Browsing Tag: Sondok Air Force Base

An Air Koryo AN-24B parked at Sondok

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 “unprepared” 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.

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Air Koryo IL-76MD (P-912) sitting in North Korea.

After UPS stopped doing weekend passenger charters with specifically configured 727s, hitching a ride on a freighter became something most civilians could only dream of.  Even then, their charter aircraft had windows, conventional seats, easily accessible lavatories, and galleys. Although a 727 is a unique aircraft to fly on these days, I prefer Russian metal.

Soviet-era freighters are iconic. Anyone who has ever seen an AN-124 (Ruslan) land at KPAE knows the kind of crowd they can draw. I didn’t get to travel on a Ruslan, but I did get to go on the most common Russian cargo aircraft: The IL-76MD.

P-912 was one of the last IL-76MDs ever made, despite still being equipped with the ubiquitous Soloviev D-30. Rolling off the line in 1990, this aircraft has been with Air Koryo ever since. Those of you who read my IL-18 article will remember my primary complaint: It was not loud enough. The IL-76 totally comes through.