EI321
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Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Tue Mar 20, 2007 8:30 pm

The AN124 has a flying crew of six - two pilots, two flight engineers, a navigator & a communicator. Why so many? Its not even that old! Are the avionics that dated? Even the oldest 747s only have three crew.
 
mandala499
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Tue Mar 20, 2007 10:58 pm

The Radio Operator is a normal thing given that it was designed as a military transport, and they use their own language (ICAO: English, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.... if I remember that rightly)... so, the radio guy speaks English when flying outside Russia.
Navigator? Well again, it was a military transporter, designed to fly offroutes etc...
As of 2 flight engineers, well, perhaps there's a rule on the number of wheels limit before you need an extra engineer ! LOL
Or perhaps one of them is the loadmaster>

J/K

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PILOTALLEN
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 21, 2007 12:44 am

I got an explanation once that with russian aircraft, usualy the russians are very quick to roll out a plane, ie: read tupolevs books, he came out with like 200 different planes! anyway with the "rushed" way of doing things they didnt bother with simplifying things, thus you have the many positions, instead of setting it up like a 747-400 they just made everything seperate.
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pilotpip
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 21, 2007 2:12 am

Because the USSR had to provide everybody a means of work. One thing that's nice about communism is that you didn't have to consider downsizing the crew.
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bond007
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 21, 2007 3:11 am

Actually the A124-100Ms only require a crew of 4.

Joking aside, and apart from the fact they aren't B747s by any stretch of the imagination in terms of modern systems, I'm assuming that the 'engineers' are/were more a requirement just because of rarity of the aircraft and systems. If they fly into most airports around the world, and they have even the simplest systems problem, I assume that you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV to get parts and an engineer on-site within 2 hrs ... these guys are probably qualified to perform much of the maintenance and fixes that airline ground crew would normally perform.


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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 21, 2007 4:12 am

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 4):
If they fly into most airports around the world, and they have even the simplest systems problem, I assume that you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV to get parts and an engineer on-site within 2 hrs ... these guys are probably qualified to perform much of the maintenance and fixes that airline ground crew would normally perform.

Exactly. One should compare to, say, BA flying a 744 into JFK. Well before BA started flying into the 744 JFK, they would have arranged for maintenance and such. Everything from fueling to possible engine replacement. This might be done by stationing BA personnel at JFK or contracting out. That's because BA will then fly 4-6 744s a day into JFK. The flight crew, while needing good knowledge of the aircraft, do not need to know how to perform all the maintenance required.

However, with a transport like the An-124, every flight is a one off. They might be in Ouagadougou when all of a sudden a hinge for the front cargo door breaks. As Bond007 bsays, you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV. Maybe you even have to run out and find some machinist to make a part. The flight engineers have to be trained in not only supporting the flying aircraft, but maintaining and repairing it as well.
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:01 am

I've seen AN124 Freighters carry 6 crew including a Mx Engineer & a round 6-7 Crew for loading unloading Cargo & of course the Famous Towbar.
regds
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BAE146QT
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 21, 2007 4:46 pm

I just dialled 1-800-ANTONOV. Instead of hold music, they have Helen Mirren reading passages of Dostoyevski in a Ukrainian accent.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 21, 2007 10:13 pm

Quoting BAe146QT (Reply 7):
I just dialled 1-800-ANTONOV. Instead of hold music, they have Helen Mirren reading passages of Dostoyevski in a Ukrainian accent.

 rotfl   rotfl   rotfl 
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Jetlagged
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:50 am

Quoting Pilotpip (Reply 3):
Because the USSR had to provide everybody a means of work. One thing that's nice about communism is that you didn't have to consider downsizing the crew.

I can just see it down at the Kiev Job Centre. "Sorry, we don't need any more farmers at the moment, you'll have fill in as the extra Flight Engineer/Seat Warmer on an Antonov."  Wink

Not just communism, though. If you go to Japan (capitalist) you will see a lot of people doing non-jobs. We have them too. It's called the service sector. In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it was the telephone sanitisers, marketing executives, etc who were returned to repopulate the Earth, which of course explains everything.  Big grin

The big Antonovs are basically military planes, so have military crewing concepts. Military navigators have a lot more to do besides fix where they are, similarly radio operators. For civil ops, with a modern nav system, the flight crew could presumably be reduced.

