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Aviation Safety – The Russian Planes Version

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If you ever go travelling to Russia or any other former Soviet Union country, chances are, sooner or later – you’re more than likely going to have to fly on an old rust bucket Russian Plane to get to somewhere because of the huge distances involved. And depending on what you board, god knows what is going to happen to you because Aviation Safety Standards are somewhat all over the shop!

There are still many Soviet era planes flying around these days since the break up of the USSR due to many small carriers starting up and wanting to cut costs and using the old rattle tins because they’re way cheaper than buying or leasing brand new planes – and in some cases, these planes should be placed in museums, not in actual use! Like with everything else, the former Soviet Union pretty much made everything themselves during the Cold War, which included planes. While there is nothing wrong with many old planes, it’s their lack of maintenance and upkeep that causes many to fall out of the sky.  Plus, sometimes aviation safety standards are not policed properly and this adds to the problem of a crap airline safety culture.

You’d probably use a few Russian swear words if you flew on some of these planes because I had never experienced many of things goings on until I flew on one. You can actually view the list of planes and airlines that are banned from European Union airspace if you’re keen to find out if you’re about to fly on an airline with a less than desirable safety record.

After having flown on one of these smaller carriers in a former Soviet Union country, I’m not surprised about the poor safety record. Here is an account of a flight I took on my favourite Russian plane of all time, the the Yakovlev 40, or Yak 40 – which at the time, the best case age scenario for this plane was one that was only 25 years old.. But this thing looked like a timewarp from the 1960’s! That’s because the Yak 40 first entered service in 1967!

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The Yak 40 is my only favourite because I don’t think I’ll be flying on one of these old beasts ever again!

Aviation Safety - Russian Planes &Amp; Airlines
Photo from Wikipedia (Dmitry Karpezo)

Aviation Safety Standards with Russian Planes – My Personal Experience!

This is a true story of my experiences of flying on ex-Soviet era Russian planes. All of this is true and no joke! Anyway, the Yak 40 is a three engined small jet that first entered the aviation world during the Cold War and during the time where the Soviets and the Americans were vying to be the first nations to send someone to the moon.

I knew the Yak 40 must have been a pretty old plane just by looking at it. That’s because entry was via a back end trap door device that I had never seen on any other plane during my lifetime – only in really old movies. Plus it had three engines, which is old airplane technology – two right at the back and one in the tail.

And as soon as I walked onboard, the old fashioned wood and carpet decor was a dead giveaway!

Lets’s go through the experience in chronological order:

1. The Check in Procedures

At first, this all appeared normal. Just the standard handing over your luggage to the pleasant check-in attendant lady in return for receiving your boarding pass. Then going through a scanner to sit in the waiting area. Just like catching a bus.. almost..

However, it was at this point where things became somewhat different. I then had to pick up my luggage from the trolley on the tarmac to then load into the plane myself! That’s right, I had to go up the back trapdoor and try and squash my backpack somewhere into the minuscule luggage compartment while everyone else was climbing over each other to do the same!

2. Boarding the Plane

Have you ever been on the tarmac, ready to board the plane when all of a sudden the pilot realises that he has way too many passengers, and not enough seats? Well, that’s what happened when it dawned on Captain Borat that there wasn’t enough space on the plane to carry everyone who was waiting to board! But not to worry. There’s nothing like instilling a sense of airline safety confidence by watching the aircraft engineers board the plane with a couple of wrenches to take out the ‘business class seats’, throw them onto the tarmac, and then go to the other spare Yak 40 nearby to unbolt a few extra rows of seats just so they can fit in your plane.

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It was at this point where I thought ‘hmm, a 2 hour flight compared to a 5 day train trip – which one is looking better?’ when I heard the ‘tink tink, crunch crunch’ for about half an hour!

I’m sure they would have had the same problem with the spare plane when that one was due to fly!

3. Onboard Safety Features

Well, you miss the things you take for granted when they’re not there. No airline safety cards at all! No pre flight safety demonstration. And in some seats, there were no seat belts, and if there were, they didn’t work in many cases. Mine did actually buckle together, but that’s not going to save me if the engines fall off and the Yak 40 becomes a glider over the steppe.

And the interior was old, mouldy carpet along the walls. I felt like I was in a 1960’s Soviet airline propaganda commercial!

4. In Flight Service

Hungry? I hope you enjoy the one lolly that has been allocated to each passenger, served by a surly flight attendant that is three times as old as the plane you’re flying on. No in flight magazine (I wanted to learn Russian in two hours) and definitely no trace of an in flight entertainment system! Honestly, I didn’t care about this, I was too busy looking outside to see if we were maintaining a consistent altitude!

5. The Landing

Well, this wasn’t too bad – no overshooting the runway or bursting into a ball of flames. I was actually quite relieved that this was a fatality free flight as soon as the wheels touched the ground. But I almost forget to unload my own luggage on the way out down the trap door to take through the airport. I’m not used to self service luggage handling!

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So are you scared of flying now?

If you’re annoyed at the service levels of airlines in your own (western) country, just try taking a dodgy flight in one of these former Soviet Union countries in an old Russian Plane that wouldn’t pass a roadworthy in a demolition derby on the ground.

You won’t complain again, I guarantee it!

How about you? Have you flown on a dodgy airplane or airline and have lived to tell the tale? Leave a comment below and share your enlightening experience with the entire world!

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6 thoughts on “Aviation Safety – The Russian Planes Version”

  1. Avatar Of Audrey

    I already dislike flying so there is no way you would have gotten me on THAT plane, ha! I’d take a week-long train ride over that. 😉

  2. Avatar Of Andy

    Sounds like a pretty shoddy experience. I’ve only recently taken my first small airplane to a local island here in the Caribbean. It was quite loud and tight, but in the end enjoyable.

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