MAKS International Aerospace Show 2005 Review
Tuesday 16th August - Sunday 21st August
With equipment orders from its own Air Force, and former Soviet Republic drying up, Russia needs to showcase its wares with a show of the profile and scale to rival those of Farnborough and Paris. The 7th MAKS International Aerospace Show, held at Zhukovsky airfield on the outskirts of Moscow, hosted such an event in August 2005. The enthusiastic local crowd, many who were local aerospace workers that arrived on foot, was an indication of the importance for the future of the industry in Russia.
was lucky enough to spend two days at this great air show. All photography by the author.
Coming at the end of a week long trip to Russia, expectation was high as clear blue skies welcomed the morning in Moscow. The first hurdle to encounter after arriving at the airfield was to negotiate the nowadays inevitable security check. Once through the entrance, the tedium of waiting in line was soon forgotten as the aircraft in the static park came into view.
The line of aircraft seemed to stretch to the horizon. Like Paris, many of the aircraft taking part in the flying display are deployed from the static park, but in the main were more sensibly parked. It soon became apparent that many of the locals had to have their photograph taken in front of as many aircraft as possible. While frustrating for the photographer, it was usually done quickly and unlike the cones of Fairford, eventually moved out of the way!
One aspect of Zhukhovsky which gives a unique atmosphere is the numerous test and development aircraft dotted around this huge airfield. Unfortunately they are not usually in a position to photograph, and any unauthorised approach being actively discouraged.
MAKS, being a trade show, reflected the more politically open aspect of present day Russia, and is becoming increasingly international, with amongst others a large presence of American military aircraft.
The show itself was opened earlier in the week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, flying in aboard a Tupolev Tu160 Blackjack. Unfortunately on the days we attended there were no large Russian aircraft in the flying display, although they were well represented in the static.
The flying programme proper (after an incongruous appearance of a Cessna 172 and Yak 18) was kicked off by the appearance of three Sukhoi Su-25s trailing smoke in the colours of the Russian Flag. Trying to make sense of the Programme (purchased for the equivalent of about 40p,) was a challenge throughout the afternoon, as it was in Cyrillic script. The obvious stuff stood out, but some surprises throughout the afternoon kept you on your toes.
One unusual feature is the total lack of a physical barrier along the crowd line, the organisers instead relying on a "human shield" of a seemingly inexhaustible supply of extremely patient and disciplined militia.
The teams of the Russian Swifts in their MiG-29s and the Russian Knights in their Su-27s both performed magnificently, throwing out flares to add to the spectacle. On some occasions they fly in a combined formation, but on the days we were there, this was not to be. The only airliner in the flying display was the Tupolev Tu334-100 which has recently entered production.
The undoubted stars of the show were the company demonstrators, the MiG-29 OVT, recently renamed MiG-35 and the Sukhoi Su-27MKI both drawing spontaneous applause for their thrust vectoring induced acrobatics. The MiG-35 pilot acknowledged the cheering crowd while taxiing back to the active apron. Other lesser variants of these two types performed more"conventional" displays. Hopefully the economic and political climate will be conducive to repeat performances at Farnborough 2005 - fingers crossed.
One unexpected display was the appearance in the low overhead of a Sukhoi Su-29, with the front seater distributing advertising leaflets to the crowd - you won't get that at Farnborough!
The American contribution to the display was a rather muted couple of high passes from the Ellsworth AFB based B1B "Dakota Posse". Conversely, an extremely spirited display was performed by the Mirage 2000, the pilot seemingly trying to make up for the lack of vectoring nozzles in order to boost its sales figures!
A display by the high altitude research aircraft, the twin boomed thin winged Myasischev M-55 was a unique opportunity to see this unusual aircraft in its element.
A bevy of assorted helicopters followed, including a Kamov Ka31 with a large, very unaerodynamic looking radar array rotating underneath. This was followed by a pair of Ka50 attack helicopters.
A more familiar sight was provided by the Mb339s of the Frecce Tricolori and the Patrouille de France Alpha Jets. The Italians also sent a G222 in a swan song performance that brought spontaneaous applause from the locals The same aircraft that embarrassed itself at Fairford in 2003 performed a faultless display, including wing-overs, barrel rolls and single engine aerobatics.
The flying show was bought to a close by a Russian team of five L39s that owed a lot, some observers noticed, to some of the Red Arrows routine, which was not a bad thing.
With the crowd estimated at approaching 100,000, a quick exit was not expected, so visits to the refreshment stalls and trade exhibition halls were made. There is still a very active space programme in Russia, if the evidence of all the mock-ups is an indication. Further evidence of this was the "Atlant", a Myasischev 'Bison' converted for the Energiya fuel tank. As the masses thinned out, a further visit to the static was made, to capture some of those shots made possible by the late afternoon light and thinning of the crowd.
Overall it was a very interesting and entertaining, if exhausting way to spend a day in the company of some fascinating aircraft. If you want to experience this unique and refreshing show, the next one is in 2007 - plenty of time to fill the piggy bank!