Flying across the Siberia by IL-86 and IL-62
1. Flying IL86 350 seater of Siberia Airline from Beijing to Novosibirsk.
2. Flying loud Tu154B-2 aircraft to Moscow and a 30 minute final approach into Domodedovo Airport.
3. Flying Tu134A-3 aircraft from Moscow to St Petersburg
4. Flying Yak40 of Russia State Transport Company to Nizhny Novgorod.
5. Flying IL62 of VIM Airlines Moscow to Chita Sitting at the last row next to the engines!
6. Flying Tu154M and IL86 from Moscow to Beijing via Novosibirsk and include a security threat at 2am on the IL86!
This Trip Report will only feature the IL86 and IL62 leg.
I wasn’t a great fan of Russian/Soviet airplanes until on a trip to Phuket, Thailand in Jan 2003, I witnessed a thriller, a very last minute takeoff of an IL96 of Domodedovo Airlines. I was speechless after the takeoff and thought that was a very close call! Since then I have paid special attention on soviet built airplane, their sheer good dynamic and versatile looks and their unique performances. As a photographer, Soviet built planes in western country is always regarded as special and many spotters/photographer made the trip specially for them. I have flown most western built jets and props in my life, after the Concorde to London and the B707 in Iran, I asked myself, “What’s next?” Not surprisingly, Russian built airliner came to my mind and the time was approaching Autumn, I don’t want to do this in the long cold and harsh winter, so I gathered my chances and decided to do it in September before had to wait summer.
I have to go to Beijing to see my family in September, and naturally I would like to do a side trip from Beijing, to Russia.
8 Sept 2004
Beijing (PEK) to Novosibirsk (OVB)
IL86 Siberia Airlines RA-86085 (in Vnukovo Airlines hybrid color scheme)
Flight time: 4hr 25 mins
Distance: 1866 miles
Captain Smolko and FO Soloviev
The Siberia agent told me the flight has been upgraded from Tu154 to IL86 in peak summer season because of the large increase of both cargo and passenger numbers. She also told me the IL86 is similar to a B777 and I think by the sheer look of the IL86, it is an absolutly mixture of B777 body and A340 engines!!!!! Check-in was chaotic, as most passenger are Russians, many have overweighted baggage.
The IL86 was parked on the remote apron and we took a bus to the remote stand and I found the IL86 in ecstasy, as it is a hybrid machine, in Vnukovo Airlines colors, with Siberia Airlines title. All passenger have to board via the lower stair of the plane and store some of the bulky luggage downstairs near the door before proceed upstairs for boarding. The IL86 have an interesting design, have 3 doors on each side in the lower deck and is sufficient to operate in any remote conditions for passenger boarding without aerobridge or external stairs. After boarding, the cabin was very spacious, just as I predicted. Cabin seating is 3-3-3 9 seat abrest. We were slightly delayed on takeoff because of the extra cargo loadings. The IL86 is also a very gentle aircraft on takeoff, it wasn’t very noisy inside, even I sat next to the engines. It climbed very slowly and many times it climb and level and climb again later when the engine gain more power.
IL86 just airborne and Beijing airport ramp view below.
Very slow climbing, almost level.
The Great Wall underneath, a clear day for flying!
Some photo of in flight service and cabin interior.
During the flight, non-alcoholic drink service was offered, followed by sales of alcohols and a hot meal. No in flight entertainment or audio programme on this flight, as there were no ear jack or screen onboard. Those items were considered luxury in Russian flights I later found out.
The lower stair, is blocked during the flight.
The IL86 have 2 lavatories in front, and 6 at the back near the tail section. You can see the number of each above the door.
Hot meal served onboard
Another interesting feature is the fan nozzle is mounted on the seat back, not on the ceiling.
Toilet view of IL86. It stinks…..
I also met a couple from Australia, sat in front of me and we have some pleasant conversation. The nice lady helped me to translate my question of IL86 to the crew, as the crew speak only limited English. The crew informed me that the IL86 can fly from Siberia in the most harsh weather, minus 50 degrees with no problem. Usually operates under 4 cockpit crews and 12 Flight Attendants.
Not long after our conversation, the plane start to descend, over an overcast Novosibirsk. We touched down local time 12:45pm on Runway 25, and arrived 45 minutes behind schedule. It was very windy and tempature was about 7 degrees from memory. The Chaotic deplane scene is just the start sign of some nightmare…It took me more than 2 hours to clear custom because of the Russian system and (possibly bribery) there. Most of the time I was just standing in the queue while many tried to get through on a one by one basis….. I have missed my original connection but S7 airline have kindly put me on the next flight and I was able to relax in the VIP lounge among few other passengers.
This is the plane I flew from Beijing to Siberia! Seeing her resting on apron for the next duty.
Ramp view of Novosibirsk. A few hours later, I flown on this Tu154-B2 to the capital, Moscow.
After a few days in Moscow, I did sightseeing, plane spotting in DME, flown Tu134, Yak40 to some nearby cities. With my friend Nikolai’s assist, I have bought a ticket on VIM Airlines, roundtrip from Moscow to Chita onboard their IL62. I knew very little about VIM Airlines or Chita at that point.
