After SPARC our next stop was opposite side of the airfield to go airside primarily to shoot the Tu-154s of Rossiya that are parked up ready for scrapping. First we had to find the correct security gate to enter through, and this proved a little tricky as it was near the terminal building, and in typical Russian style, the area was chaos with trucks, taxis, lost cars and general mayhem. We finally found the gate but our escort was not there yet so we parked up doing our best not to block the gate. That is until two large trucks appeared wanting to get off the airport. We reversed and cars behind us scattered all over the place, but in typical style didn't really get out of anyone's way. As all this took place out escort appeared and we all bundled out of the minibus as we would be using airport transport airside. Then the fun started - the security woman at the gate wanted to see the paperwork that would allow all these idiots with cameras inside her airport. Our guide, who one of the main managers on the airport, produced a rake of paperwork which she proceeded to pour over. She then decided she needed a second opinion and got on the phone while we all bunged up the turnstile. After a very long ten minutes everything was suddenly ok, but she wanted to check all our passport numbers off the list.
Finally we were on the correct side of the gate but still no sign of a bus with time beginning to ebb away before Olga would start to panic about checking-in for our flight 4 hours early. Five minutes later and the bus arrived and our guide asked us where we wanted to go. Basically we had almost full reign over the airfield. It was decided we should start at the cargo type ramp where we found a couple of nice Mi-8s operated by Baltiskie, a private Yak-40 and of course the obligatory An-26s; one owned by UTair Cargo another operated by Kostroma Air and the last one, RA-26571, was an An-26ASLK calibration and flight check aircraft operated by Lyotnyye Proverki, which literally means Flight Checks. The UTair example was being serviced and had the front undercarriage completely off. One of the Mi-8s, RA-25775, is reportedly the oldest operational Mi-8 in Russia - it was manufactured in 1974.
Time was running real short now so we decided we should shoot the lines of Rossyia Tu-154s that will never feel the air under their wings again. The 154s are parked on the north side of the airfield, almost next to the SPARC facility and we needed to drive across the biz-jet ramp to get there. One the way we spotted a few choice aircraft that would need to be shot on the way back.
We found no less than 16 Tu-154s awaiting the inevitable visit from the scrap-man and also a couple of Il-86s and two Tu-134s also belonging to Rossyia. All the Tu-154s although sporting Rossyia titles were still in the basic colour-scheme of previous operator Pulkovo Avia, whereas the Il-86s still sported Pulkovo Avia titles with very small Rossyia titles underneath. Taking photos of this line took longer than we really wanted as we had a few stragglers that insisted on chimping every photo before moving on to the next aircraft. But the time we were all back at the bus Olga was almost having kittens telling us that we need to get back to the airport and check-in. Of course we still has three hours to go until our flight was due to depart, but Olga is one to be really on-time for flights.
We asked if it was ok to stop to shoot just two aircraft on the biz-jet ramp. We would be driving past them anyway, and if everyone behaved it would take no longer than five minutes to accomplish. Our guide made a phone call and came back with the bad news that we wouldn't be allowed to do that. They are still pretty sensitive about private aircraft in Russia for some reason, sometimes even more sensitive than military, which of course makes no sense to us.
We had to be content with shooting from inside the bus as we drove past the aircraft on that ramp. First up was a Il-114 RA-91014, a type that I've never seen before. It was designed as a An-24 replacement and bears a striking resemblance to the ATP. Only 15 have been built to date, so to see one of these was a treat indeed. The second interesting aircraft was An-72 RA-74015 in a beautiful red, white and blue colour scheme. Such a shame we couldn't photograph these two properly, as in my mind these were the stars of the airfield.
We negotiated the complicated security at the gate again to get out of the airfield, was reunited with our bus and sped off to check-in where we were of course well in time for our departing flight to head north.
Next stop Murmansk.photo/serial list]