From Russia with love

I had the opportunity to spend a week in Russia last month, just before and during MAKS 2009, or the Moscow Air Show. This bi-annual show featured a number of what I’d call weird and wonderful aircraft.

It was a weird and wonderful experience for me in a different way, too, as this was my first trip to Russia that was not in the dead of winter! I sure loved seeing green grass in Moscow this time around.

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The static display at MAKS featured some very unusual (at least to my eyes) airplanes - including the Concorde-like TU144.

I have to say I was very impressed with the intellectual capital I found in the Russian aviation industry - and with the level of concern and interest among industry figures and media in the state of the business right now.

Just prior to the show, I hosted a media briefing at the Boeing Design Center in Moscow. About 20 news articles came out of that. So we had good media impressions and I think there was lots of attention around questions of when the market will come back.

But you know what was probably the number one issue on the media’s mind at the Moscow show? Whether Russia and the manufacturers there will be competitors to Boeing in the future. I also noticed a high level of interest in the regional jet market - naturally because of the homegrown Superjet 100.

I do have to make one note here about the sad occurrences just prior to the Moscow show. The crash of two air force jets during a rehearsal flight took the life of the commander of the elite Russian Knights aerobatic team. Our condolences go out to the squadron and the pilot’s family as well as the family of a woman on the ground who later died from injuries resulting from the impact. Aerial exhibitions at air shows are never routine, and clearly the danger and risks are very real.

Back to the show itself, I’ve been to many air shows over a number of years, and I always walk away with a positive impression of our industry. This one was no exception.

When I looked at the technologies in Russia, the innovation, the passion of people for aviation, it was incredible.

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The giant wing of the A-50 (IL76) on static display provided shelter for us during a downpour at the Moscow show.

This show is noted for the opportunity to really get close to the aircraft on display (see above). Thanks to my Boeing colleague in Moscow, Mike Savchenko, I was able to get on board the TU144 for a tour and a visit to the flight deck (below).

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Inside the TU144 flight deck.

Oh, did I mention that there was a fun Russian-made full-flight 737 simulator on exhibit at the show?

Boeing also had our own exhibit and hosted a visit from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Boeing Russia President Sergey Kravchencho.

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Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Boeing Russia President Sergey Kravchenko (standing, center), examine the Boeing 787 flight demonstrator at MAKS 2009.

Mr. Putin spent hours at the show, walking through the exhibits, doing speeches and press briefings. I’ve seen heads of state at air shows before, but the prime minister’s concentration and focus on the show and the industry was really something to see.

You can watch a short clip of the visit below.

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Click above to view the video of Mr. Putin’s visit to the Boeing exhibit.

On the airplane on the way home from Russia, I thought back about what I had just done and where I had just been. And really, as someone who was born in the 1950s and grew up in 1960s, this was an experience I could never have dreamed of having. Being in Moscow! Seeing both Russian military and commercial airplanes up close. This is something that as a kid, I could never have fathomed.

Finally, no country report for Randy’s Journal would be complete without my mentioning some of the food I got to enjoy. As you may have guessed by now, I’m what you might call a “foodie.” Even my children bug me about it. Well, on this trip my meals included Russian, Georgian and Uzbek cuisine. I have to admit I especially loved the Georgian cheese bread called khachapuri.

I’m sure I’ll be back again to Moscow for any number of reasons, and not just for the bread. Believe it or not, after several visits over the years, I still have not made it to Red Square to see the Kremlin!

Comments (14)

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Apart from the unfortunate and tragic incident mentioned, fantastic report.

It's definitely an interesting country with real home-grown engineering capability.

Пейте водка! Экономить воду! Spasiba. Dobry Vecher.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

You know you have an international airshow when heads of state come and looks at the displays.

The Tu-144 looks flyable almost like the Tu-144LL that flew over ten years ago, the green cockpit and that indelible fan is certainly a trademark of Soviet era aircraft.

I am glad Boeing has a division and has influence in Russia. Wish I was there.

Carrie Bucklin (Houston, Texas, USA):

This was one of the best articles I have read in a very long time. It was personal, straight forward, and expressed insight around your trip. An exciting trip, where for the first time, seeing Moscow in Summer, I wish I were there.

