Although it’s been two years, this review is still relevant. Flights from Vologda to Moscow are still made aboard the same Yak-40 planes, with the same frequency of 2-3 times a week.
Flying on a Yak-40 was interesting because there’s very few of these planes left in service. On one hand the plane isn’t very efficient, but on the other hand it was designed for the kind of minor flights that are rarely operated commercially anymore.
When leaving Vologda it’s very easy to get stuck in a traffic jam at a railroad crossing on the way to the airport. I knew about this and circumvented the traffic jam, arriving at the airport about one and a half hours before departure time, which is the usual for flights from larger airports. Vologda airport, however, turned out to be closed. My flight was scheduled for 8 AM, and the airport opened at 7 AM, but at 6:30 AM when I got there the building was locked and completely deserted. Good thing I hadn’t left home even earlier, though I’d considered it, because it was pretty chilly outside and drizzling.
Here’s the main entrance. The banner says "80 years of aviation in Vologda." Out of all these 80 years, I'd be willing to bet that the Vologda air fleet is currently in the worst shape its ever been.
Pulling out my camera, I began walking along the perimeter of the airport grounds, looking around and taking photos (Russia has a phobia of cameras; every other building is “a matter of national security that can’t be photographed"). Across from the airport there’s a memorial dedicated to IL-18s, which are still in regular use as passenger planes in Third World countries, including North Korea and countries in Africa. However, every year the chances of ever getting to fly on one of these are diminishing. I have my doubts about these planes ever having been used in Vologda because they seem too large for such a small airport, but perhaps back in the day things were different around here.
On the runway I could see the VIP Yak-40 of the oblast’s governor, and I even dared hope this might be the plane we were going to take today.
Around 7 o’clock, a security guard left the building for a smoke, and I asked if it was okay to take pictures, just to be on the safe side. He told me that it was alright while I was outside, but taking photos inside the airport was forbidden. A little later, in the main building, another employee belabored the point with an outraged “He-e-ey!” when she saw my camera, so I decided not to take any more pictures, although there were some pretty cool aviation artifacts on display. The only thing I managed to snap a quick picture of was an old, faded Aeroflot ad.
As we neared departure time, the airport became populated with about twenty employees. Four men arrived one by one, and turned out to be the only passengers taking the flight with me. Judging by their clothing and baggage they were all businessmen.
On the airfield there were several Yak-40s and an An-28, belonging to Region Avia Airlines, that had apparently appeared out of nowhere (and which I would also like to fly on at some point):
The check-in process began soon after. This is the first time I was so thoroughly searched before boarding a plane. Not only was my baggage sent through the X-ray scanner, I was then asked to open it and turn on my electronic devices to prove they’re authentic. Pretty ridiculous for a short, regional flight.
The window with its metal shutter:
Instead of the promised hour, our trip took an hour and a half because we overflew Domodedovo and had to turn around before coming in for the landing. During the flight we were offered water by way of refreshments.
Flying over Domodedovo:
I liked the Yak-40. I think ceasing production was a mistake for Yak Corporation. A modernized version would've been competitive on the modern market, I think.
In Domodedovo International Airport:
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