Ж is for Zhukovsky: The Russian MAKS airshow in breathtaking photos


Every year Flanker fanciers head East to Russia to gaze in terrified wonder at the flying feast displayed above Zhukovsky airport. The Aviationist‘s Jacek Siminski survived the airshow, and returned grinning like a Cheshire cat (and stinking of jet fuel and vodka) to tell us what happened, and share some stunning photos. 

All pictures: Jacek Siminski
Best thing? 
“Russkiye Vityazi display, witnessed from the media platform. The 12 Saturn engines working simultaneously sound like a symphony. Being a geek who watched ‘Wings of the Red Star’ narrated by Peter Ustinov, I knew that sound instantly. I did not know, at the time, when I was watching this TV series, whether the sound in the show was somehow artificially generated. Now I know – it was not. You just need a bloody awful lot of engines to achieve this. A total eargasm. Equally good was a tactical display staged by two Su-30SMs of the Russian Navy, flown in the humid Moscovian air. It’s just stunning what that jet can do to the laws of physics, and to the humid air around it.”
Best swag? 


“A military hat bought at the Monino Air Force Museum by a friend of mine. Featuring a shitload of gold military pins on one side. Greg looked as if he fled from Stalingrad.”
Worst dressed? 
“A guy wearing socks and sandals at the same time. Probably came from Poland, like me. Luckily my English is good enough to pretend that I am a foreigner.”
Best cocktails? 
“Cocktails? In Russia? Seriously? Only pure Stolnichnaya in big glasses.”
Worst display?
“For me? Al Fursan‘s display was a bit disappointing,  highly reminiscent of what Frecce Tricolori are doing. But again this is a matter of context. When you are a Soviet/Russian aviation fanatic, who goes crazy when he sees anything reminiscent of a Flanker, then you do not really care about the western pieces of hardware in the sky.”
Best thing you bought? 
“MAKS ‘Remove Before Flight’ keychain. A unicorn. On Saturday, which was a day open to the general public, I probably bought the last of these keychains”
Best static display? 
“Oh come on, do you really need to ask? Tupolev Tu-95 Bear, alongside Tu-160 and Miasischev Atlant. Oh, and the MiG 1.44. Not to mention the Tu-144.”
(pics of these coming to Hush-Kit soon!)
Best vintage flying item? 
“Only a single vintage flying item, but blows everything I’ve seen in Europe out of the water – Il-2 Sturmovik, ‘die Schwarzer Tod‘ (The Black Death). Reportedly there is one more flying example in the US, however I have never even seen a YouTube clip featuring that airframe. Would anyone care to help?”
Most missed display item? 
“I did miss some irisations – though this is not an aircraft, I know. I would have loved to have seen the MiG-25, MiG-31 or Geofizyka – but it was sadly absent. The Tu-95 ‘Bear’ with its supersonic propeller-tips would have been an amazing thing to witness. They say that this year’s flying programme at MAKS was modest, when compared to the previous years. Maybe the Western sanctions are working? Next year is the TSAGI 100th anniversary, maybe then we will see some of that unique stuff flying.”
Best entrepreneurs? 
“Guys in the Russian trains playing guitar and selling homemade CDs!”
Worst haircut? 

The Ilyushin Il-114 is a rare beast: only twenty were ever produced.

“Did not notice one.”
Gone AWOL award? 
“Strizhi and Vityazhi joint barrel roll or a flypast in a single formation. I was hoping they’d do it again.”
Worst use of social media? 
“Probably me. Not posting too much (enough) throughout my stay in Moscow.”

Я is for Yakovlev (Яковлев)

Fashion must-have?
“Vityazi or Sukhoi tie-dye T-shirts. Bonkers.”
Worst static display item?
“None that I have noticed. But I am an avid Russian aviation fanatic. Everything within the static display was giving me a weird feeling in my pants.”
Coolest sounding plane?
“Undoubtedly, the aforementioned six Su-30SM formation.”
Hottest pilots? 
“All Russian women are equally beautiful, and you fall in love every step of the way. I am sure there were some pilots among them.”
 Is PAK FA the coolest thing in the world?
“I will disappoint you and say: No, it is not: the Su-34 is way cooler, with its brutal and violent display of air combat manoeuvring-  and the resultant formation of clouds and rainbows around it. But again, the PAK FA programme is still in its infancy. You can’t expect a toddler to be as cool as Maverick in ‘Top Gun’, saying ‘Because I was Inverted’ and putting his Ray Bans on. The prototype won’t be flown as violently as an aircraft that is already being used operationally. Unique? Hell yes. Cool? Su-34 is the coolest jet of all them Sukhois, at least for now. The wider front section of the fuselage acts as a great catalyst for the vapour cones to form.”
 How is MAKS different to a Western airshow?
“People are friendlier, more helpful and open, with their ‘hearts given to you in their hands’, as one the old Polish sayings puts it. For me, the show was less commercial than any Western one, and very well organised. Ah, detailed security checks should be expected. You have to put your bag through a Heimann X-ray every time you enter a train station, then before you get on the bus, and then, before you get into the show area. At the beginning it could be viewed as a nuisance, but one can get used to it. And the Russians are super-nice about this, hence throughout the whole procedure you are treated more like a guest, less like a terrorist. I was being warned by my friends: you’ll end up with a bullet in your head, and your camera gear being sold on the Russian counterpart of eBay. Nothing like that ever happened. I began to like Russia, maybe even becoming a bit of a Russophile. People say that it is those at the top who create the hostility — the ordinary men and women are as heart-meltingly warm as it gets.”

В is for vyertalyot (вертолет).

Best place to get vodka?
“Any local shop with low prices. We did it in a convenience store, located at the corner of the street where our hotel was.”

 Ж is for Zhukovsky (Жуко́вский)

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