When reading your article, I couldn't help but go back to 1984 when I went to Russia on a Boarding School field trip. Yes, it was just before the Russian Democratization. We were there in November, so it was slushy, but you could still see the landscape without the snow.

Russia was beautiful!! We went on 2-3 tours a day for seven days. One of the places we visited was Red Square. We visited the Kremlin, St Basil's Basilica, Lenin's Tomb, but the most wonderful event that I went to was the ballet and folk dance at the Bolshoi theater. It had to be the best ballet I have ever seen.

I really enjoyed my visit to Russia. I hope you go back, maybe bring your family, and see some of the history and feel the culture of Russia by going to the ballet. It was a trip I will never forget.

Kris Frederick (Tukwila, WA, King):

I would love to have seen and heard more about the Russian TU144.

Diana Hedstrom (Tukwila, WA):

Thank you for sharing this incredible experience. A trip and experience to remember for a life time.

jose a. rodriguez (long beach, ca.):

Randy, I have always enjoyed your articles, but this time you really outdid yourself with the food. It looks delicious and it sounds like your really enjoyed yourself. Keep up the good work and keep those articles coming.

Kevin (Los Angeles, CA):

I hope I will be able to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg some day.

BTW, the Tu-144 cockpit picture seems to show only two sets of engine gauges, which is odd for a four engine aircraft. I guess not much is known about this aircraft even today. For example, I wonder how the main landing gears were stowed in the engine pods without affecting the airflow into the engines.

John Anderson (Everett, WA, USA):

Re "foodie." Good stuff. Lived in Moscow twice, most recently for 2 years, and made many business trips in and out before residence there.

Don't miss the Donskoy Monastery when you go back, including the Georgian restaurant, U Pirosmani, (recent reviews are somewhat hit or miss) next to the lake that bounds approximately the east side of the monastery property. The Russian Federation Air Force Museum at Monino is also great to see for a comprehensive look at Soviet/Russian aviation; visited there 3 times.

Chris C (South Africa):

Very interesting article, thanks Randy!
Russia certainly is an important commercial airplane market, and this is highlighted with sales success of the super-efficient 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8F to some of the airlines there.

Rita Carbon (West Hills, CA):

Almost 30 years ago, I used to live in Zhukovsky and to work at the Fight Research Institute, which is now the home of MAKS. My work was related to measuring and processing acoustical airplane noises. I was also involved in a study and comparison of TU-144 and Concorde noise characteristics.

Eventually, I left the Flight Research Institute and returned back to school, the Moscow State University, where I got my Ph.D. in Physics. In 1991, I emigrated from Russia, and now, since 1998, I work as a scientist/engineer at Boeing, West Hills.

Thank you very very much for your amazing report that stirred a lot of bitter-sweet memories in my mind. One day, I might be able to visit MAKS, and even take a ride in a MiG or L-39. Indeed, now it’s on my list of things I have to do while I am still alive…

Do you have any position openings in your department? ;-)

Sergei S. (Huntington Beach, CA):

Thank you for a nice story... Food and girls there are really beautiful!
But for thousands people that country is still a great place to be from :)

Mark Scatolini (Huntington Beach, CA):

Nasdrovia -- To life!

Amy (Houston, TX ):

As a Boeing employee devoted to The Food Network, and who just today pre-ordered three new cookbooks on Amazon.com (Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Nigella Lawson) I formally request a complete, detailed report on all the cuisine you enjoyed while in Russia. Foodies just want to know more! I always require these kinds of details when one of my travel clients dines somewhere unusual. . . .

That bread looks REAL good. . .makes me want to try my hand at it this weekend.

BTW, I saw one of our BCA commercials on BBC America the other night. I re-wound it and watched it twice. Well done. That's why we're here.

Don't know if *I'll* get to visit Moscow, but many of us do enjoy and appreciate stories and pictures like yours. Many thanks for bringing them to us.

Alessandro (Sweden):

If not able to visit Russia, I recommend a visit to
Sinsheim and the museum located in Southern Germany, where you can walk onboard both Tu-144 and the Concorde. Their sister
museum nearby (nice trainride) got a Boeing 747-400
on display, which you can walk onboard.

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