Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 201,532
2013: 330,818

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Flying on a Genex Antonov AN-26

EW-328TG, an AN-26V side-on. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

EW-328TG, an AN-26B side-on. Photo – Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Antonov’s AN-26 is not a passenger plane, not even close. The AN-26 stems from the passenger AN-24- except it’s an AN-24 with a retractable cargo door. Same Ivchenko-Progress AI-24VT engines, same Kuznetzov APU. Just a door and some bubble windows in the flight deck separate it from its more, passenger-appropriate, forerunner.

Boarding an AN-26B. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Boarding an AN-26B. Photo – Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The cargo ramp is actually relatively slippery, so one must pay close attention and walk up the net. That photo also illustrates the fact that the AN-26 is equipped with an overhead crane to make loading easier.

The seats are hard — hard and linear. There are four windows in reasonable shape, but they barely make the cabin lighter than a dim alley, but it’s the thought that counts. All this didn’t take away from the fact that I had the opportunity to fly in this Ukrainian-built aircraft.

Continue reading Flying on a Genex Antonov AN-26

Touring Air New Zealand’s Brand New Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

ZK-NZE, Air New Zealand's first 787 at the Everett Delivery Center. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

ZK-NZE, Air New Zealand’s first 787 at the Everett Delivery Center. It took 92.5 gallons of paint to create this special livery. Photo – Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This morning I was able to take part in a Boeing media event involving a much heralded aircraft: Air New Zealand’s first 787-9. We’ve discussed what the cabin will look like before on the site, but it’s a lot different to see- and feel- it in person.

The tour commenced by taking a look around the airframe outside, but with the caveat that we had to stay within the gate lines of the delivery stall. This meant that I had to get creative with my angles. We could, however, also make use of the balcony of the Everett Delivery Center, which provided some great views.

Windscreen-level with a 787-9. Photo - Bernie Leighton |AirlineReporter

Windscreen-level with a 787-9. Photo – Bernie Leighton |AirlineReporter

The outside of this plane is amazing, but I was mostly there to check out what was on in the inside. After getting external shots, it was time to head onboard Air New Zealand’s brand new aircraft. A special moment for me as I’ve never even set foot inside a 787 Dreamliner of any flavor before.

Continue reading Touring Air New Zealand’s Brand New Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Two’s Complement: Flying on an Antonov AN-2 and a Mil MI-2

So loud, I am surprised you can't hear them through the photo. Two DOSAAF of Belarus MI-2 await boarding, by me. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AIrlineReporter.com

So loud, I am surprised you can’t hear them through the photo. Two DOSAAF of Belarus MI-2 await boarding                                Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Russia was built for the helicopter, or so said Mikhail Mil. He would know, even though his cohort Igor Sikorsky beat him to the sky. Russia was also built for the Very Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) Biplane. There are many short, rough runways throughout Russia, previously and today, that require special aircraft.

The reason for this combined article about my afternoon with the Belorussian DOSAAF (There’s no translation, but DOSAAF is like if American ROTC units kept old equipment around to show off to civilians) is because the Antonov AN-2 and the Mil MI-2 are probably the two most instrumental and historical aircraft of post-Great Patriotic War aviation.

With scores (over 18,000) of AN-2s built and almost 6000 MI-2s- they were the ubiquitous work horses of the Soviet Union. Even stars of stage and screen!

Continue reading Two’s Complement: Flying on an Antonov AN-2 and a Mil MI-2

Flying on a Classic Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Side on with a B-29A. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Side on with a B-29A – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

It’s rare to get to fly on something unique, but the Commemorative Air Force has an aircraft that can fit the bill. Most of our readers probably are familiar with the fact that they operate a Boeing B-29 Superfortress (NX529B), more popularly known as FIFI.

FiFi is a 1945 model B-29; in other words, produced after the war. Originally, it was delivered to an Army Air Forces facility in Kansas. Following that, it was converted to a TB-29A for use as a crew trainer.  In 1958, it ended up at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. There it sat on the range as a target. Miraculously, it was not destroyed, and was acquired by the Commemorative Air Force in 1971. They have been taking exceptional care of the airframe ever since.

As part of the 2014 Air Power Tour, it arrived at Paine Field on June 19th, and I was scheduled to fly on it the next day.

Nose on with FiFi. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Nose-on with FIFI – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

FIFI is a gem of an aircraft, in better condition than most things I fly on recreationally. Not that such a statement says much on its own, but it legitimately looks like it could have rolled off the assembly line yesterday- not sixty-nine years ago.

While Boeing was clearly the primary contractor on all B-29s, and they were  produced right here in Renton (though Martin and other companies made their share in Georgia), there was a phenomenal degree of subcontracting. The hydraulically-braked landing gear was actually produced by Chevrolet, for instance. I mention it as it still bares the signature Chevy mark.

Boarding a B-29 is also a bit different. One goes in via a ladder located in the nosewheel gear bay.

Continue reading Flying on a Classic Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Taking a Flight on a Ilyushin IL-76TD – It’s Awesome

RubyStar Airlines operates numerous IL-76TDs, but I only got to fly on EW-78830. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

RubyStar Airlines operates numerous IL-76TDs, but I only got to fly on EW-78836 – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

What’s better than flying on an IL-76MD like I did in North Korea? Flying on an IL-76TD somewhere outside of the most restrictive, hostile-to-photographers country on Earth, obviously.

Inside the Navigator's station of an IL-76TD (In flight). Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Inside the Navigator’s station of an IL-76TD (in flight) – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

So, you probably want to know what an MD does differently than a TD. Letters and a lack of observer’s post/tail gunner in the rear area under the tail. For a civilian IL-76TD, it is faired over. Sometimes, this fairing is done crudely – indicating MD-to-TD conversion most likely sometime after the collapse of the USSR. That’s really it. They’re the same in every other way. Same Soloviev engines, same flight deck, same lavatory nook.

Continue reading Taking a Flight on a Ilyushin IL-76TD – It’s Awesome