Yes, they still exist and do fly a lot, the Antonov, Ilyushin, Tupolev and Yakovlev airliners. Many have already been replaced by new, mainly western types and many more are to follow in the near future. Replacing ageing Russian aircraft with 3-4 crew cockpits by new or western types with two-person crews necessitates a switch in pilot training, a matter in which Belgian flying training can assist.





Although it made its maiden flight 50 years ago and its production ceased 30 years ago, the 44-seat short to medium-range turboprop Antonov (Антонов) An-24 Coke still carries on with numerous airlines in many countries. An-24RV RA-46528 is seen here in Aeroflot Nord (Аэрофлот Норд) colours landing at Sheremetyevo (Шереметьево), Aeroflot’s main Moscow hub, on 26 August 2009. The An-24 has a crew of three (captain, first officer and flight engineer) or optionally four (radio operator).


A new Antonov short-range turboprop airliner is the 2-crew and 52-seat An-140 which flew for the first time in 1997. Until now, only a few dozen have been built for a handful of users. One of the Russian operators is Yakutia (Якутия), which presented one of its aircraft at MAKS 2009.


The Antonov An-148 is a regional jet with a seating capacity of 65-85 and a two-person crew. 235 have been ordered and will be built by production lines in Kiev, Ukraine, and Voronezh (Воронеж), South-West Russia. The first prototype of the An-148 flew on 17 December 2004. The first two aircraft have been delivered recently. Ukrainian Aerosvit Airlines made its first scheduled passenger flight with the type on 2 June 2009, while the first aircraft for Rossia Russian Airlines (Россия Российские Авиалинии), RA-61701, was displayed in flight and on the ground at MAKS 2009.


Little less than 300 examples of the 3-5 crew (captain, first officer and flight engineer with navigator and radio-operator optionally) Ilyushin (Ильюшин) Il-62 Classic have been built between 1963 and 1993. Only around one sixth of these are thought to be still in service today. North Korean Air Koryo operates four Il-62Ms, which are seldom seen, even in Russia, where P-881 landed at Sheremetyevo on 30 August 2009.


Between 1977 and 1994, 106 examples of the 3-4 crew medium-range wide-body airliner Ilyushin Il-86 Camber were produced. Less than 20 remain in service. One of the Russian operators is Aeroflot Don (Аэрофлот Дон). RA-86124 was still carrying the airline’s old livery when it was seen landing at Sheremetyevo on 30 August 2009.


The Ilyushin Il-96 first flew in 1988 and is a long-haul wide-body airliner with, in its later versions, a two-person crew. Little over 20 have been built and about a dozen are on order. During MAKS 2009, contracts for six orders and one option were signed by civilian operators, while the Russian Government ordered a pair of specially equipped Il-96-300s for official use. Aeroflot is the main operator with six aircraft, one of which is RA-96007, which was spotted while landing at Sheremetyevo on 30 August 2009.


Although the Ilyushin Il-114 made its first flight as far back as 1990 and was intended to replace the ageing fleets of regional airliners like the An-24 and Yak-40, only little more than a dozen have been built so far. The aircraft present at MAKS 2009 was RA-91003, the heavily modified Il-114LL Flying Laboratory (Летающая Лаборатория) which was built in 2005 for RADAR MMC, a Saint-Petersburg based producer of electronic equipment for aviation, shipping and railway.


The best known Tupolev (Туполев) airliners are the Tu-134 Crusty and Tu-154 Careless, both with crews consisting of 3 to 4 persons. Since the implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Stage III noise regulations, the Tu-134 became a very rare sight in European skies. Unfortunately, its days and those of the Tu-154 seem to be counted in Russia too as Minister of Transport Igor Levitin said in March 2007 that “the old and obsolete Tu-134s and Tu-154s have to be replaced by the Sukhoi Superjet 100 or its foreign analogues within five years”. Let’s hope that the worldwide financial crisis will slow down these plans for a couple of years.


The more recent models of the Tupolev Tu-154, like this Tu-154M RA-85644 of Aeroflot (Аэрофлот) landing at Sheremetyevo, can meet Stage III noise regulations by installing hush kits on the engines. This, however, would only be a temporary solution as European regulations do not allow hush kits to meet the next Stage IV noise abatement regulations.