11 Sept 2004
Moscow Domodedovo (DME) to Chita (HTA)
Flight time: 6hr 10mins
Distance: 2948 miles
Captain Sargsayn and FO Golubech
A wet evening ramp of DME.
The departure time was 20:50 in the evening. The IL62M was parked in the remote ramp. When the bus reached the plane, I got a kick as it is the red colour IL62M with heavy noise on the wet ramp awaits passenger board via stairs in Door 2L. A typical Soviet Era scene I was chasing….
Bathroom at the back. Stinks as usual
Unfortunately it was a overnight flight and I took some much needed rest and only woke up before approach. I don’t recall much about the takeoff roll but I remember there were many low clouds (evening thunderstorms) around and the plane was very sturdy.
We are on final descend into Chita. It feels very cold outside.
Past through some low clouds. The IL62 descend was screaming loud with power reduced from throttle. It really wake you up. We have had a very smooth landing.
The only other plane at Chita’s ramp
Deplane using stairs and had a good look of the plane in daylight.
The famous T tail and tail wheel of IL62
Among all passengers we left the airport in a small side gate and directed to the baggage claim area, and I simply head back to the terminal re-check in for the flight back to Moscow. The turnaround time was about 2hrs 30mins.
12 Sept 2004
Chita (HTA) to Moscow Domodedovo (DME) to
Flight time: 6hr 30mins
Distance: 2948 miles
Captain Snport (spelling?) and Godiaev
Back to the plane took me to Chita. I wish I have a wide angle to fit the whole plane in.
The plane was rather empty. I changed seats and grab the last row 3 seater to the right engines. It was loud and raw on takeoff -roll. I videoed the takeoff.
Airborne from Chita.
Flying across Siberia over 11000m on a clear day!
We even have inflight entertainment (LCD screen) on the IL62!
After 6hrs + , we are approaching Rwy 14 of DME. At this point it was VERY LOUD from the engine, feels like the captain have push the throttle forward and back…..It was crazyily loud to the ears and quite unbearable….but I wish I can hear this kind of noise again nowadays….
Final approach over the dense forest.
Landed safely and taxi back to VIM’s remote parking bay
I got a rare chance to see the IL62 cockpit before deplane. Thanks to the friendly cockpit crew for the access. The captain explained every IL62 flight use 5 men as cockpit crew.
15 Sept 2004
Novosibirsk (OVB) to Beijing (PEK)
It was a typical cold night in Novosibirsk. Having arrived from Moscow a few hours ago, I was eager to board the IL86 again to fly back to Beijing. Everything appeared to be in good orders, passenger boarding began at 0130 and we boarded through the lower door of IL86 and place our bags in the baggage hold and walk upstairs to the main deck. The loads were light and most passengers have their own rows of three. Before we depart, the incident began….
A dark hair Chechen looking couple suddenly demand to leave the plane. Some other passengers have witnessed they have just returned from the toilet. This is unusual as why would they want to leave the plane suddenly after toilet visit before takeoff? It wasn’t easy at all to board an Int’l flight from Russia but why suddenly they want to leave? The incident happened during a very tense period only 1 week after the Beslan Massacre resulted over 380 killed by the siege
The Chechen couple were taken off the plane by security forces and more security stormed onboard and hand searched every part of the plane. However passengers are getting very anxious and demand to leave the plane. At around 0200, all passengers have left the plane and returned to the terminal. Sniffer dogs were used to search whether bombs were planted. All passengers were again and again hand searched and all baggage re-screened. A few doubtful characters were taken into rooms for more questioning included a French man. Majority of the passengers are Russians and Chinese.
The Russian security forces never came back with any official explanation what have happened. The flight attendant doesn’t know either but there were many speculations that a bomb was planted onboard. I was expecting to fly out again the next day. The tension was very high in the small Int’l terminal at 3am.
At 4am, we were taken back to re-board the same plane. The Chinese passengers refused as they seemed more worried about whether the search was conducted properly. The Russians, were showing much more confident and good faith in their own security forces and told the Chinese passenger not to worry. I was very tired and decided to fly regardless what have happened.
We took off just before dawn, and the IL86 is such a beast, we made a very loud roar and low climb out of Novosibirsk Airport outskirts. There were a lot of turbulence near Mongolia and all the way to Beijing. It seems we were flying into a low pressure weather system with very high ceilings of cloud coverage. The IL86 vibrated badly and we dropped a few times. The fun of flying was now totally gone and among many passengers we wish to get off the plane ASAP.
At 0925, our flight landed safely in Beijing on Rwy36R. It was such a relieve and many happy faces appeared among the Chinese passengers as they have arrived home safely. I have never found out what’ve exactly happened. The Chechen looking couple never boarded the plane again. Nevertheless, I survived the incident. I believe if the security police really found a bomb, we would not travel on the same plane again that night. Who knows?……
This concludes the Trip Report. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.