Airevents.de organized a pleasure flight on an Il-76 in Belarus. Although the package was a bit pricey, I decided not to let go this once in a lifetime chance. With no direct flights from Amsterdam, the travel agent involved, Merlintours, suggested an itenerary where I could fly TO
Belarus in style as well; connecting in Frankfurt and continuing by Tu-154M. Let the pictures and videos speak for itself. Sorry it it takes a while to upload, I lost the program in which I could cut and shrink pictures.
Su 26-8-2007 Lufthansa Cityline ARJ-85 D-AVRP AMS
sched. , actual 12.34-13.19
Although a 733 was in the schedules, the Avro was the actual aircraft. It’s a pity that they couldn’t print the boarding pass for the 2nd leg in Amsterdam yet, so I had to bother to try and get a good seat in Frankfurt, where I’d arrive only an hour before the flight, bugger. At least on this first flight I had a windowseat, 11F. Noone in the middle seat (about 65% occupied flight). After the pushback on 12.19, we had a short taxi and were in the air at 12.34.
Video of retracting of flaps over southwestern Amsterdam
The flight attendants rushed the regular ham or cheese sandwich, chocolate bar and non alcoholic drink service. After a right turn over Frankfurt city center we were on the ground in time.
After a bus drive, and Frankfurt airport was busy, there was no clear transfer desk and route, I had to go to the general check in area. It was already 14.00, less then an hour before scheduled departure, of course the window seats were gone. But I met some Airevents people I already knew from my earlier trips there so we went to the gate together. I was not impressed with Frankfurt. That you had to go out of sterile area and then have TWO check ups (with shoes out, confiscating of drinks as my friends bought some bottles of juice thinking we passed the last check already, etc) on the way to the aircraft seemed inefficient compared to Amsterdam.
Su 26-8-2007 Belavia Tu-154M EW
, sched, actual 15.27-18.09
We were again bused to the Tupolev. I was excited to make an actual scheduled flight on a Tu-154 for the first time since 1996, it’s always nice to experience a classic airplane in everyday use compared to a pleasure flight.
The aircraft looked somewhat old and unkept from the inside. Due to some battery malfunction, see for photo’s below at my flight back on the same machine. Rusty chairs and old fashioned tray tables, peeled and torn floor carpets.
We pushbacked at 15.13. The flight attendant shouted the safety instructions on an argumentative tone thru the intercom. Two exits at thee left! Two exits at thee right! Then they passed the cabin with newspapers including the Herald Tribune and some sweets.
Take off was 15.27, on one way or another, together with the noise, the aircrafts climb seemed more dramatic then with a western aircraft. After a slow initial climb it seems the nose remained pointed high in the air for like 15-20 minutes. The flight was very smooth, the weather was nice but it also seems Russian airplanes are usually stable steamstormers in any weather.
After half an hour, a cart with soft drinks bottles, cups, lemon slices passed, and then a bag with a ham/cheese sandwich was handed out. On descent, I visited the front toilet, it was stuck, almost overflowing and dirty. I really felt lucky I was a man today and didn’t have to sit down here. Also the cockpit door seemed nothing stronger then a thin toilet door, probably it would not pass certification in the USA. During landing, some flight attendants were still walking around but the flight was smooth so probably they knew there was little risk. All in all a typical old fashioned soviet style flight!
In Minsk, we had to cue up for an obliged local travel insurance (cost 1,50 euro), and then we met the local tour leader and took the van drive to the hotel.
30 Aviation enthousiasts were there, I went for dinner with about 7 I already met but we would see the others the next morning. Typical; the group consisted of 29 men and one lady.
Next morning just after 9 we drove in a bus to the airport. Upon my request we stopped so I could buy batteries, as I discovered recharging the batteries one month ahead is not a good plan. Then the bus headed to the cargo entrance area. On the ramp, there was a big fleet of about 15 Trans Avia Export Il-76s, but many missed an engine or two, or some other parts. Closer were two operational looking machines, one white one registered ST
-ATX and just arriving D2-FEW of the Angolan Air Force. We were dropped off at this Sudanese machine. So that means not only a new type in our logbooks but also a country registration probably few of us ‘had’ yet.
