Vnukovo, Russian Federation (UUWW) - June 2012

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After my interesting Yak-42 flight terminated in Vnukovo it seemed churlish to waste an opportunity to shoot at this airfield.

The three of us that took the flight, had never shot outside this airfield before. We had only been on ramp tours here before, so none of us were sure if we'd be picked up or hassled by the authorities if we shot from the perimeter road, as each Russian airfield can be very different in their tolerance of photographers.

We had contacted a couple of locally based photographers and they'd kindly suggested that they'd meet us and show us where to shoot from, as this was a Saturday. True to form, as we walked out of the secure part of the terminal, Arseniy and his mate were standing there with a board with one of our names on.

We found out that shooting here couldn't actually have be any easier. As runway 06/24 was under reconstruction the airport was operating single runway operations on 01/19. This construction is to increase passenger capacity and also includes levelling of the ramp and Terminal A second phase building.

Luckily this day operations were on 19, and as it was the afternoon the sun had already swung around to the north side of the runway, so it was only a 20 minute walk from the terminal to the shooting spot.

The spot is a large area of grass, with some huge over-ground pipes to sit or lean on, or as one photographer was already doing, nestling between the two and basically hiding. From here the aircraft were still mostly above the fence-line when landing, but a short walk to the opposite side of the road rendered the fence a non-issue. You can also shoot the aircraft lining-up, although sometimes the light, the high grass, or the heat-haze can cause you issues.

As time went by, people came and went in their vehicles to watch or take photos of the aircraft, so this, as it turns out, is a popular spot, and no one ever gave us a second glance, even from the airport trucks, operations vehicles and equipment that were driven right by us on the inner perimeter road just inside the fence.

Out of all the main Moscow airports, Vnukovo remains the most interesting these days, as it's busy and still has a good proportion of Russian hardware flying, unlike Domodedovo Airport which is getting close to 100% western movements.

The very first movement set the afternoon up nicely as the smoky trail of a Russian Air Force IL-76MD operated by the 224 LO VTA (Transport Aviation Detachment) based out of Tver (RA-78838) came into view. This was in fact the very first flying Russian Air Force Il-76 that I've shot, so I was happy for the rest of the day.

Yak-42 movements included examples from Kuban Airlines, UTair, and Gazpromavia. In fact we saw the Kuban Yak-42 that we'd flown on earlier depart. As mentioned in the previous article, UTair have bucked the current trend of Russian operators moving to western equipment, by adding a fleet of eight Yak-42Ds acquired from Tulpar Air.

Tu-154s are deemed by the government to have to be grounded by the end of this year, but luckily we still saw a few movements. A Gazpromavia example departed while a Yakutiya airframe departed before another arrived. What was a surprise to see however, was a UTair Tu-154M (RA-85057) arriving and still in its basic Samara Airlines colours. I had assumed UTair has already ceased 154 operations – obviously not!

There were even fewer Tu-134 movements, one to be precise. This was UTair again, with Tu-134A-3 RA-65607. The 134 is another of the aircraft types the government has deemed to be replaced by the end of the year.

Shooting the old Soviet aircraft in action is certainly getting more difficult, but the best bet in the Moscow area is still most likely Vnukovo, which is simple to get to using the Aeroexpress rail link.