Last year August I spend a week in Moscow joining up with an English aviation tour group visiting various airports and museums in and around the city. This was my first time in Russia together with three fellow Dutch photographers. We decided to leave the tour for one day and travel to Saint Petersburg at the same time making a flight onboard a Russian jetliner. According one of my Dutch fellow travellers taking pictures at St Petersburg was not a problem. Several weeks prior to the tour we booked tickets with Rossia Airlines at the Amsterdam airport ticket office. Our morning flight was out of Moscow Vnukovo airport, FV-0138 scheduled with a Tupolev 134 and returning the same day to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport FV-0165 (Tupolev 154) at a ticket price of 158 euro’s.
View of our gate at Vnukovo airport, all very modern and clean. Our flight FV-0138 was on time, departing at 08.15 hours LT. Only the weather forecast for St Petersburg was bad, showing 8 degrees C and rain. We were out of luck on this tour, with 3 days of rain in the morning. In the mean time we enjoyed a strong hot coffee.
We boarded the airport shuttle bus and drove out to the aircraft. Vnukovo is a large airport with many interesting Russian aircrafts parked on the ramps. The bus stopped at our a/c a Rossia Tu-134AK-3 registered RA-65912. This former Aeroflot a/c (CCCP-65912) was built in 1982 and was still providing sterling service on domestic flights. We boarded the Tupolev the old fashion way. One of the ramp workers waved to me and pointed to my camera indicated it was not aloud to take pictures. I ignored him
Inside the Tupolev, the cabin looked dreadfully Spartan, which I liked. It still had the open hat-racks. Each window had its own curtain. The whole cabin was decorated in 1960’s colours. The two flight attendants directed us our seats. Despite the smaller cabin I did feel very comfortable.
With all the passengers settling in, the doors where closed and both Soloviev D-30-3 engines were started. I noticed the roar of the engines on take-off and as we climbed steeply. The flight was very smooth. Once at cruise the flight attendants came around for a small breakfast. No smiles … I guess it was still early morning for the crew.
After 1 hour we descended for our approach to St Petersburg Pulkovo airport. The sun disappeared and made way for grew skies and rain. We landed smoothly and taxied to the dull and grey domestic terminal-1 building. I stepped outside onto the air stairs in the dreary morning air … welcome to St Petersburg!
Luckily the weather improved so our afternoon photo session was a partial success. We stood on the vehicle round about next to the terminal building which was insight of the numerous security agents walking on the airport ramp. Despite our long-lenses no police turned up while we were standing there taking pictures! Several Russian visitors joined us waiving their loved ones good-buy. Around 18.00 hours LT we checked in at the Rossia check-in desk. The Vnukovo domestic terminal does not have walking piers and/or air bridges. After waiting in the departing lounge it was time to board the airport shuttle bus which brought us to our waiting Tupolev 154.
RA-85767 was waiting on the far side of the apron. This Tupolev was an M version, which was built in 1993 and previously flew with Pulkovo Airlines. I waited at the air stairs, while the other passengers boarded and enjoyed the atmosphere. My seat was 17A which was a LH window seat near the mid cabin bulkhead. After settling in I enjoyed the safety instruction given by the Russian stewardess which was wearing white gloves. As soon as all doors were closed we taxied out to the runway and took off to the North. As we climbed out I caught a glimpse of the Rossia busy maintenance ramp packed Russian and airbus jets. We made a RH turn towards Moscow Sheremetyevo airport. During cruise I enjoyed a cool orange juice. When we landed it was already getting dark. While taxing to our parking area I noticed Sheremetyevo strange looking terminal 1, which reminded me off an alien space ship.
After our safe arrival we exited Terminal 1 and entered the bustling night scene outside. We hailed a new yellow Moscow cab, which is a Russian-made Volga sedan. We needed to go to our hotel at the Domodedovo Airport. Negotiating a price we then speeded along the Moscow ring-road at a 180 km/hour! This ride felt even more unsafe then our Tupolev flight…but that’s another story.
With the Tu-104 and the Tu-124, the Tupolev design bureau allowed Aeroflot to take a major step forward and to enter the jet age, but in a number of respects both these types lagged behind the standards being established by contemporary products of western companies. Recognizing the need to overcome these discrepancies and to match the standards of the equipment of other airlines in all respects, Aeroflot established a new requirement for a short-haul medium capacity airliner almost as soon as the Tu-124 had entered service, and to meet this requirement the Tupolev bureau evolved the Tu-134. The design was undertaken at the time that "compact jets" such as the Caravelle, One-Eleven and DC-9 were receiving much publicity, and Tupolev adopted a similar rear-Engined T-tail layout.
