The aircraft for the first leg of our trip to Krasnoyarsk was CanForces/437 Sqn Boeing 707 13705, operating as Canadian Forces Flight 7356. ‘705 was one of five 707-347Cs ordered (but not taken up by) Western Airlines. Instead, they were delivered to the Canadian Forces in 1970-71. These fantastic aircraft would serve Canada well, until sold in 1995-97 to the USAF, which converted them to E-8C reconnaissance configuration, ‘705 becoming 96-0042. On September 24, 2005 it was damaged by Hurricane Rita in Louisiana, but repairs were made and ‘042 remains in service. I can’t figure where/when I took this long-ago photo of passengers boarding ‘705, but I see my old pals Mike Valenti and John McQuarrie among the mob. (Click on any photo to see it full frame.)
On February 14, 1993 I was one of 11 passengers waiting at CFB Trenton to board CanForces Boeing 707 13705 for Helsinki. By this time, I had been visiting Trenton on this or that interesting project for more than 30 years. So what was going on at Trenton this day? The answer involved the recent collapse of the USSR and how the new country – then (temporarily) referred to as the Former Soviet Union — urgently needed medical supplies from the West. The International Red Cross had identified specific FSU needs and had begun an airlift the previous year. No one knew how the old USSR was going to be “re- imagined”, but the IRC appreciated that it needed basic medical supplies to bridge its grave shortfall. This problem had arisen in part since the FSU could not purchase basic medical needs abroad — suppliers did not want Russian rubles. A Canadian Red Cross Society paper also explained how existing medicines produced by the USSR’s outdated pharmaceutical industry rapidly were disappearing, adding, “The collapse of the pharmaceutical industry makes it impossible for the [FSU] to provide sufficient stocks to meet even rudimentary needs.” Additionally, the FSU faced civil war in some areas, making internal trade difficult. Regardless, through 1992 the finer points about what was needed were worked out between the IRC and Moscow.
Ancient paperwork – my 1993 visa application where “USSR” still was terminology. It wasn’t the easiest thing to get on a trip such as this, but for the Krasnoyarsk mission, BGen Jeff Brace, then commanding Canadian Forces Air Transport Group, knew of my interest. Jeff was the sort of Air Force officer who always had enjoyed RCAF history and appreciated the books that I was doing. As Operation Boreal II was ramping up, he called personally to invite me on one of the missions. As a young RCAF captain, Jeff had begun with an exciting career flying the C-130 with 436 Squadron, then advanced to the 707 at 437. Eventually, he commanded 437, then was Base Commander, CFB Trenton and, finally, Commander, Air Transport Group itself.
Months of planning resulted in what Canada’s Department of National Defence dubbed “Operation Boreal II”. For 1993 this entailed 20 air transport missions to needy regions in the FSU. The CRCS would supply 44 medical kits valued at $5 million. Weighing about 2500 lb, each kit included basic antibiotics, inhalers, aspirins in bottles of 5000, bandages, needles, antiseptic wipes, rubber gloves – nothing fancy. The CRCS noted that, “One kit provides supplies for 50 hospital beds for one year.” The DND would deliver kits to centres in the Urals, Siberia and Trans-Caucasus.
A wide view of the great Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Happily, on this winter’s day in 1993 the smog was not up to its usual oppressiveness. Massive air pollution has left Krasnoyarsk’s population with a plague of dreadful respiratory and cancer ills. “Op Boreal” brought welcomed relief at a critical moment. Krasnoyarsk had been one of the USSR’s infamous “closed cities”.No one could come or go without strict permission. At the time of our visit, parts of the city remained off limits.
What about Krasnoyarsk? Situated at 56° 10’N, 91° 50’E this is an ancient Russian community founded in 1628. Mining, forestry, agriculture, trade and transportation were early activities. In Stalin’s era Krasnoyarsk also was an major part of the gulag, where Stalin’s “deplorables” were sent to be worked to death and otherwise “to disappear”. The population by 1993 was about 1 million. Mining and forestry remained important, and factories, including massive aluminum and steel works, steadily chugged out pollution. Most products were for the military. Here in the centre of continental Eurasia there even are shipyards along the Yenisei River for, through mighty feats of engineering, the Yenisie River has been made navigable all the way to Arctic tidewater. Krasnoyarsk also produces weapons-grade plutonium. “Worldatlas” observes: “Besides radioactivity, pollution in the form of industrial wastes and sewage, as well as fertilizer and pesticide run-offs from agricultural fields … pollute the Yenisei along its course.” While visiting Krasnoyarsk hospitals, we would learn that childhood leukemia is rampant. The IRC recognized all this, making Krasnoyarsk a priority for “Op Boreal”.