When the An124 was designed I doubt the Russians had the automation technology to eliminate the Nav and F/E anyway.
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BAE146QT
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:10 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 9):
"Sorry, we don't need any more farmers at the moment, you'll have fill in as the extra Flight Engineer/Seat Warmer on an Antonov."

"In mother Russia, aviation job finds you."

Although what Jetlagged says makes perfect sense, I think the most likely explanation is;

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):
with a transport like the An-124, every flight is a one off. They might be in Ouagadougou when all of a sudden a hinge for the front cargo door breaks. As Bond007 bsays, you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV.

From what I understand of Russian culture in general, they (historically) like the idea of specialisation*. And if you look at what Starlion says in the post I quoted, that approach is completely appropriate. Why waste a good pilot's capacity by training him as an engineer (in the true sense of the word), given that so many things may go wrong when you have no support? "Jack-of-all-trades" and all that.



* Or maybe it is just as true to say that they didn't like the idea of one person knowing too much. That may be wrong - my view is skewed as a Westerner...
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bond007
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 22, 2007 8:36 am

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 4):
Actually the A124-100Ms only require a crew of 4.

Remember guys .... the new ones only need 4  Wink


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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 22, 2007 11:24 am

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 11):
Remember guys .... the new ones only need 4

Who are the other Two  Smile
regds
MEL
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ex52tech
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Fri Mar 23, 2007 12:50 am

I actually witnessed an AN-124 crew breaking down a wheel assembly out on the freight ramp in MSP with hand tools and a sledge hammer.
They had the new tire leaning against the cargo ramp.

We stopped and offered to let them use some air tools in one of our hangars, but the language barrier was the problem.

So I would lean heavily on the "bring your own maintenance" theory.

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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Sun Mar 25, 2007 10:08 pm

Quoting Ex52tech (Reply 13):
I actually witnessed an AN-124 crew breaking down a wheel assembly out on the freight ramp in MSP with hand tools and a sledge hammer.
They had the new tire leaning against the cargo ramp.

New Tire or Wheel assy.
Were they Assembling the Wheel together ie Tie bolts etc.Surprising.
regds
MEL
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MD11Engineer
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:37 am

Polet Air rented some rooms in our hangar to set up a MX station for their AN-124's in HHN. They actually replaced the tyres themselves, means they get "naked" spare tyres, dismantle the old wheel assy and put a new tyre on, though they are using an hydraulic (manually operated) bead breaker to get the old tyre off the rim.
They also set up an avionics shop in one of the back offices.

Jan
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bond007
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:45 am

OK, Imagine an airline sending a 747 (or any aircraft actually), to an airport thousands of miles away, with no maintenance staff on the ground there, and limited support otherwise ... they would probably no doubt include much more than a crew of 2!


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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:40 pm

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 15):

Hopefully they charged the Wheel in a Safety cage  Smile
regds
MEL
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Zed
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 28, 2007 3:51 pm

I flew as passenger on an AN124 from Copenhagen (Kastrup) to Louisville, Kentucky (KSDF) in 1995. While my company's freight was being loaded in Copenhagen we were free to wander about the airplane, visiting the flight deck, cargo area, and crew quarters. The upper deck was divided into three areas (in addition to the flight deck). The forward area was set up much like the first-class section of a railway train - several private rooms with comfortable bench seats facing each other across a table. The flight crew and the single HeavyLift representative used the forward section. The aft section (where I travelled, along with a representative of my company's supplier) was equipped with regular airline seats and tables - done up in that floral pattern you often see in Russian decor - spread out over an abundance of floor space. There was a middle section, to which we were not invited.

In addition to the flight crew of 6, there was a full maintenance crew aboard. It was hard to tell exactly how many, but by keeping track of the faces as they entered and left our quarters from the middle section, I counted 22 personnel. These were airframe and engine mechanics, and systems experts (hydraulics, electrical, avionics, etc), according to the HeavyLIft representative.

I have some 35mm photographs of the flight deck somewhere - of a tourist-snapshot level of quality. The engineer's panel impressed me with the amount of space it required. If there were only one engineer he would need a crew seat on a sliding track to cover it all. Humans don't come equipped with arms long enough to cover that panel.