Initially an attempt was made to use the Tu-124 fuselage with minimum change, and the designation Tu-124A was applied, but a complete redesign was eventually found to be required and the designation was then changed. The Tu-134 did retain, however the short-field and rough-field capabilities of the Tu-124, with a similar undercarriage and high-lift features. Avionics and flight control system were suitable for operation in conditions approximately equivalent to those of ICAO Gat II and an airbrake was fitted beneath the fuselage to permit steeper approaches to be flown. Prototype testing began in late 1962, and the test programme used a total of six aircraft. Production was launched in 1964 at the Kharkov factory where the Tu-104 had also been built, and early production aircraft underwent a series of proving flights over Aeroflot routes before full commercial services were launched in September 1967, on the Moscow-Stockholm route. In its Standard version, the Tu-134 seated 72, four-abreast in a single-class layout, alternative arrangements seating 68 one-class or 64 (eight first-class and 56 tourist). In the second half of 1970, Aeroflot introduced the Tu-134A into service, this version differing from the Tu-134 in having the fuselage "stretched" by 6 ft 10 in (2,10 m) and being fitted with Soloviev D-30 Series II engines and an APU. The Standard layout in this version seated 76, with up to 80 seats at reduced pitch or 68 in a mixed-class layout (1 2 first class and 56 tourist). Although all early Tu-134s and some Tu-134As had the distinctive glazed nose of earlier Tupolev designs, containing a navigator's station, some later examples dispensed with this crew position and had a "solid" nose fairing containing radar.
The Tu-134 and Tu-134A proved to be among the most popular of Soviet airliners for export, matching the earlier success of the IL-18, which in many instances the Tu-1 34 has been purchased to replace. Among the operators in addition to Aeroflot are CSA, with 11 Tu-134s and Tu-134As ; Interflug, with 11 Tu-134s; Balkan Bulgarian, with six Tu-134s and seven Tu-134As; LOT, with eight Tu-134s; Malev, with seven Tu-134s and Tu-134As; Iraqi Airways, with one Tu-134; and Aviogenex, with four Tu-134As. Aeroflot was believed to have about 150 of the two types in service by the end of 1974.
Source: 1975 the Observers – World Airliner & Airliners Directory William Green/G Swanborough
The sixth and latest of the Tupolev bureau's commercial airliners the Tu-154 can be considered as a direct counterpart of the Boeing 727-200/HS Trident Three transports, having a similar three-engine T-tail layout. Compared with its western contemporaries, however, the Tu-154 was designed to have a higher power-to-weight ratio, giving it a better take-off performance, and a heavy duty undercarriage suitable for use from Class 2 airfields with surfaces of gravel or packed earth. These features are common to most Soviet transports and indicate the importance of air transport in the Union's remoter areas where airfield facilities are minimal. Lacking the characteristic glazed nose of the earlier Tupolev transports the Tu-154 nevertheless retained the wing pods for main undercarriage stowage that are a feature of all the Tupolev series except the Tu-144.
First flight of the Tu-154 was made on 4 October 1968 and six prototype/pre-production models were used for flight development. Production was launched soon after first flight, the Tu-154 having been selected by Aeroflot as a replacement for the Tu-104, IL-18 and An-10 on domestic and international routes of medium length, in partnership with the IL-62 and IL-62M on longer stages. The first delivery was made to Aeroflot early in 1971 and there followed the customary period of route proving with freight and mail, plus a few passenger services on an ad hoc basis, from May 1971 onwards, but full commercial exploitation began only on 9 February 1972, initially on the route from Moscow to Mineralnye Vady. First international services were flown on 1 August 1972, between Moscow and Prague.
The Tu-154 was normally laid out to accommodate 158 or 164 passengers in a single-class layout, six abreast in two cabins separated by the galley. If a mixed-class layout was required, 24 seats could be provided four abreast in the forward cabin, with 104 tourist class seats in the rear cabin. Maximum high density seating was for 167. Standard avionics and flight control system permit operation to Cat II levels, with projected future development for fully automatic landings (Cat III). An improved version, the Tu-154A, was in service with Aeroflot by the end of 1974, being powered by 25,350 lb st (11 500 kgp) D-30KU engines and having increased range with full payload. Although the needs of Aeroflot in 1974 led to a temporary interruption in the export of Tu-154s, the type had already been specified by several airlines in the Soviet Bloc, with deliveries being made during 1973 and early 1974. These included; Balkan Bulgarian, five; Malev, three and Egypt air, eight (the last-mentioned being withdrawn from service towards the end of the year, because of a number of technical difficulties, and returned to the Soviet Union in 1975). Over 100 Tu-154s had been delivered to Aeroflot by the end of 1974.
The heavier Tu-154A with more powerful engines and the Tu-154B with a further increase in maximum takeoff weight followed after further developments. Currently, the Tu-154M is the production standard which first flew in 1982. It uses more efficient Aviadvigatel D-30KU turbofans. It is far more economical, quiet, and reliable than previous versions.
Source: 1975 the Observers – World Airliner & Airliners Directory William Green/G Swanborough