From the 16th to the 21st of August, the tenth International Aviation & Space Salon MAKS took place in Zhukovsky, Russia. First held in 1992, the air show in Zhukovsky was known as Mosaeroshow and since then has expanded into an internationally-recognized exhibition with conferences. This year MAKS hosted 70 industry conferences and seminars, with 850 companies from 40 countries participating. The Zhukovsky airfield has became a national centre of aerospace construction and the business hub of Russian aviation. This year’s exhibition was the largest ever in terms of the territory occupied (50 hectares), number of visitors (550,000) and contracts signed (a total sum of around $10 billion). Displays of military and civil aircrafts stretched for three kilometres and included 241 planes. The air show programme included a range of notable pilots, such as “Vityazi” and “Strizhi”, famous during the Soviet years, as well as the “Baltic Bees” with their yellow striped aircrafts starkly contrasting the blue sky. There were also demonstrations by helicopters, including attack helicopter KA 52 Alligator, the successor of the Russian legendary Black Shark KA 50. New aircraft models, never before shown to public were also exhibited during the show, the most anticipated being the 5th Gen PAK FA T-50 Stealth fighter.
Arriving early in the mornings allowed for plenty of time to explore the displays of planes and helicopters before the air show. The kaleidoscope of aircrafts included the colourful, stylish Spanish Autogiros. Another personal-use craft was the small Swiss aircraft PC-12NG, costing a mere $4.5 million. Belorussia exhibited their newest technological advances in pilotless aircrafts, including the helicopter I.N. SKY, whose flight lasts up to 5 hours, and flight radius can reach 100 km. The U.S. Air Force presented eight military aircrafts, including F-16C Fighting Falcons, a C-5M Galaxy and the legendary B-52 Stratofortress, inside of which they allowed visitors to photograph it’s empty bomb rack. Also displayed was the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, along with some of the biggest airplanes in the world. Another goliath, Airbus A380, has seating capacity for up to 525 passengers, while the An-225 Maria can lift up to 600 tons. Seeing these colossal crafts up close and on the ground was such a shocking experience compared to out of an airport window.
Russia presented an array of multi-use helicopters, such as Fire-fighter KA-32A, Ambulance KA-226T and the military anti-arm attack helicopter MI-28N, also know as Havoc. Fighters and bombers, including TU-95 (the Russian Bear), SU-30 (Flanker-C), SU-34 (Fullback) and MIG-35 (Fulcrum-F) were all on display, fully equipped with bombs. Upon being asked if I was interested in ‘buying one or two bombs, since its cheaper in bulk’ I quickly declined. It was only later that I discovered that all the bombs on exhibition were fake.
As for the air show, the highlight of the first day were helicopters. As pilots performed intense, highly complicated manoeuvres much of the audience found themselves wondering where the laws of physics had disappeared to. The second day of the programme proved to be even more impressive. This was especially true thanks to the arrival of the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who flew to the air show on Premier’s IL-96. The most anticipated performance however, was the flight of the Sukhoi T-50 stealth. This was its first ever flight in front of the public, and it completed some head spinning manoeuvres. Unfortunately, the T-50 did not manage to complete its programme on the 21st of August thanks to the surging of its right engine.
Though there was the occasional disappointment, such as minor breakages of the airplanes during the air show and organisational problems which caused rescheduling, MAKS 2011 was overall conducted at a very high standard. The intense programme of the air show, an excellent exhibition hall and displays illustrated the improvements that this show has made since 1992. High expectations for the exhibition were fulfilled not only for the specialists and businessmen, but also for the general public, who came down at the weekend despite the crowds and the rain. Not to mention the aviation photographers and aircraft lovers, for whom these were dream-like days.
Photography by Anna Devie