The navigator was stationed sideways behind the captain. His panel was equipped with two mechanical / analog HSIs, and two RMIs, if I recall. 'The captain's and F/O's panels were relatively sparse. The radio operator also sat sideways, next to the navigator.

In addition to the four sideways seats, there were fittings in the floor between the engineer's and nav / comm seats for two removable seats. I would think they would serve as observers' seats for instruction / supervision / certification exams of new crew members, but was told they were for old communist party bosses to keep an eye on the flight cerw.

From our position in the aft section, the mechanic crew chief allowed me time in his seat with an intercom station. Listening to what was going on up front, I could hear the US ATC transmissions, as well as internal communications. The radio operator was the translator. He would acknowledge an ATC directive in English, then relay the comm to the captain and/or navigator in Russian. When the captain initiated the exchange, he spoke to the radio operator in Russian, who then transmitted the request to ATC in English.

The engine runup before takeoff was interesting. The airplane lined up on the runway, having coordinated with ATC how much time they needed to set takeoff power. This was done in stages. I don't remember exactly what the HeavyLift rep told me they were, but it was something like set 50% N1, hold for two minutes, then 60% N1, hold for two minutes, and on up to takeoff thrust. I think it took about twenty minutes to set takeoff power, while the engineers verified all internal engine parameters warmed up to spec on schedule. This is hearsay, but the HeavyLift rep told me there wasn't an ounce of titanium in those engines. He said they were 1000 hour throw-aways. Somewhere over the north Atlantic there was a rather excited exchange among the mechanics in our compartment. As they spread engine technical manuals and drawings across one of the tables the conversation got quite lively. While they gestured and pointed to diagrams in the tech manuals - they seemed to be having a debate. Upon landing, the fans hadn't stopped rotating before the crew chief had a ladder in place up to the #1 engine. The HeavyLift rep told me the engine had developed an "unaccepteble" vibration inflight, and there was some talk of turning back, or diverting.

Takeoff and climbout was uncomfortable, very uncomfortable because of the noise. It is the loudest airplane I have ever been in. Louder than a 30 yr old NW DC-9 in that seat, in the back, next to the engine where your ear is about 2 Ft. from N1. More uncomfortable than when those DC-9 engines aren't properly synched, and the beat frequency goes straight through your head. Louder than the time I forgot to put on my helmet and earplugs before rolling for takeoff in a spam-can 350Hp Piper Pawnee Hutcherson conversion. I seriously considered ripping up a cotton t-shirt from my luggage in order to have something to stuff into my ears, but when we leveled off at the cruise altitude of 11,000 meters, it quieted down considerably. Before takeoff the crew chief and another guy each took a seat at those little portholes you see in the aft upper deck of the airplane. They both put on a headset, and watched the engines throughout takeoff and climb, until we throttled back at cruise. I never saw their eyes move from the assigned position. I don't think they blinked. HeavyLIft said they were to monitor the engines for signs of "distress", e.g. smoke, flame, shedding of parts etc. and immediately inform the flight crew.

I was told the airplane is best flown low, but is reasonably fast. Our trip from Kastrup to KSDF at FL290 took exactly 9 hrs 45 minutes. Contrary to a Wall-Street Journal article I remember from about the same time, I didn't see any vodka. Maybe it was in that middle section. The trip was interesting. I haven't searched the site for AN124 info before posting this, but I'd be interested to see what changes they have made to the airplane in the 12 years since my experience.
 
BAE146QT
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:32 pm

At the risk of sounding like a fanboi, that was an excellent post, Zed. Thank you.
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:10 pm

Fantastic Post zed.If only there were pics.

Quoting Zed (Reply 18):
I think it took about twenty minutes to set takeoff power,

Is this common.

regds
MEL
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bond007
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:15 pm

Nice informative post Zed!

Wasn't there also a requirement for being at the end of the runway for 20 minutes for the INS to 'set' ??
Maybe this was a myth, and it was the engine runup as you described ... or maybe both?
My understanding was that the end of the runway is one of the known lat/lons, and they punched it in and had to wait for everything 'to settle'.


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3MilesToWRO
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:16 pm

I'd suppose it is, however maybe more and more automatized. You shouldn't even use car engine at full power when it's cold, the more aircraft turbine. And it takes few minutes to warm car engine.
(There is a beautiful procedure for Il-2 engine startup when you look into Wikipedia for this aircraft. They have a link to real (battle)field manual of this plane, but in Russian of course. Quite similar steps: set X rpm and wait for oil temperature to reach Y, then set Z rpm and wait for oil to reach T...)
 
