Dorian Crook is an air traffic controller, stand-up comedian and occasional Maule pilot. As far as we know, he is the only Hush-Kit contributor to have performed with Reeves & Mortimer. In an attempt to escape his Spinner addiction, leave his Aswad cover-band and ogle rare aeroplanes — he headed to Russia to see the MAKS airshow at Zhukovsky.
For the first time since my teenage years, I joined an organised tour of aircraft enthusiasts. As I explained in my article, Confessions of a Plane Spotter, I no longer write down numbers, but I still had memories of a coachload of spotty herberts (note to American readers: a ‘herbert’ is a doofus) and their smelly sandwiches going from Southampton (US readers: think St. Louis) to the Biggin Hill Air Fair, and that bothered me. I need not have worried. We were going to Moscow. These were grown-ups. One was reading Private Eye. These were a more sophisticated bunch, and our merry band included an Iranian-American Surgeon, and a Commonwealth Air Force B-25 pilot.
I had treated myself to the luxury of the new Premier Inn at Heathrow Terminal 4 ,the night before, and I was disappointed to find there was no Hotel notepaper or envelopes so that I could boast to my friends of my exotic travels. I met up with the group and had coffee with a couple of them before reaching the departure gate, where I tried not to succumb to MLE, or Male Lens Envy. The others were already brandishing their Dynakron 800s at the apron, whilst I had borrowed a 70-200 zoom from a generous friend. I even considered lying about my focal length.
I warned them that I had been to art college, so most of my photos would be taken at a 45 degree angle, and would very probably come out in Black and White.
Incredible photos from Zhukovsky here.
The main attraction of the trip, for me, was a visit to Monino, the Russian air museum which has been under threat of closing/moving for a while, but seems safe for the time being. But there were two days at MAKS, the bi-annual airshow, and it’s a while since I’ve been exposed to noisy afterburners.
The evening of arrival, our genial tour manager took us off-menu (i.e. into the real world, real people) of Moscow. Well, we went to a park: a monument to the Cosmonauts and the VDNKh park where we found a the Buran space shuttle-lookalike and a Vostok spacecraft. We saw non-aviation people, arm-in-arm eating popcorn, and on the way home, I caught one of our number recording the Moscow metro train numbers.
Interestingly, one of the first sights to greet us at Zhukovsky next day was a modified Myasischev M3, used to transport fuel for the Shuttle programme, with something resembling a large outside toilet on its roof (see photo).
We arrived early and after photographing the Myasischev M3, I lost the rest of the group. About an hour into the flying, a storm developed, and the crowds were forced to hide inside the exhibitor’s chalets. Normally, a bit aloof to Joe Public, and more interested in their corporate swagger, these aviation estate-agents were forced to give refuge to tired and bored children, and myself. After I’d denied the teenage inner voice to collect stickers, I parked myself on the floor of the ILA Airshow-Berlin stand, and ate my Warsaw-Pact Lunch. It seemed more welcoming than that of the Belarus Defence Industry with its array of missile launchers. There’s no such thing as a free launch.
However, an hour in such places makes you realise how the once-lauded names of aviation are now just like Estee Lauder or Gillette, with their nonsense videos and sloganeering. Look at them: Leonardo (didn’t they used to be Westland?) : “Ingenuity at your service”.
What next? Supermarine:“Because you’re worth it”?
Mikoyan -Gurevich “Safety in Numbers”?
More amusing was SKAT Systems, which surprisingly is not German, providers of UAVs. Presumably to the voyeur community.
Returning to the coach, we had been exhorted not to try to breach any security fences, to get closer to the rusting hulks in the research area. It hadn’t occurred to me, but apparently every year the enthusiastic Dutch spotters get a bit carried away. By the police.
Worst outfit: A T-shirt with an airbrush-style portrait of a female aerobatic pilot, and the legend “Angel of Ukraine”. Given the relatively high mortality rate of aerobatic pilots, to call her an angel whilst still alive seemed insensitive.
Next episode: Aircraft Graveyard
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