Our chariot, EW-85748, on the ground at Minsk National Airport – Photo : Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
From the [AR]vault: This story was originally published on June 8, 2015.
The Tupelov Tu-154 is a classic airliner that many AvGeeks admire, but unfortunately it will no longer be able to fly with-in continental Europe. I was lucky enough to snag a seat on the last flight, a Tu-154M on Belavia to Minsk (MSQ).
You see, many in Europe were getting upset with the rare Soloviev D-30 engine gracing their passenger airports. The noise and the environmental impact did not make many friends. It is too bad, because it’s not like the 737-800 is replacing the Tu-154M on a one-to-one basis with every airline operating them at a speed comparable to that of light anyway. Why even bother other than to make a point?
My friend, who happens to divide his time between Paris and Minsk, runs an aviation enthusiast tour company and asked if I wanted to join a group to give the Tu-154 a send-off from Europe. I packed my things and ended up in Geneva (GVA) on May 29th, 2015.
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
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.