Zed
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:27 pm

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 20):
Quoting Zed (Reply 18):
I think it took about twenty minutes to set takeoff power,

Is this common.

...or is my memory faulty.

I've since heard other accounts putting the time at 4 minutes, total. I've also read on this site that the engines are removed / replaced at 500 hrs.

I'll modify my account slightly. The 2 minute stabilisation time, 20 minutes total are not a result of my timing them, they were given me by the HeavyLIft representative. I do remember four distinct stages during the runup. The pause at each setting seemed to take forever, especially the final stage at takeoff thrust, with accompanying buffet as the airplane strained against its brakes. I subjectively accepted the time as consistent with my experience. The thrust advance from one stage to the next was also very gradual. So, figuring 30 seconds to maneuver from the hold line to takeoff position, 2 minutes times 4 stabilisation periods, maybe 30 seconds to advance thrust from one stage to the next - works out to 11 or 12 minutes. The 20 minutes is a figure I was told that ATC blocked for our time on the runway. We probably didn't use all of it - but add another 30 - 45 seconds for takeoff roll, then 2 minutes for wake turbulence before clearing another airplane onto the runway, and the number begins to look almost reasonable from an ATC scheduling perspective. I'd bet a pint on it, but wouldn't risk my lunch money. I know it was more than 4 minutes. As for that figure, I wonder if that's one of the advances made in the ensuing 12 years, or if experience has shown they don't have to baby the engines quite so much if they replace them at 500 hrs rather than the 1000 I was told...

Jimbo: 20 minutes for the INS? That's an interesting angle that hadn't entered my mind. The Honeywell FMCs I'm familiar with on Boeing / Airbus require 7 minutes stationary to "set", It's conceivable the Russian systems might have taken longer - though we certainly have more published lat/lon information than just the runways these days.

If I ever get the chance to do it again (it's remotely possible), I have a number of questions I'll be taking with me.
 
CosmicCruiser
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:17 pm

I never knew what they were flying but back in the 80s(before the wall fell) I met an Aeroflot crew in Narita. They agreed to come to my room and swap wings. Two guys came but the full crew was pilot, co-pilot, F/E, navigator and radio operator. One of which was the political officer. The conversation stayed on an aviation line but it was a neat moment and I still have the 2 pair of wings from the pilot and navigator.

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 21):
Wasn't there also a requirement for being at the end of the runway for 20 minutes for the INS to 'set' ??
Maybe this was a myth, and it was the engine runup as you described ... or maybe both?
My understanding was that the end of the runway is one of the known lat/lons, and they punched it in and had to wait for everything 'to settle'.

I cetainly can't say about this AN124 but in the old Litton INS I flew in the 70s you just used the ARP and the jet had to be stationary for 10 min. Now the newer FMSs still have a 10 min countdown but many gates have the lat/lon marked or published and if you're GPS equipped it doesn't matter.
 
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:30 am

First of all, great post Zed!

Quoting Zed (Reply 18):
In addition to the four sideways seats, there were fittings in the floor between the engineer's and nav / comm seats for two removable seats. I would think they would serve as observers' seats for instruction / supervision / certification exams of new crew members, but was told they were for old communist party bosses to keep an eye on the flight cerw.

Interesting about the zampolit. I would also imagine crew training could take place from the navigator seat since you probably don't need the guy for patterns around the home base.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:43 am

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 24):
One of which was the political officer

Whats a political officer's job profile.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:34 am

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 26):
Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 24):
One of which was the political officer

Whats a political officer's job profile.

Did you watch or read "The Hunt for Red October?

A political officer, also known as a commissar, zampolit or politruk, is officially responsible for training in communist doctrine and ensuring actions are in line with the will of the party. In reality, they are watchdogs for the regime and often have broad powers.

As you can imagine, having such a person thrust into the command structure of a ship, battalion or aircraft made for some interesting dynamics. Even if he couldn't always overrule the commander, he could make life hell once back at base, and recommend commanders be relieved.

In WWII, Stalinist commissars would shoot "cowards" in the back. "Cowards" were, for example, troops who refused to clear minefields by marching over them. As Stalin said: "It takes a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army."
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CosmicCruiser
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 3:16 am

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 26):
Whats a political officer's job profile.