The twin-engine medium-range Tupolev Tu-204 was developed for Aeroflot as a replacement for the Tu-154. It first flew in 1989 and started commercial service in 1994. The Tu-204 has a cockpit crew of two and can carry up to 212 passengers. By August 2009, 37 were built and 26 ordered. Ten of those orders were placed or confirmed at MAKS 2009, where also options on 26 additional aircraft were taken. The first VIP Tu-204 was presented at MAKS 2009 in the form of Tu-204-100C RA-64010, which was rebuilt to the shorter Tu-204-300A version with VIP interior and additional fuel tanks.


Work on the Tupolev Tu-334, a design based on a shortened fuselage and scaled-down wings of the Tu-204 and intended to replace among others the Tu-134 and Yak-42, progresses slowly. Although work started in the early 1990s, the aircraft’s first flight took place only in 1999. A third prototype of the 2-crew and 102-passenger short- to medium-range airliner should fly by late 2009 or early 2010. Orders total 50+ and options 250+, while there are rumours that the aircraft would be licence built in Iran and India.


The Yakovlev (Яковлев) Yak-40 Codling is often referred to as the world’s first regional jet. With its crew of three it can carry up to 32 passengers. An estimated 300+ of the 1,011 built between 1967 and 1980 remain in airline service. SibNIA, the S.A. Chaplygin Siberian Aviation Research Institute (Сибирский Научно-исследовательский Институт Авиации им. С.А. Чаплыгина), operates a number of Tu-134, An-2, Mi-8 and Yak-40 instrumented flying test beds, of which it presented Yak-40 RA-88164 at MAKS 2009. SibNIA is active in basic and applied research in the field of aviation and space exploration and is specialised in among others aerodynamic and structural tests of aircraft, helicopters and spacecraft.


The Yakovlev Yak-42 Clobber was meant to replace earlier medium-range passenger aircraft in the category of 100-120 seats like the Ilyushin Il-18 Coat and Tupolev Tu-134 Crusty. 178 were built between 1979 and 2002 and an estimated 67 remain in service today. The Yak-42 has a cockpit deck crew of two. One of the many Russian users is LUKoil (ЛУКойл), which operates this beautiful Yak-42D RA-42424, photographed while landing at Sheremetyevo in late August 2009.



 Many ageing Russian airliners have been replaced in the past years by newly built Russian aircraft or western types. Like in the west, Airbus and Boeing are ruling the Russian market, although some other constructors were able to penetrate especially the regional segment of the market. Even Aeroflot, the Russian national carrier, operates large numbers of Airbus and Boeing airliners. Many of the western types are registered in Barbados (VQ-B..), Bermuda (VP-..) or Ireland (EI-…) to avoid high Russian import taxes on aircraft.


 Airbus A319-111 VP-BWK.


Airbus A320-214 VP-BRZ.


 Airbus A321-211 VP-BQX.


 Airbus A330-243 VQ-BBE.

Boeing 737

Boeing 737-5Q8 VP-BYU.

Boeing 767

Boeing 767-38AER VP-BWT.


An example of a western constructor other than Airbus or Boeing that made it to the Russian market is Canadair. This Canadair CL-600-2B19 Regional Jet CRJ-200ER VP-BMN of AirVolga was present at MAKS 2009. AirVolga (Авиакомпания «AirVolga») is based at Volgograd and originates from the former Volgograd Aeroflot Division. It operates a small fleet of Tu-134s and Yak-42s, which will soon be replaced by CRJ-200s and Boeing 737s.





In Europe, transition from 3-4 person cockpits to 2-pilot crew decks was rather technology and economy driven, while in Russia the 3-4 crew cockpit was more of a tradition, partly because many aircraft were operated on long distance flights over an often very monotonous landscape and to rudimentary equipped remote airfields. As the introduction of new 2-crew Russian types and their western equivalents occurred rather quickly during the economic revival after the political instability arisen in the early 1990s, pilot training limped somewhat behind. In late 2008, a protocol was signed to bring Russian aircrew training to international standards. As this protocol is at present being translated into regulations – which are expected to come into effect soon – Belgian flight schools seized the opportunity of MAKS 2009 to deepen contacts with their Russian counterparts or to explore possibilities for cooperation. Their aim is to set up a train-the-trainer programme for Russian civil aviation pilot training in order to help aligning eastern and western training programmes, flight instructions and examination criteria.





