I came to Moscow to do some research for my Masters, but let’s face it, going to Aria’s 30th Anniversary concert was never purely research. Also, the chance to do bits of Moscow I always wanted to see, and in winter too. Coming on my own meant I was free to do what I wanted so I visited the Cosmonauts Museum (at least partly to contrast it with the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum London) and the Central Museum of the VVS (the Russian equivalent of IWM Duxford). I didn’t take any pictures in the Cosmonauts Museum: it would have cost me 230rub to do so, and when I knew I was going to buy the 400rub guidebook it didn’t seem worth it! I probably couldn’t do most of it justice. I’ll do a post about it later though, along with the other bits of Moscow I did and didn’t see.
This post is about the Air Museum, located about an hour-and-a-half’s train ride outside the city at a little place called Monino. Monino used to be a base until the late 50s when the museum opened: I think it was replaced by the base now at Chkalovskiy, which is a base for some very large and loud aircraft (I can see/hear why they’re banned from most European airports, like the VC10 was!). It’s not easy to get to, it’s a long walk up what yesterday were icy roads, but it is signposted in strategic places, and as long as you can read Russian (even if you don’t know what the words mean) it’s pretty straightforward.
I’m still not entirely sure what the opening times are: the two websites (one for the equivalent of the IWM ‘general’ site, one for the VVS part) had different times, so did the signs up around the museum. It’s safe to say if you aim to arrive about 10am, you should be OK. The lady on the desk was curt (normal for Russia) but the other ladies (it’s usually always ladies) were very accommodating: the lady in the first room responded to my question in English and the lady in the shop was very chatty (in Russian, but she was patient and friendly, like you’d expect in England, an not common but certainly not unheard of in Russia). She was lamenting the lack of public transport to the museum and the lack of street lighting on the roads. She also told me that on festival days there are cockpits open, so something to bear in mind when I come back. The museum itself is laid out in a room, two hangers and the field. There was a lot of walking outside in the snow!
Inside the first room was the history of flying in Russia, which was very interesting and I think fairly understandable even for those without Russian. It was the only room with very little English. It contained engines, models and uniforms, as well as a Polikarpov and something called a Letalin: the first (working) human-powered flying machine in Russia.
The first hanger contained the WW2 (Great Patriotic War) aircraft of Russia: they range from sleek inline and radial ‘tactical fighters’ through armoured inline ‘strike’ (ground attack) aircraft (Il-2 Sturmovik) to radial beasts designed for reconnaissance and light night-time bombing. The night-bombers represented in the museum were from a female squadron, which was very interesting. Two of the aircraft in the room were classified monuments: others had been produced in their factories years after original production stopped (the joys of the Soviet system), others restored from parts of a crashed aircraft.
The final hanger, an ancient construction of steel with wooden slatted walls (through which birds entered) contained some of the ‘unique’ exhibits: Il’ya Muromets, a massive four-engined bomber from WW1; the ANT-25 long-range record-breaker; a number of small, experimental aircraft and ‘firsts’.
And, finally, there was the massive expanse of outside. And, man, was some of it massive!
And not just massive: some of it was purely mental:
But that leaves so much else: all the ‘apparently normal’ stuff. But nothing’s REALLY normal when it comes to Russian aircraft…
Watch this space for further Moscow-related news. But next time, not actually from Moscow…