High above the Ob River drainage system at 58° 29’N, 83° 01’E east of the Urals about half way from Helsinki to Krasnoyarsk. I’d never seen such a maze of river bends, cutoffs, oxbow lakes, etc. Our Aircraft Commander, Maj Chris Beaty, commented, “It’s very quiet up here, as if nothing is flying in this country.” True, yet we knew we were being very closely tracked on Russian military radar, and likely shadowed by fighters. I certainly wasn’t supposed to be taking photos out the window, but couldn’t resist when such landscapes came into view. Not that many years earlier, U-2 pilots had been risking their lives doing photo missions over the USSR.
Trenton to Helsinki — The Crew
On the ramp, 13705 (Canadian Forces Flight 7356) weighed 296,400 lb of which 129,700 was fuel and 19,740 the Red Cross payload. The logbook showed that ‘705 had flown 36,723 hours to date. The crew started engines at 1955Z and taxied to Runway 24. The flight plan showed that our trip to Helsinki would take 7:09 hours (that would work out to the minute). Our crew comprised: Capt T.G. “Lou” Paproski (Aircraft Commander), Capt R.J. Weberbauer (First Officer), Capt M.P. “Mike” Leddy (Navigator), MWO R.K. “Bob” Pokeda (Flight Engineer), Sgt George A. Game (Flight Engineer), MWO J.G. “Gus” Loignon (Loadmaster), Cpl R.L. “Livy” Williston (Flight Stewart), Cpl J.L. “Sylvain” Lapierre (Flight Stewart), Sgt Ruth G. Hess (Flight Attendant) and Cpl Penny Darbyson (Flight Attendant). The crew had a mountain of experience. Capt Paproski, for example, had joined the RCAF in 1961. After instructing on Tutors, he had flown C-130s starting at 436 Sqn, then at 429 and 426, before joining 437 in 1989. Capt Mike Leddy had some 1800 flying hours on the 707, 4000 on the C-130, and 4000 on the Argus. MWO Loignon was another typical case. Having enlisted in 1960, he first had served on the North Star at 426 Sqn for 1200 hours. He later crewed on the C-119 at Rivers, the C-130E with 435 Sqn at Namao in 1966, then joined 437 in 1990. Our flight of 3689 nautical miles operated initially via such waypoints as Val d’Or, La Grande, Lake Harbour and Cape Dyer, crossed Greenland, then routed north of Iceland and Scotland, down over Norway at Trondheim, finally into Helsinki. After refueling and making a crew change, we were airborne at 0540Z for Krasnoyarsk, a distance of 2160 nm. Someone pointed out that this was about half way around the world from Thunder Bay. The crew on this leg was Maj C.A. Beaty (Aircraft Commander), Capt S.B. “Blair” Barthel (First Officer), Capt J.F.G.G. “Gilles” Bourgoin (Navigator), Capt G.I. “Gerry” Foyle (Flight Engineer), WO Mike Deegan (Flight Engineer with Airlift Control Element duties), Capt J.D. “Dave” Melanson (Loadmaster), Cpl J.L. “Sylvain” Lapierre (Flight Stewart), Cpl Penny Darbyson (Flight Attendant), Cpl R.L. “Livy” Williston (Flight Stewart) and Capt W.R. “Russ” Wright (ALCE). There were 20 passengers including five Mobile Air Movements personnel, a security officer and a communications specialist – all based at Trenton. As usual, I spent most for my hours quizzing people about their backgrounds, duties, etc. Below lay a vast, mostly wild-looking, snow-covered landscape. Time flew by and soon (it seemed) we landed at Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo Airport on a gloomy late afternoon after a 5-hour trip.