BAFA, the Ben Air Flight Academy, is without doubt the frontrunner in preparing a possible Belgian-Russian pilot training cooperation. BAFA was established in 1980 and is recognised as a Flight Training Organisation (FTO) according to the international Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR) of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It trains airline transport pilots (ATP), professional pilots as well as private pilots, but also provides additional training for Flight Instruction (FI), Instrument Rating (IR), Multi-Engine aircraft (ME) and Multi-Crew Coordination (MCC). BAFA is based at Deurne and employs 8 fulltime staff members, around 60 free-lance flight instructors and 30 ground instructors. The Academy also provides training for third parties. In 2004, it was selected by the European Union to convert Estonian aviation personnel to the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) standards. It also holds a five-year contract to provide the Basic Transport Conversion Course (BTCC) for future transport pilots of the Belgian Air Component. As a partner of the French Ministry of Transport, BAFA provides the theoretical part of private and airline training for foreign pilots in France.


BAFA operates a fleet of 9 brand-new Piper Warrior III and a single Piper Seminole training aircraft, all equipped with a modern glass cockpit. It also has two flight simulators, one for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) training and one for Multi-Crew Coordination (MCC) training, the latter simulating either an ATR-42 or Boeing 737 cockpit. “The willingness of the M. M. Gromov Flight Research Institute (Лётно-Исследовательский Институт имени М. М. Громова, ЛИИ or LII) to improve flight training of Russian civil aviation pilots offers a lot of opportunities for Belgian flight academies to export and share their knowledge and experience in this matter”, commented BAFA’s Managing Director Marc Kegelaers at MAKS 2009.





The history of the Belgian Flight School, BFS, goes back to 1981 when it was established at Grimbergen airfield as a school for private pilot training. Because of flying restrictions at Grimbergen, it moved to Charleroi in the early 1990s, where the School still has its headquarters today. In 2004, BFS became a Flight Training Organisation offering services comparable to those of BAFA. Apart from Brussels South Charleroi Airport, BFS also has campuses at Liège Bierset Airport and Namur Temploux Airfield. In addition to that, it has a flight school in France, at Valenciennes Denain Airport.


BFS operates a mixed fleet of 25 aircraft: 7 Beechcraft BE77s; 5 Cessna C150s, 2 Cessna C152s, two Cessna C172s and 2 Cessna C182s; 2 Piper PA34s, 1 Piper PA28 and 2 Piper P28Rs; 1 Diamond DA42 and 1 Cirrus SR20. It uses a flight simulator with a generic cockpit, closely representing that of a single-engine Cessna 182 or a twin-engine Piper PA34. The school provides training for Private Pilot Licence (PPL), Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL), Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), Multi-Engine rating (ME) and Multi-Crew Coordination (MCC). To that end, it employs more than 40 certified flight instructors and 15 personnel for management, administration and support. The Belgian Flight School trains around 150 student pilots per year. Seventy-five percent of these are Belgians, 8 percent French and the remaining 17 percent Russians, East-Europeans and North-Africans.


“MAKS 2009 offers BFS a first opportunity to probe the Russian market. Since BFS became part of the Belgian Flight Group (BFG) in 2008, it has more possibilities to seek new opportunities abroad, like in Russia”, revealed Maxime Wouters, Development and Operations Manager of BFS in Moscow.





While BAFA is mostly active in Flanders and BFS in Wallonia, the third Flight Academy present at MAKS 2009, the SABENA Flight Academy, SFA, is active in Brussels and in the United States (Arizona) and trains around 400 pilots per year.


The SABENA Flight Academy had a long history of flight training and type rating training under the wings of mother company SABENA. Although SABENA went bankrupt in 2001, the flight academy survived and recovered easily. Operations never ceased and the company was privatised in 2004. Nowadays, the Academy provides ab initio ATPL training and type rating training on aircraft like the Boeing 737 Classic and NG, the Avro RJ85 and RJ100 as well as the Airbus A320, A330 and A340. For the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, type rating training can be combined with Multi-Crew Coordination (MCC) training. In addition to that, SFA provides among others Cross-Crew Qualification (CCQ) training and instructor training.


SFA operates a large fleet of single- and twin-engine aircraft: Diamond DA20, DA40 and DA42; Eclipse 500; Cessna 152; Piper Archer, Arrow and Seneca V. It disposes of full flight simulators for all aircraft it is giving type rating training for. In addition to that, it has a cockpit procedure trainer for the Boeing 737 Classic and flight management system trainers for the Boeing 737 NG and Classic and Airbus A320, A330 and A340.


The Academy is based at Brussels Airport and was sold in 2008 for 39 million euro to the Canadian company CAE, world leader in flight training.


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 © Jos Schoofs (September 2009)


Last updated 14/09/09 17:55   Daniel Brackx