Starlionblue is correct but I suspect that in those later years he was more involved with making sure no one deviated from the "political correctness" of the regime. I have no clue if one of the guys I met was or not but I'm sure that's why they came as a pair and not alone. One of the pilots gave me some Kopecks and I tried to reciprocate by offering a US dollar and he declined. We talked of airport conditions, a/c and job requirements but no politics.
 
3MilesToWRO
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:58 am

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 28):
in those later years he was more involved with making sure no one deviated from the "political correctness" of the regime.

I'd rather say they were there to prevent the crew members from not returning home, however I highly doubt they would do it with direct force. It was not uncommon that people were not returning from trips abroad.
 
n92r03
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:10 pm

Quoting Zed (Reply 23):
I've since heard other accounts putting the time at 4 minutes, total.

An A124 departed TPA today, for BGR. Listening on ATC.net, the crew requested 4 minutes "delayed takeoff" which I had no clue what it was or what it was for. After they lined up, sure enough, about 4 minutes later they moved and took off. Of course I came home and searched the threads here and found this one.

Zed,
Excellent post with great detailed info.

FWIW, a British Royal Air force C-17 departed a couple minutes later. You don't see a C-17 and an A-124 at TPA every day and to depart within 5 minutes of each other was a treat.
 
SAAFNAV
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:28 am

Great post about your adventure!

Quoting Zed (Reply 23):

Jimbo: 20 minutes for the INS? That's an interesting angle that hadn't entered my mind. The Honeywell FMCs I'm familiar with on Boeing / Airbus require 7 minutes stationary to "set", It's conceivable the Russian systems might have taken longer - though we certainly have more published lat/lon information than just the runways these days.

Modern Ring Laser Giro Systems use less than 10min to align. We normally have a 4min alignment where you have to stand still, there after you can move, but it still aligns more accurately.
If you have a problem, or are below/above 70° Latitude, you do initial alignment, turn through 90° and wait another 10min for advanced alignement.

I know the old B707 with mechanical INS systems had to be aligned with absolutely no movement allowed, for about 50min.. The ARP was good enough for the position though.

No idea what the AN-124 might have installed though.

Erich
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:36 am

I took a tour of a 124 once. The cockpit reminded me of an ATC center mixed with a haunted house lol. But it is a beast of an airplane. I guess the large crew is needed just because its overwhelming for just 2 pilots to look at all of those gauges and stuff . And with that many crew members, you have people to talk to!
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arffdude
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:27 am

I saw one take off on ATL several years ago. Sure enough, it sat in position on the runway for around 4-5 minutes. We didn't know what they were doing, although we joked that was how long it took to down enough Vodka to get the courage to start the takeoff roll!
 
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Zkpilot
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:31 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 9):
Not just communism, though. If you go to Japan (capitalist) you will see a lot of people doing non-jobs. We have them too. It's called the service sector. In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it was the telephone sanitisers, marketing executives, etc who were returned to repopulate the Earth, which of course explains everything. Big grin

Very true... a normal business carpark (for shops for example) often has a little man with a flag waving showing drivers how to drive into a driveway (shock horror  Wow! ). About the only useful thing of this job (perhaps) is that they stop pedestrians briefly to let the car through safely, but completely unnecessary.
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:05 am

Quoting ARFFdude (Reply 33):

I saw one take off on ATL several years ago. Sure enough, it sat in position on the runway for around 4-5 minutes. We didn't know what they were doing, although we joked that was how long it took to down enough Vodka to get the courage to start the takeoff roll!

Reminded me of that video with the Il-76 where the ATC said "And the vodka burner is rolling!" LMAO!   
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RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:54 am

Quoting TWA772LR (Reply 35):
"And the vodka burner is rolling!"

We have Smirnoff! Classic!
Blue
Look at sweatpants guy. This is a 90 million dollar aircraft, not a Tallahassee strip club
 
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AirlineCritic
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Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2009 1:07 pm

RE: Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?

Sat Sep 29, 2012 6:45 pm

Amazing post, Zed!

Two people to watch engines. Talk about crew requirements... Wow.

I always wanted to fly on an AN124, but after this account I'd be scared of the engines quitting in-flight.

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