The busy flight deck aboard our “Boeing” (as 437 personnel usually called their 707s). In the left seat is Capt Blair Barthel; right is Aircraft Commander, Maj Chris Beaty, a USAF pilot on exchange with 437. Nearest right is WO Mike Deegan (flight engineer), lower left is Capt Gilles Bourgoin (navigator), finally (reading a map), Alexey P. Frolov, our Aeroflot navigator and translator. Our public affairs escort, Capt Tony White, described Frolov’s role: “His job is to assist in navigation and air traffic control communications, a necessary precaution in a country with one of the most robust air defence systems in the world.” Look at all the ancient equipment in this 1950s analogue cockpit – not a touch screen in sight.
We all were interested in where we were going. Here, Cpl Penny Darbyson, a Red Cross staffer and Capt Dave Melanson discuss a map on the way to Krasnoyarsk This particular trip was the 5th on the “Op Boreal” schedule this year, and the first ever to reach this city.
Our Boeing parked at Krasnoyarsk minutes after arrival. Things were slow to get rolling, since it seemed that we were not expected. First came some serious palaver with local customs, KGB, etc. Paperwork and passports were inspected and collected then, after about an hour, other officials, workers, trucks and loaders began arriving on the tarmac. I found it all to be an amazing experience.
My first view stepping off the plane. Wonderment seemed to be the feeling among the crowd below – Russians and Canadians alike. Who knows who the “spooks” (KGB and cops) in the crowd were, but they surely were there. Our CanForces photographer grabbed this shot just as I came down the stairs – ready for action. From taxiing in to shutdown and stepping off our Boeing, it was amazing being here in the FSU. It was a chilly winter’s day, and mainly what I noticed from the door as I stepped off ‘705 were aged Russia airliners. However, first things first, which meant clearing customs, offloading the cargo and getting into town. Customs was a bit of an experience, since they, the airport management and others were insisting that they had no idea that any foreign plane was due to arrive today. How could the FSU bureaucracy be so clued-out? They must have been putting us on. There was a lot of discussion and checking of papers, as other airport staff rushed around to find equipment for unloading. Before we finally got onto a bus, we were told that not only were we surprise visitors, but ours was the first airplane from the West ever to land at Krasnoyarsk!
I was happy to find that I could wander around on the tarmac freely covering all the action around our Boeing.
A detail of one of our Boeing’s fantastic Pratt & Whitney JT- 3D turbofans. These incomparable engines carried Canada’s fleet of five Boeing all over the world for hundreds of thousands of trouble free service.
Unloading the Red Cross kits. Our young helpers were air force recruits.
Much else was going on around the 437 Boeing. Here, locals inspect some of the Red Cross satellite phone equipment. Then, Capt Rob Wederbauer (437 Sqn, pilot) with Andrey Loginov of Radio Canada International (translator, centre) is interviewed by a Russian reporter.
Here’s a bit of a different local scene. Dogs have no more loyal friends than the entire Russian people. Dogs are treated so royally, that even at such a major airport as Krasnoyarsk, they can roam around the airplanes! You also can see here that the first truck is ready to roll with four hefty Red Cross kits.
Eventually, we were dropped off at our quarters – rooms at a Krasnoyarsk insane asylum. Nonetheless, we were happy to be squared away. The next couple of days would be super interesting, as many fine local people got us on hospital tours, set up an interesting press conference, took us on sightseeing bus trips, and organized a crazy night out at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel. Although our visit would be brief, it proved to be totally memorable. I even was able to organize an air side photo tour at the airport. This came about when I found someone to introduce me to the airport manager. After I pleaded my case, he personally drove me around the ramp in his falling-apart Lada, stopping almost wherever I wanted to photograph. This was great, even though some areas were off limits – mainly some old bombers in the distance that looked like Tu-16s.
Antonov An-8 (NATO code name “Camp”) CCCP-69301 was my best find at the airport. Some 151 twin turboprop An-8s were manufactured in Tashkent for the USSR military in 1957- 62 (the only other example was the prototype built in Kiev in 1956). Many key policy and operational people pushed for the An-8 to become the standard USSR medium military transport for this era, but it soon was superseded by the 4-engine An-12 (An-8 payload 24,000 lb vs An-12 44,000). Early in the 1970s the An-8 was relegated to civil duties and — due to safety concerns — in 1997 it was banished from the Russian Federation. The handful of survivors then migrated mainly to rogue or backwards Gulf and African states. In 2004 Antonov withdrew the An-8’s airworthiness certification. Little is known about CCCP-69301, but it certainly had a long, productive career. It truly was Krasnoyarsk’s “blast from the past” on February 15, 1993.
