The IL-76 is a beast of a transport. It is a rugged plane and looks like it could handle anything thrown at it. I have seen them on a variety of occasions – most recently the modernized versions used for civil freight work. The older versions with the original engines are a great thing to see though. The Ukrainian Air Force brought an example to RIAT this year. It was flying overhead when the Sukhois were landing and then it came in too. It came up to the west end where we got a good view of it. Then it was parked up on static display for the show. Sadly, I didn’t get to see it depart at the end of the show.
Suddenly IL-76s are appearing at Paine Field on a regular basis. I came across one by surprise not long ago but didn’t get a chance to track its progress. However, a quick check on Flightaware showed it had departed. Fortunately, I checked the flight and realized that it did a quick pattern and then landed again. After that, it didn’t move for ages and was still there when I next visited. I wonder whether it got sick and has been awaiting parts? Anyway, since taking this shot it has departed to Iceland successfully. At the time of writing, it is back though. So much Ilyushin traffic!
The Antonov 124 is a reasonably regular visitor to the US when outsized cargo needs to be moved. It is often commented on as being a Russian plane but, while one of the operators is a Russian company and some of the aircraft were assembled in Russia, the design and much of the production is actually Ukrainian. Ilyushin, on the other hand, really is a Russian company. Their IL-76 is also operated for freight services but it doesn’t show up anything like as frequently. Consequently, when a Volga Dnepr example was scheduled in to SeaTac on a Friday afternoon, I was pretty annoyed I would miss it. However, it ended up being seven hours late so arrived well after dark.
Departure the following day was going to be a practical proposition for me (and many others as it happened). The weather was not going to be ideal with low cloud and rain but, when the visitor is a rarity, you don’t get to choose whether to go based on weather. Fortunately, the departure was a lot closer to schedule than the arrival. I drove past the cargo ramp and saw it parked up and all closed up so did wonder whether it would go on time but things were working well and they headed out.
This aircraft was the newer variant with the PS90 engines and takeoff performance was pretty good. I had worried it would be low on the climb out and not in a good position to photograph but it climbed well and was in a good position to get a shot. I had a big grin once it had gone as did the rest of the people waiting for it.
The Farnborough Air Show used to be a regular feature for me. I started going when I was studying at university and would go to the trade days each two years as the show came around. When I worked at BAe, they would sometimes make it easy for us to get there. One year I got to ride down on the 146 to RAF Odiham and they took us the rest of the way by bus. Not a bad way to travel for sure.
The Russians started showing up at the shows from, if memory serves, 1988 onwards. They started off with a pair of MiG-29s the first time around and progressively brought more with them each time. 1992 was a particularly good year. Not only were the MiGs there again but Sukhoi SU-29 Flankers were there and, the highlight for me was the Yak-38 Forger and the Yak-141 Freestyle. Sadly, it did not fly the day I was there but those I know who saw it hovering can attest to the noise and spectacle it created. Meanwhile, there were other excellent types there such as the SU-24 Fencer although it was rather brightly painted for an operational type. Support aircraft and airliners were also part of the display as Russia tried to expand its business following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the sudden downsizing of their forces.
Times have changed and I doubt we will get Russian attendance like this at a western trade show for a while. However, nothing stays the same forever so there may well come a time again in the future when some variety will be added to a trade show. With the number of types in service in the west reducing, it would be nice to see things like this again and some of their more recent types would be good to see too.