Trip Reports & Reviews

I FLEW ON A SOVIET YAK 40! Flying on a 40 year old Russian Jet!

Noel

Noel Philips

I flew on a 40 year old Soviet Yak 40! After years of trying I was able to finally take a flight on the Russian jet that was built in the 1970s! I flew with Motor Sich in Ukraine from Kyiv to Uzhgorod.

As we drove across the apron to the remote parking stands I spotted just one Motor Sich aircraft on the ground. It was the Yak 40.

Today’s ride has an interesting history. It was first delivered in 1980 to the Government of Madagascar, where it served as VIP transport to their government officials. In 1997 it was sold to a Ukrainian steel company who owned it until Motor Sich took delivery in 2010.

You board the Yak 40 via the steps in the tail of the aircraft – in a similar manner to older tail engines jets like the DC9.

Before we could board we had to wait for the baggage to be loaded – which also goes into the tail of the aircraft.

The Yakovlev Yak 40 was the world’s first commuter tri-jet. Over 1000 were built by Yakovlev between 1966 and 1981 in their factory at Saratov in the Soviet Union. Today, just a handful remain in service – mainly with the Russian airline Vologda, and Motor Sich in Ukraine.

For now though it was soon time to follow in the footsteps of oligarchs and steel tycoons, and climb onboard the most retro of jets to take a trip back in time to the early 80s.

The cabin is decorated in a very 1980s style beige design. The smell of leather is very evident in the cabin thanks to the beige real leather covering the tiny seats.

The Yak 40 is incredibly cramped onnboard. A guy sat next to me for a few minutes which felt very intimate, he soon moved to a spare seat somewhere else.

Pretty soon the three Ivchenko jet engines powered into life behind me.

It was time to go and we motored past the usual line of San Marino registered business jets to the runway at Zhuliany.

Like many classic Soviet jets, the Yak 40 seems to rely solely on the curvature of the earth to get into the sky.

As we inched into the skies above Kyiv, this rather sedentary climb rate gave us some great views across the city, and of the huge Soviet statue of Mother Russia looking longingly towards the Soviet Union.

Our route today took us almost on a direct route heading west from Kyiv to Uzhgorod. Flight time today was 1 hour 45 minutes, at a cruising altitude of 20,000ft.

The cabin service began soon after takeoff – first a round of water and next a coffee service. Motor Sich usually offer small meal on their flights, but we didn’t get one today.

Motor Sich are primarily an engine manufacturer – The Ivchenko AI-25 engines on the Yak 40 are manufactured by Motor Sich themselves. Motor Sich airlines are just one part of Motor Sich, alongside a bank and even a TV company.

I found it cute that the illuminated exit signs have to be switched on manually in the event of an evacuation.

The galley’s at the back of the Yak 40, and is a pretty decent size considering the small size of the aircraft.

There were some pretty heft storm clouds sitting over Western Ukraine, which we gave a pretty wide berth.

One other notable observation was the lack of oxygen masks fitted to this aircraft – and they don’t even appear in the safety card – which at a cruising altitude of 20,000ft may have been a bit of an issue. Perhaps the manufacturers don’t envisage this aircraft depressurising, it is after all built like a tank.

I couldn’t find the advertised life vest under the seat either. On a flight completely over land this is probably not an issue – but would you feel comfortable going over water on this plane?

Perhaps it was just as well that as I noticed these things, we started our descent into Uzhgorod. Uzhgorod is the most inland city in Europe – it’s the same distance from the Baltic, Adriatic and the Black Sea.

The airport is also right on the border with Slovakia – meaning the approach to the airport from the west is entirely over Slovakia until the airport boundary.

Today however, we approached from the east which gave us a great view of the city of Uzhgorod.

We touched down on schedule at the tiny Uzhgorod International Airport, home to just two flights a week. In the whole of 2018 the airport served just 250 passengers, making it the least used airport in Ukraine.

My flight today cost £75, or $93 US Dollars. This was for a flight of 388 miles, meaning a cost per mile of 19 pence.

I really enjoyed my Yak 40 ride with Motor Sich. The Uzhgorod route is the only route that you’re almost guaranteed a Yak 40, and I highly recommend coming down to Ukraine and giving it a go.