This isn’t just a photo of an Il-76 (probably being parted out), but look beyond—some other old clunkers. Looks like some superannuated Red Air Force An-30 Clanks. The An-30 was a version of the An-24 that specialized in aerial photo mapping.
There was a good half-dozen Il-76s at Krasnoyarsk this week, some “between flights”, others awaiting the scrapman. Here sits RA-76752 (I must have just slipped on the ice as my shutter fired), delivered to Aeroflot in 1989. Although in standard Aeroflot markings, it was listed to Krasoyarskie Avialinii. Sadly, it would not end well. On April 5, 1996, ‘752 loaded meat and soap at Novosibirsk on the Ob River in SW Siberia, then set off for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the far distant Kamchatka Peninsula — a distance of more than 2900 miles. On descent to destination, air traffic control instructed ‘752 to continue through cloud to 900m, even though the plane was not on radar. Since it actually was a bit off course (which ATC somehow had not noticed), it flew into a mountain 300 m below the summit.
Il-76 RA-76517 at this time was registered to Krasnoyarsk Airlines. Then, RA-76508 of Aeroflot, which later was registered to Kras Air. It worked for another decade, then went for scrap. I once got to spend a day flying around East Africa in an Il-76. What a super airplane.
In the early 1990s Krasnoyarsk — besides being an key regional airport — was used for heavy aircraft maintenance, long-term storage and parting out/scrapping (i.e., it was an airliner boneyard). Shown is Tu-154 CCCP-85134 gradually being parted out. Then, RA-85124 in Krasnovarskavia colours. It appeared serviceable, but is noted on the web as having been scrapped by the mid-90s. Finally, Tu-154 EP-ITA of Iran Airtour Airlines. Through decades of US trade embargoes, Iran was forced to fly many such hand-me-down USSR aircraft. This greatly retarded Iran’s economy. The Kremlin happily filled the vacuum. “ITA” was back in Krasnoyarsk to be parted out. The fellow walking my way was checking credentials.
Once Russia’s “Queen of the Airways”, the mighty Il-62 was fast fading by 1993. Several had been ferried to Krasnoyarsk – their last hurrah. Included here is RA-86453.
Russia’s first widebody airliner, the Il-86 was grounded in 2006, having been banned from the EU and USA due to noise restrictions. Here are RA-86121 and ‘137 awaiting the scrapman at Krasnoyarsk. What impressive and handsome jetliners, no!
Tu-154s and Il-86s – a long, lonely line.
CanForces 707 13704 came in from Trenton with its Red Cross load on February 15. Local aerospace people would have looked with some envy upon this magnificent, if elderly, jetliner. Now 49 years old, it remains in use as USAF E-8C 97-0201. I notice today (August 15, 2019) that there’s a lovely 1/200 scale diecast model of 97-0201 for sale on the web for 13,175 yen.
Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo terminal building. One interesting thing about this place was how some travellers had to camp here for days awaiting their flights (we were told that some people had been here for weeks).
Another memorable time was our night at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel where good food and too much champagne and vodka were consumed (not a beer to be had for some reason). This hotel was really wild, the lobby jammed with many rough-looking characters milling around (we’d heard that some in this mob were “carrying”). One of my crazy experiences was getting mugged in the men’s room for my cameras. We all knew enough not to go anywhere alone, but my brain had gotten pretty fogged over. Back in Toronto, I had a bit of trouble convincing my insurer about this, but they did come across.
There was much merriment during this whirlwind visit. Usually just some nice quiet dining, but our night out at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel pushed the limits a bit. Here’s some of our gang being property civilized. That familiar face in the second photo is the Ottawa Sun’s world famous roving reporter, Matthew Fisher. Notice the wonderful layout on the tables, talk about A-1. One thing for sure about Siberia – people away out there really know how to enjoy themselves when they get a chance, and they’re magnificent hosts.
