The Slovak Government Tupolev Tu-154M  Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The Slovak Government Tupolev Tu-154M – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Not too many opportunities exist in this day and age where one can still take flight on a classic Russian aircraft, let alone in a VIP configuration. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to take part in a  flight onboard a Slovak Government Flying Service (SSG) Tupolev TU-154M. For me, this would be my first-ever flight on a Russian aircraft, and to say I was excited would be an understatement.

Time to board my first Russian aircraft Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Time to board my first Russian aircraft – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The flight would be an empty ferry sector from Prague-Bratislava, a short 40-minute hop, but I knew I would savor every minute. SSG presently has four aircraft in its fleet, but only three are in operational service. The fleet consists of two Tupolev TU-154Ms (reg numbers OM-BYO and OM-BYR), with the latter being used for spare parts.

The remaining two aircraft are Yakovlev YAK-40s (reg numbers OM-BYE and OM-BYL). The Slovak Government not only carries out various head of state and other VIP missions, it also participates in various humanitarian and troop-carrying missions on behalf of the Slovak Government.

The other aircraft in he SSG fleet a Yak-40 Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The other aircraft in the SSG fleet, a Yak-40 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Upon my arrival at the airport and once all the formalities had been completed, I made my way onboard the aircraft, where I was welcomed by four flight attendants as well as a five-person cockpit crew (two pilots, one radio operator, and two mechanics).

After a brief tour of the aircraft, it was time to buckle up and begin the journey to Bratislava. The cabin crew offered to me a seat in the VIP suite, but knowing that this was my first flight on any Russian aircraft, I declined in favor of a seat in the cockpit.

The VIP suite looks very nice but I think I'll take the cockpit today Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The VIP suite looks very nice, but I think I’ll take a seat in the cockpit today                                         Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Being an empty ferry flight, it was not surprising that our take-off was very impressive, not even using up half the runway in Prague. What did surprise me, however, was how quiet the whole cockpit area was, even with take-off thrust applied – it was no noisier than a modern commercial jet airliner.

BONUS: See my video of the take-off from the flight deck

One of the best wing views I've ever had Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Not a bad wing view on the TU-154M – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

After seeing numerous TU-154M take-off videos, I do suspect that with this being a state aircraft there have been a lot of modifications made, including significant sound proofing over commercial variants of the TU-154M.

The business class cabin Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The business class cabin – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Following our departure from Prague, I made the most of the short flight time testing out the seats in the various cabins, as well as taking plenty of photos of this stunning aircraft. There are three cabins in total on this aircraft, the front VIP suite, followed by a “business class” section, and finally an economy class.

The rear cabin consists of 15 or so rows of economy class seating Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The rear cabin consists of 15 or so rows of economy class seating Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

All too soon unfortunately it was time to begin preparations for landing into Bratislava, and I made my way back to the cockpit.

A bit of storm dodging on the way into Bratislava, the avionics of the aircraft have been recently retrofitted from the originals  Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

A bit of storm dodging on the way into Bratislava – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

It was a rather fun approach, as there were numerous storms around the area which also gave me a nice chance to experience turbulence penetration in the aircraft.  I have to say it handled the bumps pretty well, even if the autopilot does tend to over-correct pitch slightly when moderate turbulence is encountered.

BONUS: Video of our landing the TU-154 from the flight deck

The impressive flight engineers control panel Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The impressive and complicated flight engineer’s control panel – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Following our arrival into Bratislava, I took a few more shots of the cockpit before bidding farewell to the crew and making my way to the passenger terminal for my evening Czech Airlines flight back to Prague. Needless to say, the ATR-42 flight was much less exciting then the inbound one.

The TU-154M flightdeck which has been signifcantlly modernised with the addition of electornic displays as well as an Flight management system Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

The TU-154M flight-deck, which has been significantly modernized with the addition of electronic displays as well as a flight management system – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

This would have to be one of my best aviation experiences of all time, and I would like to make a special  thanks the excellent crew for the possibility to accompany them on-board the aircraft, allowing me to experience my first flight on a Russian aircraft in such style!

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SENIOR CORRESPONDENT – PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC A native of Australia, Jacob’s interest in aviation first came about as a child going on a long-haul flight between Australia and Europe to visit relatives. In addition to being a pilot himself, he has worked in operations for a charter airline, been on-the-ramp handling aircraft, worked as a slot coordinator for major airports, and currently works as an aircraft charter broker for corporate and VIP clients throughout Eastern Europe. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys photography, plane spotting, and travel. Email: jacob@airlinereporter.com.

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5 Comments

Hi Jacob,
Do you know the exact seat config of the aircraft?
Thanks
Thomas

Hi Thomas, all up it seats about 100. There is the forward suite followed by 2-3 rows of business class and about 15 or so rows of economy after that.

Wow I got goosebumps of excitement reading this! Thanks so much!

Me too 🙂

David

The level of jealousy I have is strong, but we’ve got more Ty-154s coming. These ones wont have those pesky things like “executive comfort” and “sound insulation”.

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