Mo 27-8-2007 Trans Avia Export Il-76TD ST
After taking pictures all around the aircraft, we boarded around 10.35 thru the back-ramp door. They had 30 side ways seats prepared for us. Luckily I could sit close to one of the four small windows so I could peak outside. Let the pictures speak for itself. The cargo master sitting in front took care that we were buckled during take off and landing.
video window view right after take off http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDpc_4TKAw8
video of the cabin with 30 aviation geeks on board http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDf7YH7J38Y
inflight video of wing/engines
two videos of the cockpit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtuB6zJFE6o
a video with the view of the navigator nose : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7rrUgRu6zs
The engines started to scream at around 10.55, we taxied at 11.00 and we were off the ground at 11.07. Climb was smooth and after a minute of so, people started to walk around the cavernous cargo hold. Taking pictures on the cargo ramp thingie (English word?) although I would be a bit hesitant since I heared a Congolese Il-76 once lost about 250 troops when the door came open mid flight.
We were allowed in the cockpit and the navigator glass nose section two minutes each during the flight.
Around 11.56 we did a low pass and steep climb over Minsk2 airport. Nobody was buckled up (the crew didn’t even try to ask) and some people almost fell on the floor like bowling pylons. But then we were called back to our seats and we landed smoothly at 12.07.
After lunch, we spent the early afternoon with a visit to the airport tower, (a long climb, who needs a gym?). The airport, charming Soviet style
and then on the cargo ramp again, at the overhaul hangar were a 737 had an A-check, and then clicking the old Tu-154s, 134s and Il-76s on the boneyard.
Only the red/green government aircraft we were instructed NOT to photograph. Oh, but what do we find here
On tuesday we visited Minsk1 south of the center. Again we were allowed to walk around in all overhaul hangars and the boneyards as long as we stayed together. This place is specialised in Tu-134s and Yak-40s. Most of us saw, wrote or shot probably more of them then in the rest of their lives.
It was cute to see and try the organisators try to keep everyone in one group but as a Kindergarten class everyone spread out and ran to the aircraft they fancied most while the organisators rolled with their eyes. I was trying to tease Boris, the young Belarusian organisator from Merlin tours, “Will you be executed now” “Why me? YOU guys should be executed!”
Here some impressions of Minsk itself;
Everything comes to an end. Most people left already on tuesday afternoon on flights to Hanover, London and such, but with 4 die hards we took the van back to the airport on wednesdaymorning Just like we saw earlier, many Belavia flights were heavily delayed including 2,5 hours for ours, scheduled for 12.35 but delayed til 15.00. Soccer club Minsk Dinamo had a game today in Odense and we suspected they needed an aircraft for that messing up the whole schedules. We already tried to have changed reservations on our later connecting Lufthansa flights from Frankfurt, which were too tight again when a further 45 minute delay showed up on the departures screen. No compensation, explanation or food/drinks coupon.
wed 29-8-07 Belavia Tu-154M EW
, sched, actual 15.59-17.16
Finally we were bused to the same Tupolev I flew out on. I always regret 2nd flights on airliners I already “have” in my logbook but the good news it was a Tu-154 again and my camera was working now.
wed 29-8-07 Lufthansa 737-300 D-ABEU FRA
, sched, actual 21.43-22.32
Another bother to try and get on a flight home, as I didn’t have a boarding pass either and obviously missed my original connecting flight. Long walk searching for a proper Lufthansa desk. The lady had to discuss with her supervisor as it was a ‘special price’ ticket if I could get on a later flight. Niiice. So actually I was relieved she gave me a 21.20 flight boarding pass. According to the timetable it was supposed to be an A-320, it sounds funny to be excited about a Lufthansa A-320 but on my numerous Lufthansa flights I got on almost all their types except the 320! But on a screen in the terminal I saw I’d get on D-ABEU. By this time I was it ‘BEU’ (fed up) indeed. Together with two others who only had late evening flights to Milan and Brussels, we spotted in the terminal during sunset and saw quite some interesting aircraft.
The Amsterdam flight was short and uneventful. Had a nice glass of red wine and asked for a 2nd sandwich as I didn’t take much of the overpriced food in the FRA
Here a night shot of the neighboring aircraft after arrival in Amsterdam
Sorry if it's written a bit quick, I had little time and this way it's the only chance I'll have a report online. Look forward to your comments!
(edited to remove a few pictures to make the upload quicker)
[Edited 2007-09-03 14:30:42]