Hospital Visits and Press conference
Since Op Boreal’s purpose was to supply hospitals in the FSU, we were invited to visit two Krasnoyarsk hospitals. These were mammoth operations packed with patients suffering especially from respiratory ailments and cancers. Many children here were fighting leukemia and asthma, and hallway medicine was a normal part of the picture:
Hospital staff start inventorying a Red Cross medical kit. Capt Tony White looks on. Then, a mother tends her infant. Russian mothers as a rule reside in hospital with their ailing children throughout their treatment.
Two scenes where our media people interviewed senior medical staff. They were surprised but grateful about the arrival of Red Cross aid, about which they only heard the day after we arrived. We learned how doctors (then earning the equivalent of about US$100 monthly) felt helpless about the region’s environmental “meltdown”, and angry that information about local nuclear contamination was withheld by the state (the same certainly goes on in the West). They also were embarrassed at accepting foreign aid. Some already were pining for the old regime, where supplies at least were plentiful.
I mentioned about Russians and dogs. In these hospitals, dogs rule as they do at the airport. This momma was caring for her brood in a well-travelled hallway – and she wasn’t the only one.
Another interesting event was a press conference where the local media peppered us with questions. This was another side of Siberia. Reporters seemed to know next to nothing about Canada — surely they were putting us on again. One reporter asked why Canada was campaigning to take over Alaska! Devil’s Advocated, Matthew Fisher of the Ottawa Sun, got them really going by commenting (casually) that he doubted that Canada would survive much longer. The press also was amazed that permission had been given to a Canadian military plane to overfly Russia. One reporter wondered if this Red Cross business was just a ploy to enrich Canadian capitalists at Russia’s expense. Another suspected that we were all spies and that our 707 probably was doing espionage. Stalinist/Leninist paranoia still was front and center in Krasnoyarsk. Happily, someone finally changed the subject to hockey.
Canucks in the hot seat, being grilled by the local media, some of whom are shown in the second photo. No doubt the KGB was here as well, and likely shadowing us wherever we went.
The Many Sights Around and About Krasnoyarsk
In four short days we sure took in a lot of Krasnoyarsk – it left our heads swirling. Here are some photos taken at one of the city’s many military memorials.
This park honours the Soviet Union’s and Krasnoyarsk’s magnificent military history. If you google “Krasnoyarsk”, you’ll find much more about this important theme. The book East of the Sun by Benson Bobrick also covers much of Siberia’s history including many reference to Krasnoyarsk. This astoundingly good book is highly recommended (find a cheap copy on the web). Here’s a wide view of the memorial plaza, then the park’s T-34 Stalin tank. By dint of solid WWII technology plus massive weight in numbers, the T-34 was pivotal in driving the Nazis out of the USSR in emphatic manner. Next is a photo of one of the Soviet army’s terrifying artillery pieces, likely one of the types used to pulverize Berlin in the spring of 1945. Finally, the “artifact” that I liked the most – a classic MiG-15, the type that in its own way ruled the skies over Korea in the early 1950s. Sure the F-86 Sabre gets all the glory, but the MiG-15 was a real opponent, greatly feared and respected (in recent years the USAF’s claims of destroying 10 MiG-15s in the Korean War for each Sabre lost have been debunked). In another local park (that we missed) there’s a MiG-21, elsewhere the space program is the theme.
Driving Around Town
On our bus tours we drove through various Krasnoyarsk neighbourhoods. We had to grab our photos on the fly, through the windows. To get a few barely useful pix, I shot plenty. Some residential areas comprise block after block of ancient wooden homes, some centuries old. In contrast are the city’s numerous high rise apartment buildings, where most families reside. These high rises represent the infamous Stalinist concept of urban design and how to keep people down – we’re all equal, yada yada yada.
A couple of typical Krasnoyarsk urban transit busses. Then a view ahead – the streets were always packed with Ladas. The roads also were rough, with major potholes. On returning from such trips I used to tell my little kids about the Krasnoyarsk or the Mogadishu potholes, and we’d get a good laugh. Now? Not so funny, since Toronto today is the city of world class potholes. Even worse, City Hall is 100% OK with that. Meanwhile, we hear that Krasnoyarsk has really cleaned up much that in 1993 was “urbanly” distasteful.
