After our excellent flight on a Yak-40 it was time to source another flight on a Yak, this time its bigger brother, the Yak-42.
We had a free day in Moscow after our overnight train journey back from Vologda, which we spent visiting the usual tourist traps of Red Square etc.
A couple of months before, three of us had researched how we could fly on to travel on a Yak-42. We found a couple of carriers that might work for us, but as only one was translated into English, we decided to err on the side of caution, and book somewhere that we could read correctly. This airline was Kuban Airlines and we picked a same day return flight to Krasnodar, which is their base near the Black Sea.
The Yak-42 first flew in 1972 and resembles a larger Yak-40, albeit with swept wings and high-bypass engines. It was built as a replacement for the Tu-134, Il-18 and An-24, and was designed to make use of the newly upgraded Russian airfields, and therefore wasn't designed to land on grass or unpaved airfields like most Soviet airliners of the time. This would be the largest, heaviest and most powerful aircraft that the Yakolev Design Bureau had built.
As we were staying in the centre of Moscow it was an easy ride on the Airport Express Metro to Vnukovo Airport (VKO), where again we were taken to the business jet side of the airport to board, but not before we managed to shoot a Rossiya Tu-154M from the terminal, sneaking out in the early morning.
We were surprised to see many UTAir Yak-42s on the ramp, as they never used to operate this type. We surmise that they have taken over another airline and are using their assets, or simply bought this fleet; Tulpar Air being the likely candidate.
As usual we were mostly stopped from taking photos when off the bus, but I managed to sneak a few in here and there, before and after we were ushered up the internal rear air-stairs.
Another interesting aircraft parked here was a Tu-204-300A (RA-64010). This airframe was the first converted Tu-204S freighter, and was used on the SVO-Bangkok route during 1995. In 2009 it was converted to its current 300A configuration as an 18 seat executive aircraft with extended range. The photo was taken through the windows on the Yak-42 as we taxied, but was the best I could get.
Our aircraft was RA-42406, which was manufactured in 1991, and is a Yak-42D, which is the mark you'll almost always see these days. The D model is the long-range version of the original Yak-42.
Take-off was an impressive affair and you could really feel the power from the three Lotarev D-36 three-shaft turbofans, and we then settled in for a relaxing one hour and 50 minute flight to Krasnodar.
On landing at Krasnodar there was a polar coloured Il-14P parked with an An-24B next to the fire station, but the heat-haze from the crops around the airport made photography very difficult as we taxied to the terminal. The temperature here in the south was markedly hotter than in Moscow.
Krasnodar is the economic centre of southern Russia and a popular holiday destination, which is located on the Kuban River that flows into the Sea of Azov.
Most of the Kuban Airlines fleet seemed to be present at their base, with a few tucked away from the terminal, possibly stored or already out of service.
We had to exit the airport in order to check-in for our return flight, which meant leaving the terminal out of one door, and entering another 50 meters to the left. There was a single row of check-in desks, about six in total, for all airlines and all flights, cramped into a tiny section of the terminal and there we saw a huge line waiting. In any other country this process would take hours, but amongst the chaos the line moved really quickly. The difference was that all the passengers knew what they needed to do when checking in. No fumbling around for passports, no repacking due to overweight bags, just check-in and move away - simple.
After our check-in formalities we went upstairs to the departure lounge. Simply a single room the width of the terminal and a single gate area. We had a little time before our flight so got an ice cream and waited for some people to vacate the window so we could get some shots of the ramp area.
Every ten minutes or so there would be an announcement (in Russian) about a departing flight, and people would gather, have their boarding-pass scanned and exit down some stairs. This announcement was simply a woman shouting, as there was no tannoy. There wasn't a flight board or anything else to suggest when to board so we hung out chatting about whether we would be flying back on the same aircraft.
"Oh look, they're loading baggage on the aircraft we arrived in." A few minutes later it was "Hmm people are boarding that aircraft." We looked at the time and it dawned on us that that might actually be our flight! We proceeded to the gate and the young lady scanned our boarding-passes and motioned us down the stairs. There we stood with a couple of Russians for what seemed like an eternity, while we watched the people board our aircraft 400 meters away.
Eventually a bus turned up and all six of us boarded. He sped us directly to the same aircraft we arrived on, and we boarded via the rear steps. That was a close call!
The two-hour flight back to SVO completed, the rest of the afternoon would be spent shooting at this airport which still has plenty of Russian hardware flying. More of that in the next instalment.