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2011 Articles

FEB 08 2010
Arctic Adventure - Part 8, Domodedovo and MARZ, Chornoye

It's fair to say that I was most interested to see what had changed here since I visited the year before, especially regarding the stored Il-62s and Tu-154s (which were parked on the grass) as I had seen many reports of the aircraft being scrapped. First things first though as we would have to get airside passes and transit security via the staff and crew area in the terminal. We were early naturally, as Olga always made sure we were in place well before time, so we spent a while hanging around the entrance and making it look scruffy while the beautiful people of Moscow strutted by!

After 15 minutes we were greeted by a young lady in high-heels who introduced herself as our escort on to the ramp. She was someone that none of us had seen before and we later learned that the staff who usually took us airside actually no longer worked at the airport. This was the first sign of trouble ahead as Steve and Olga have built up a very good relationship with the older staff, and they knew exactly what we could do and let us get on with the job. It was time to start all that from scratch though - as we were about to find out.

We alighted the bus airside but Steve was not allowed to get into the front cab with the driver, which is what he usually does. When this happens Steve can direct the driver where to stop, as the cab and the passenger part of the bus has no communication link between the two. Steve tried to explain that it would be easier if he rode up front, but the response was a simple "no that is not allowed." Hmmm this was looking interesting! We trundled off towards the maintenance ramp on the northwest side of the airport which is our usual first stop to take photos. There were lots of interesting aircraft on that ramp as usual but, as the bus got to the extreme north of the ramp, it simply continued on which resulted in lots of quizzical looks between us.

We continued on towards the business jet ramp at the extreme end of the airport which we already knew was out of bounds to us as photographers, but, as we were there, we thought we may as well shoot a few out of the window. We stopped at the end and got off the bus, more than a little confused. There was a Boeing 727 parked on a new ramp between the biz jets and the runway so Steve asked if we could shoot it. Our escort was unsure but didn't put up any resistance as Steve announced that we would walk to the opposite side of the aircraft due to the direction of the sun. 4K-8888 is fitted with winglets and is painted in a very smart colour scheme and is operated by the Government of Azerbaijan. Off we trooped, well aware of the black security car parked next to the aircraft and with our escort trailing behind while desperately trying to make a phone call.

We reached the other side of the aircraft before the man in the car, who was probably sleeping, suddenly jumped out waving at us, while our escort tried to tell us that we couldn't take photos. She had obviously just got word from the office that we shouldn't be on this ramp. We had already bagged the photos so we shuffled back to the bus. We then got a lecture that we shouldn't have been there. Well to be honest, the driver brought us here, our escort let us on the ramp, and this would never have happened if Steve was in the cab as he already knew where we could go. Great start!

We backtracked along the ramp and were then told that we were not allowed out at the maintenance area to shoot the aircraft there. We had always shot in that position and Steve was now becoming annoyed as the airside tour was rapidly becoming a shambles. We were finally let out on the east side of the airport to shoot some of the Russian built aircraft parked on the remote stands and looking over towards the grass area it certainly looked much emptier than last year, as if the scrapping had indeed begun. We were then told we couldn't shoot the stored aircraft - even from a distance! This was the breaking point for Steve who told the escort that we might as well just leave the airport as all the places we normally shoot from were suddenly out of bounds, but we were then taken to a place that we shouldn't really have gone to in the first place. She obviously really didn't have a clue what we were really were allowed to do and was clearly making it up on the spot.

Steve was so steamed by now that Olga made a call back to her office to talk to her boss who has all the connections in Russia. We shot some of the takeoffs and other parked aircraft and decided amongst ourselves that we'd had enough for today as we were due back two days later anyway. We retired to the Aerotel Hotel and revelled in the "gourmet" food that we come to expect from this establishment. It's a good job that they have a bar!

The next morning we had a last minute change of plan and headed towards Chornoye Air Base which is to the east of Moscow and very near to the Monino museum. At this location you can find the Moscow Aviation Repair Plant ROSTO (MARZ) and here they overhaul mostly An-2 biplanes and Mi-2 helicopters; not only for internal Russian use, but also for export. They also overhaul PZL-104 Wilga, Mi-8, Mi-14 and Ka-26 types although on a much smaller scale. The plant has been in existence since 1939 and has been involved with almost all of the single engined types of aircraft and also Mi-1 and Mi-4 helicopters. This location was also established as an Air Force Central Command Post in 1998 to allow the President to launch bombers, but I'm not sure if this is still the case.

We were given free rein to wander wherever we wished and the amount of aircraft was simply staggering. There were too many interesting airframes to comment on but I'll talk about a couple of the highlights. EA-00078 is an An-2E which was converted to an experimental ekranoplan. The top wing was removed and the bottom wing was extended backwards near the end of the fuselage and included very large winglets. Unfortunately this wing has been removed and I only managed to take a photo from behind where you can still see the remains of the wing, although it was mostly covered with overgrown grass.

There were three yellow An-2s with Cuban flags on the tail and these were parked outside in a grass area that looked like the ramp as it had access to the runway. They were all devoid of markings except their construction numbers and looked absolutely immaculate. The order to Cuba was apparently cancelled before delivery took place and there was one further machine, RA-40455, in very similar colours, which we assumed was part of the same order. A further machine painted in the same bright yellow shade was in Lukiaviatrans colours. There are not many aircraft that can pull-off a bright scheme like this, but the An-2 seems to do it very well.

There were certainly some great looking schemes around in this area such as RA-40646 for Altai Airlines, three in the orange and grey Naryan-Mar Air colours, plus three examples from the long winded Letno Issledovatelviskii Aerogeofisueski Tsentr, also known as the Aerogeophysical Flight test Centre, in an interesting light and dark blue scheme. All three of these were painted with no serial designations.

In the Mi-2 storage area there were some wildly painted airframes along with the normal drab and matt colours of the military along with a bunch of DOSAAF Wilgas. There were also some older An-2s still sporting their old Aeroflot colour schemes. One very interesting An-2 aircraft was marked as FLACCCP-01100 with Goodwill Flight Russia-Australia-Russia titles. This was seen in Adelaide in 1992, Brisbane in 1993 and then Tushino in the north west suburbs of Moscow in 1994. I can only imagine that participating in that flight would have been a real adventure!

Mi-2 RF-00582 belonging to ROSTO (DOSAAF) also carried Rescue Service titles with a code seemingly recorded as 001. The 001 in fact is the phone number in Russia for the rescue services. There were all sorts of variables of Aeroflot colour schemes, including many that I'd never seen before.

Preserved were a Mi-1 and Mi-4 inside the base plus a Mi-2 on a pole at the entrance along with a war memorial. It was an amazing place and although we were there for a couple of hours it would have been great to spend the whole day exploring and picking through the very interesting histories of many of these aircraft.

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2011-02-08 - Gordon Stringer
I really enjoyed reading this piece. Maximum points by the way for sticking with it. It's 30 years since I was last in Moscow and is sounds as though nothing has changed!!!!



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