A quickie snapshot of folks set up along the street trying to do a bit of business, now that Communism was on the rocks in the FSU. People were lining the streets hawking anything that they could live without. This was necessary since the government temporarily was dysfunctional, so people weren’t getting their pay and welfare cheques. In this way, millions in the FSU were learning their first lessons in capitalism – that other terrible system. You know, the one that actually works not too badly.
A Few Market Scenes
One of our best times in town was visiting one of Krasnoyarsk’s markets. Some of these are traditional, others are of the “pop-up” type. The set-up here seemed a bit of both. There were the stalls, but there also were many citizens just standing in place one by one trying to sell whatever they had. It was not exactly an inspiring sight.
Street BBQ’ing in the market, the butchers ready to turn a ruble, some fine baked goods on sale, then some ladies with their finery on sale at the curb. Notice the popularity of fur coats, hats, etc. Wouldn’t this just drive our animal rights and vegan terrorist crackpots in Canada nuts. They’d better not try any of their stunts in Krasnoyarsk, eh!
Still keeping an eye everything in 1993 Krasnoyarsk was the master of belittling and controlling everybody – that other evil one, Lenin.
Matthew Fisher discusses a possible deal in the market with one of the local ruble hustlers. Then, Capt Tony White giving a snow machine a test drive. Years later, Matthew reviewed conditions in the CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States (previously referred to as the FSU, also called the Russian Federation). His item in the Toronto Sunday Sun of January 28, 2001 concluded: “Leaving Moscow for almost anywhere else is a revelation. Most Russians lead a frightful Third World existence. How they manage to survive at all defies comprehension.” Another two decades have passed, however, and word is that there has been some improvement. Let’s hope, right!
Having flown in mid-afternoon on the 14th, on the 17th the crew of 13704 under Capt Paproski and their 19 passengers boarded the flight back to Helsinki. Takeoff was at 1010Z hours. CanForces flight CF7357 had 2167 nm to cover in an estimated 5.8 hours. After overnighting, we pushed on for Trenton under the same flight number, covering 3735 nm in 9:00 hours. We had flown some 12,000 nm in 4 days and 26.8 flying hours. For me it proved to be a very big deal – my first visit behind the old Iron Curtain, and a chance to see a bit about the workings of aviation there, and what made the historic city of Krasnoyarsk tick. For an update re. Krasnoyarsk see the excellent Wiki entry and there are some Krasnoyarsk photo sites that also are worth a look.
Heading home in ‘704 there was lots to do until we were back home again in Trenton. These crewmen killed some time playing cards. Matthew Fisher took his turn in the cockpit jump seat, where it was always fascinating for we media types.
RCAF Air Transport Command Nostalgia
With all this talk of Canada’s military Boeing 707s, just for fun I thought we should give a bit of credit to their predecessor, the Canadair CC-106 Yukon. I mentioned about having visited Trenton many times before 1993, so dug out one of my ancient photos from one historic day there long ago. On July 1, 1961, I was at Trenton for the station’s Dominion Day airshow. Here’s a photo taken that day with my old Minolta Autocord twin lens “120”. This was shot (as we kids used to say – since we rarely could afford a roll of colour film) “in glorious black and white”. For our extra enjoyment, 437 Sqn Yukon 15927 made this pass in landing configuration right over the crowd at maybe 200 feet. The good ol’ days, right! The RCAF’s Yukons spent much of their time doing international relief operations similar to “Op Boreal” – it’s a Canadian thing, right. In 1970-71, 437 Squadron’s 10 Yukons were replaced by those 5 glorious 707s.
More good reading … scroll back to read about similar historic ATG missions — Horn of Africa, Nairobi, Rwanda, DRG, etc. Also, I’ve updated the item covering the 2009 restoration of the F-86 on display in Peterborough. Just search for “Peterborough” and that’ll get you there. Well worth a read 10 years later. Cheers … Larry
Books, Books, Books
If you get a spare moment, please check out these aviation booklists. You’re certain to find something you’d like!
Aviation in Canada Series
CANAV Booklist Spring_Summer 2019
Booklist Special Items August 2019