My first personal excursion outside of Moscow was to the town of Monino, where the “Central Air Force Museum of the Russian Federation” is located. This museum is one of the largest air force museums in the world, boasting a staggering 172 Soviet and Russian aircrafts. As I am a student pilot in the US, I very much wanted to see this museum and its massive collection.
Accompanied by two friends from my group who are also interested in aircraft, my trip to Monino began at the Yaroslav rail terminal in Moscow. From here, “elektrichka” commuter trains shuttle passengers between Moscow and the many small towns and villages that surround it. Although Monino is just 23 kilometers to the east of Moscow, our trip took approximately 1 ½ hours because the train stopped at each of the small stations along the way.
Fortunately, the day was beautiful, if very hot. Thanks to the bright sun and clear sky, we were able to see the museum’s entire collection free from poor weather or rain.
To me, Monino is a typical Russian town – almost exactly what I was expecting after watching countless Russian and Soviet films and television shows. Around 22,000 people live here, and many commute to Moscow for work. In the town are classic Russian apartment buildings, small family shops, schools, and parks.
The whole town looked like a place where aviation had always been a big part of its history. I saw many monuments dedicated to military pilots and the pioneers of Soviet aviation and space exploration. Even the schools and sports clubs had aviation-related names, which gave Monino a unique atmosphere I had not seen anywhere else.
In the museum proper, I had the opportunity to see many rare and interesting aircraft from every era of Russian and Soviet aviation – from the Imperial Russian Air Service of the First World War to the modern Russian Air Force. The rarest aircraft were safely kept in hangars, where they were protected from snow and harsh weather. More modern aircraft, however, stayed outside in the main field all year.
Two of my favorite aircraft at the museum were the Tupolev Tu-144 and the Mil V-12. The Tu-144 was a supersonic passenger aircraft, close to the Anglo-French Concorde, although the Tu-144 made its first flight two months before the Concorde’s.
The Mil V-12 was like nothing I had ever seen before. This helicopter was the largest ever constructed and it looked like no other aircraft on earth. In person, the V-12 was unbelievably large and imposing.
My trip to Monino was the best experience I have had so far in Russia. Even if you are not a pilot, you should take a trip there – I promise you will enjoy the sights and sounds in Monino and the Central Air Force Museum. I hope that I am able to return someday while I am here in Russia!
By: Austin Blanton
Program: Russian Language & Area Studies, Moscow, Russia
Term: Summer 2019