An Air Show with a Difference  


Russia's two yearly MAKS Air Show claims to be the largest airshow in the world, and certainly featured an impressive array of planes - even an American B52, F15 and F16, as well as the almost complete range of Russia's very capable fighters, and over 600 exhibitors offering every possible type of aviation/aerospace technology.

But notwithstanding all the advanced technology, and an incredible degree of security that had 5,000 heavily armed police and security personnel present, there were some extraordinary contrasts between sense and nonsense.

For example, managing to obtain a formal admission 'badge' to get in to the exhibition required a major inquisition, copies of one's passport, and various other supporting documentation.  But, having successfully completed this process, one is given a slip of paper with one's name hand printed on it, and the badge is never compared to one's official ID during the two plus hour security process to get onto the site.

I was excited to see one of Russia's latest model widebody passenger plane - the Ilyushin IL96-400 - parked prominently on display.  I went up to it, walked around it, and then went to walk up the stairs and go inside.  A guard rudely called me back down the stairs and explained that visitors were not allowed to go inside the plane under any circumstances.

So much for promoting the new plane - perhaps this attitude is part of the reason why even Russia's own national carrier, Aeroflot, is trying all it can to avoid government pressure to buy this plane, preferring to instead operate Boeing and Airbus planes.

On the other hand, it was understandable that the flight line of fighter planes was strictly off limits to 'ordinary' visitors.  But after a quick chat with two of the guards (and no bribery!) they lifted the cordon rope and after a quick safety briefing (don't touch anything, especially don't touch anything in red, and, whatever you do, absolutely do not touch the ejection seat activation handles!), I found myself seated in an awesome Sukhoi Su-27 fighter, fueled, armed, and ready to fly.

I didn't enquire about the purchase of such a plane, although another company wanted my help in selling de-militarized Mig-21 fighters, and an overly aggressive salesman tried to interest me in buying some anti-ship missiles!

Alas, my time in the plane was cut short when another guard, not so friendly and more senior, shouted out something that sounded rather hostile and came running towards me, pointing his AKS in my general direction.  I left hurriedly.

Originally written 22 Aug 2003, last update 30 May 2021
Copyright 2003 by David M Rowell.
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.


Related Articles, etc

[Other Travel Resources]