An AN-10 at the Monino Aviation Museum – Photo: Alan Wilson
When most people think about Soviet, four-engine, turbine passenger aircraft, they tend to think about the “classics”; the IL-18 and the Tu-114. There are reasons, of course, why the Antonov AN-10 doesn’t immediately jump to mind – but that ignores the significant contributions it made to domestic travel within the Soviet Union.
The Tupolev Tu-104 was a great aircraft, and when prestige mattered more than unit cost, it was a perfect way of showing Soviet aeronautical achievement abroad. Russian flag carrier Aeroflot, however, was directed to offer cost-effective transport to all points within the Soviet Union and satellite states. There was another issue; the Tu-104, while durable by early jet standards, was still difficult to maintain after frequent operations on “less prepared” airfields.
The Baade 152 rolls out – Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-54953-0004 / CC-BY-SA
The Junkers Ju-287 was never meant to be a transport plane; it was supposed to be another Nazi doom weapon that was nothing but the fever dream of Hermann Goering and his cronies. However, because of different circumstances, the aircraft would end up becoming Germany’s first airliner, the Baade 152 – which never entered service.
It was designed as a mid-winged monoplane bomber with either two or four BMW 003 engines, depending on the availability of basic aviation necessities like fuel and aluminum. It did have some notable technological advances for its time, however. It featured a forward-swept wing and (allegedly) a high cruise speed.
At the end of the war, the Soviets “inherited” a nearly-complete version of the Ju-287, which they called the OKB-1 EF-131. It had two wing-root mounted engines and a flight deck styled after the older Ju-88. When that design went nowhere, it was transferred to the Alekseyev Design Bureau [try not confuse Semyon Alekseyev with Rostislav Alekseyev – the father of modern wing-in-ground effect aircraft].
Air Koryo AN-24B (P-537) parked at Sondok
Antonov’s AN-24 is probably the easiest of the classic Russian aircraft to hitch a ride on. With at least 800 still in service in eastern Europe, central Asia, Cuba, and Africa, usually all it takes to fly one is a creative routing. Of course, none of those AN-24 are operated by Air Koryo, the national airline of North Korea.
The AN-24 is a stereotypical high-winged turboprop. More akin to the classic Dash-8s, rather than the newer Q400s. It was built to take off from nearly anywhere and land on the most ’œunprepared’ airfields Soviet surveyors and engineers could throw at it. P-537, the AN-24B I flew on, landed in Sondok shortly after my arrival flight via an Air Koryo IL-76.
We were not allowed to photograph the interior until after lunch in Hamhung, but were permitted to walk around the airframe and take plenty of photographs. After lunch, I fought my way to the front of the line to ensure that I would have the opportunity to take an unobstructed cabin shot. My patience and persistence paid off.