04-11 21:39:59 and read 32768 times.

That was an incredible story...I like your attention to detail..every sight, sound feel etc..It's good to hear some positive stories for a change about the old hardy and very versatile turboprops,,Also great photos of the AN-12..Great job! keep it up!

Username: Trintocan [User Info]
Posted 2003-04-13 02:08:05 and read 32768 times.

A lovely article - and the pictures really added to it. I liked the great detail of the loading and flight -and, of course, the plane. It looks as though these sturdy machines could fly forever.

Great article.


Username: Alessandro [User Info]
Posted 2003-04-13 11:33:32 and read 32768 times.

Cool writing, just one question, "Russian built", isn´t Antonov Ukranian based?

Username: USAFHummer [User Info]
Posted 2003-04-17 02:56:43 and read 32768 times.

Excellent story on a most unique experience...I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!


Username: Luzezito [User Info]
Posted 2003-04-22 09:22:14 and read 32768 times.

Thank you for sharing this great experience with us! By sharing your luck with us you make us also lucky!

Username: Turbulence [User Info]
Posted 2003-04-24 23:49:48 and read 32768 times.

Very nice article!!! And very well explained and detailed!!! It made me feel I was in that An12, and feel sorry for the difficult times former soviet aviation is living.

It is (still) also stunning that those old-good birds are made for 5-people crews, and makes me think how they can (still) be (economically) reliable in these days, having to pay five salaries, when everything is counted even in cents, no matter if "c€nts" or "cent$".

Thank you for sharing your luck with us all.

Happy turbulences!!!

Username: Patroni [User Info]
Posted 2003-04-27 01:55:02 and read 32768 times.


Thanks for this very nice article! I never flew on an AN-12, but visited one here in Luxembourg a while ago. Similar to you I immediately thought of a submarine or ship when seeing the sturdy construction and the interior of the Antonov. In the cabin behind the cockpit was a little oven and two benches, everything looked far too heavy to fly ;)

Best regards,


Username: F-WWKH [User Info]
Posted 2003-05-17 18:20:54 and read 32768 times.

Surprising to read that the pilot and co-pilot were not able to speak english? Wonder that is allowed in european skies :-o

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