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Dublin to Delhi

During the past year as we’ve witnessed aviation globally grind to a halt, green shoots sprouted from several sources as a consequence of the unfolding difficulties. There began an upsurge in air freight in relation to online purchasing and as a means of distributing PPE wide and far. Unusual visiting aircraft suddenly arrived at airports not normally hosts to such, due to numerous repatriation flights. From the enthusiast’s perspective, a chance to view aircraft from distant parts……………

Image by Lars Hentschel

As India spirals out of control with another more aggressive wave of Covid-19, one of the country’s main affliction is a lack of oxygen supplies at hospitals throughout. A deeply shocking situation and one the WHO is currently grappling with. The ‘shout’ went out to the international community for help in this dire circumstances. Ireland answered that call. While we may not have vaccines to spare, there are oxygen concentrators available and a considerable amount of PPE, which could help reduce fatality rates in Delhi and across India.

Cargo airlines from around the world have been engaged to funnel vital emergency aid relief into India. On Tuesday 27th April, Ilyushin IL-76TD-90VD (RA-76952) of Volga-Dnepr Airlines departed Ulyanovsk Airport, Russia, located on the banks of the Volga River, South of Kazan and north of Samara, approximately 1hr flying time East of Moscow and travelled to Dublin Airport, arriving RW28L at 17:05.

The international aid mission took flight VDA4671, 5 hours to reach Dublin. The 3,534km route saw the 2010 yr IL-76 cruise at 420 kts and 36,000ft, passing Moscow, before tracking northwest across Estonia, crossing the Baltic Sea, overflying southern Sweden and the North Sea, northern UK arriving at Dublin.

To say the aircraft and crew received an enthusiastic welcome is an understatement. Enthusiasts turned out in large numbers, intent on viewing the IL-76 as it arrived. The arrival time was suitable, the weather was equally suitable and the attraction of an IL-76 was certainly suitable to anyone with an aviation interest.

RA-76952 is one of five IL-76’s in Volga-Dneprs cargo fleet. Which also includes 12 Antonov An-124’s. The airlines’ Ilyushin’s with year of manufacture spanning from 2006 till 2012, were each fitted with the more modern Aviadvigatel PS-90 engines (IL-76TD-90VD) which comply with European noise legislation, permitting the aircraft to operate in other jurisdictions outside Russia, opening up a far greater market to Volga-Dnepr. The newer power-plants fitted to updated IL-76’s produce 32,000 lbf each compared to the 26,500 lbf the previous Soloviev D-30KP turbofans on older IL-76’s delivered. The upgrading not only resulted in quieter aircraft but improved fuel efficiency, better performance and extended the serviceable life of the aircraft.

The downside to this advancement, if there is one, is a slight loss of originality in terms of engine sound where the enthusiast’s ear is concerned. Only a Soviet-era-aircraft aficionado could notice the difference but noticeable it is and with it, an element of drama lost as a result. Nit-picking of course, its an absolute delight to witness an IL-76 flying in Western Europe.

As Wednesday dawned, and loading complete, the crew prepared their flight-plan for the next stage of the aid mission. Push-back complete and that specific tow-bar unique to the IL-76 with its curve to clear the “glass chin”, stowed on board, it was time to stoke those four PS-90 turbofans into life. One-by-one the engines were humming nicely, systems being checked and monitored. The 08:00 departure time, slipping a little but it happens. “Doors to Automatic - Cross Check”

A final sweep of the runway by an Airfield Inspection vehicle – this is often the practice prior to a runway movement by non-typical visiting aircraft such as an IL-76. The impressive Ilyushin made its way via the taxiway to the holding point for RW10R. Lining up, RA-76952 brought its four turbofans to max-revs, holding firm on the brakes, oil pressure and temperature checked before releasing and starting it’s roll……………. requiring far less of the 2,600m of runway available before it took flight.

Destination, Mineralnye Vody Airport, in southern Russia (MRV), close to the Georgian border. The 3,685km flight took the IL-76 diagonally across Europe, over-flying the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, the Black Sea for a southern approach to Mineralnye Vody arriving 5 hrs later. Over the years, this airport provided a maintenance facility for Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft.

This location appears to have been the end of the line for RA-76952 as sistership RA-76951 was on the way to rendezvous with the ‘Dublin’ flight. At 10:35 the following morning, the two IL-76’s engaged at Mineralnye Vody where the Irish cargo was loaded onto this second aircraft before it departed at 18:57 bound for Delhi, arriving 4hrs 31mins later at the capital. Many other aid deliveries are due into Delhi from across the globe to help the countries plight.

Airliner Experience was privileged to have been guests of Volga-Dnepr Airlines a number of years ago at the Farnborough Airshow. The group of 40 enthusiasts enjoyed access to one of the airlines Antonov An-124’s and a Boeing 747-8F’s of CargoLogicAir, a visit etched in the memory of those who attended.

Image by Kelvin Jahae

Images by Lars Hentschel & Kelvin Jahae


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