North Korea Aviation Tour 2014 Part 2
DAY 2 Visit DMZ
This is the only non-aviation day out of our 8 days schedule. Our group split into three went South to the 38th parallel line (border of North and South Korea) call DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).
Our KITC guide Ms Peng Un Mee
Bumpy roads enroute to DMZ through a series of tunnels on straight road. Perhaps the military tank can also use these roads.
Yours Truly wearing an oversized Soviet cap.
South Korea is just opposite and Seoul is within an hour of reach.
Viva Iran Air at DMZ
DAY 3 FLYING IL-18 UP NORTH TO SAMJIYON, VISITING MT PAEKTU
Highly recommended video:
The immaculate Il-18 four-engined propliner, built in 1969 and registered P-835 (c/n 185008601) is always a highlight, usually flying up to Samjiyon (YJS), near Mount Paektu, considered a sacred mountain and the place of Korea’s ancestral origin, from the kingdom of Gojoseon (2,300 BC) to the present day – it is even said that Kim Jong-Il was born there under a double rainbow. On the late 2012 trip, Mount Paektu was inaccessible due to snowfall, so Samjiyon was replaced by Orang (Chongjin) in the Northeast of DPRK where few foreigners have ever set foot.
On one tour, an American tour group shared our IL-18 ride and gave the group a good laugh when one member was overheard observing, ‘Gee – this is a really smooth flight!’ Their neighbour replied, ‘Honey – we haven’t taken off yet!’
Take off is in classic turboprop style, with a shallow but sure climb. The cabin crew, no doubt unused to passengers walking around inflight taking pictures, did their best to work around camera-toting enthusiasts to serve refreshing local Taedonggang beer.
Two charter flights (one IL-18 and one An-24) operate to Samjiyon that morning.
Takeoff and landing video:
No pollution, literally no houses but just pure nature, wood. The weather was gorgeous and improved greatly from Pyongyang.
After landing, the group were allowed to look around the cabin, cockpit and take as many photos as one would like.
Crowd gather for An-24 arrival photo/video.
After disembarking, the group is given delicious picnic lunches to enjoy while photographing P-835 from every angle on the otherwise deserted ramp. The gold standard for aviation photography is loading doors closed and steps off, and local ramp crew are happy to oblige – indeed, the steps are free for anyone who wants to use them to get a better vantage point.
I presented my latest book to the operating crew. The same captain and translator remember my visit 2 years ago.
There are no scheduled domestic flights in North Korea and hence no need for terminals at their provincial airports but provincial airports have a small reception facility for VIP flights and tourist charters that occasionally fly in, where it is possible to enjoy a Q&A with the crew, always hosted by the Il-18’s radio operator, who speaks excellent English, before leaving in a flotilla of old buses. Even after flying to Samjiyon, to visit the summit of Mount Paektu, on occasion the translation of it’s name, “ever-white”, is sometimes all too accurate, as a ice and snow even as late as May can block the route, resulting in an early turnback for the hotel. The view of the massive lake in the crater of the volcano is worth the trip when conditions allow
Unfortunately, the power has been cut so we have to walk up (and down) to the peak of Mount Paektu. This took more than an hour on the way up.
Crater Lake at the top.
Walking down the cable car track to the base.
Amazing view of the plain.
We reached hotel pitch dark due to power shortage. Later on the light came back at 8pm. For many, this was their first time using candle to walk to their room.
Simple 3 star accommodation with good floor heating.
Great Leaders over Mt Paektu, sacred mountain where Kim Jong Il was born.
To be continued…