I’m in Ukraine, partly accidentally, and so decided to visit the Ukrainian State Aviation Museum next to Kyev airport. As a Cold War military aviation enthusiast, this museum exceeded all my expectations, and cost less than £3 to enter.
The taxi picked me up from my friend’s (the surf guitarist Basil Berry Wolf) block next to the army dog training centre. Heavily hungover from a tour of underground bars, and sleepless from the constant barking of the dogs and singing of the soldier (there’s a war on). I was rather fragile as the taxi wove through the streets with a typical disregard for mortality. Around half an hour later I was at the museum gates. The museum feels remote, and outside was a rank of Yugo Zastavas with radiation signs offering Chernobyl tours. After two days of intense rain the skies opened and the day was bell-clear. Extremely excited on seeing every Soviet type I dreamed about as a child through the gates, I paid 100 Hryvinia (less than 3 pounds) and was greeted with an overwhelmingly delicious selection of aircraft.
What the hell is that? It’s an Antonov Object 181 with an experimental ‘channel wing’. I’ll come back to when I know more about the purpose of this aircraft – it was made in the 80s and research stopped with the Soviet union disintegrated. Behind it is a Anatra-Anasal reconnaissance plane from 1917.Then what appears to be a Yak-50 dressed as a Yak-3, with exquisite turquoise and olive scheme. I love that Soviet turquoise – and so did they, judging by its liberal use across the collection.
I’m going to jump out of sequence now to share what was my favourite aircraft. You can only tell so much of the visual character of an aeroplane from a photograph. Often they are far bigger or smaller, or more charismatic, than you expected. The biggest revelation was the Yak-28U ‘Maestro’. A converted trainer version of the multi-role Yak-28, the aircraft never really caught my attention in books. In the ‘flesh’, it is bizarre and very appealing, with very attractive three-tone camo’ uppers.
The breakers’ yard was fenced off, but peering over you can catch a MiG-25 with its guts out. A fascinating view into the construction of this remarkable aircraft. Wait is that a Backfire?! Nope- it’s three. Three. Wow. Notably, the Backfires seemed to be of much sleeker and finer construction than most of the other aircraft. The ‘Bear’ was a little smaller than I imagined – and much better-looking than its US equivalent.