Aviation Feature – Russia: Siberia Revisited – Part 9, Yakutsk-Magan

We landed at Yakutsk in bright sunshine and when disembarking from the Alrosa Tu-134, we were filtered off onto our own bus in order to expedite our exit from the airport.

This was done for us even though we weren’t due to tour Yakustsk Airport until the following day, as today our destination would be Magan, or Yakutsk-Magan as the airport is officially called.

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I managed to get a hurried 10mm shot of our mount before the wagging finger of a security man gestured me to stop.

As we arrived at Magan the rain began to fall, but in the distance the sun was shining bathing the aircraft in the most beautiful light of the whole trip so far.

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Our hosts were the airport owner and his crew, including head of security and others. They seemed a little surprised that we wanted to venture outside to take photos while the rain was still coming down, but with the great light plus not knowing how long we had here, we had already unanimously decided we wanted to get wet.

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The airport has a compacted sand runway and a grass one, and while we got wet from above, our shoes also started to get a little messy.

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We decided that we’d just walk the active ramps for the time being due to the rain, and quickly snap what we could while the light was still nice.

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This airport is home to a nice number of active LET L-410, An-2 and Mi-8 airframes, and is a base for the smaller aircraft in the Polyarnye Avialinii fleet, better known as Polar Airlines, with their trademark Polar Bear symbol.

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The line-up of An-2s, some flyable and some grounded, included a single An-3T, a type I’d never seen before. The An-3T is an An-2 with a turboprop, although this ones propeller was missing.

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The fleet of Polar Airlines Mi-8s are painted in a very bright orange scheme, for use in the winter wilderness in this area.

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There was a Mi-1 being worked on, and we were told that this was being prepared for display. We couldn’t ascertain if this was the same airframe that used to be mounted at the airport entrance; maybe we’ll never know for sure.

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As the rain had now stopped we asked to explore the far end of the airfield, where there were many aircraft literally out to grass, parked and dumped in a large grassy area.

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The only large aircraft still intact, although withdrawn from use, was a Polar Airlines An-24, with the rest being smaller commuter types.

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There were some real gems hidden back here. Many An-2s with old style Aeroflot schemes, long gone, give a small glimpse into what was operated during Soviet times.

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There were also many L-410s, all in the polar colours of Aeroflot, another scheme sadly long gone.

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We were getting bitten to death by all the mosquitoes in the long grass, and I’d stupidly worn shorts as it was a warm day. But if there’s any bunch of people that’ll put up with things like this, it’s aviation enthusiasts.

You could hear slaps every couple of seconds as we tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the relentless mossies at bay, but it was no good, they just kept on coming.

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The one oddity was the wrecked sections of Il-62 CCCP-86613. This aircraft overran the runway during a fog diversion from Yakutsk on 21 November 1990. It landed too long and ended up in a ravine and broke up, with all 109 people escaping without any fatalities luckily.

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There were also a few old Aeroflot Mi-8s plus a Mi-2 dotted around the field.

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Our hosts seemed keen to get us off the airfield, or so we thought, but we stalled long enough, ignoring the horn blowing by the security van, until we’d photographed the whole damn lot.

We assumed they’d just got bored and wanted us to hurry up, but we would find out soon that wasn’t the case.

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The last aircraft we shot was an old Yak-12, which was mounted by the terminal.

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We were taken into the terminal and into a back room, where spread out before us was so much food it was unbelievable. All sorts of delicious items were laid out including a centrepiece of a huge sturgeon fish which was delicious.

Of course our hosts insisted on a toast every couple of minutes, which involved drinking down a nip of vodka. Hours of toasts and karaoke afterwards, and we were all pretty much the worse for wear.

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By the time we got back on the bus and to the hotel in Yakutsk city, it was still only seven in the evening. It actually felt like midnight!

A truly magnificent day, with such gracious hosts, and we hadn’t even visited the main airport yet! Certainly this was one of the highlights of the trip, and more than made up for Mirny.

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