The aircraft was empty so we went on-board and had a look around. “Long time, no see” I thought to myself.
Last time I was inside an IL-18 was way back in the early 1980’s when my brother and I stepped inside a LOT IL-18 in GOT.
It felt good walking around looking at the interior but geez it was hot. Next to the doors the wind moved the air a bit, but inside it was just HOT.
As I had some time, I left my camera bag and camera gear in a seat up front and walked outside. I only brought my new 400D to capture some of this new location. The ground crew had arrived and were now loading bags into the cargo hold.
Loading the aircraft
The cockpit crew showed up and started preparing the aircraft. All russian so it wasn’t easy explaining who I was and what I had planned for today. Again a crew that didn’t know I was coming…
But after a while we agreed that would be in the cockpit for the flights. Very friendly crew, but our conversations were very short.
As I walked around the aircraft and took some crew shots I noticed the condition of the main landing gear… and let me tell you this aircraft would not have gotten permission to take off from any European airport. It was the worst I have ever seen. It wouldn’t take much for this tyre to explode on take off…
Before I finished that thought the passengers came and boarding started. I had to work! Finished up outside and went on board myself to take some more shots.
The cabin was as full as it can get and bags and luggage were stored everywhere, on all available spaces. On the floor, next to seats, on the small overhead shelves.
I worked my way up to the front and stepped inside the cockpit. It was crowded already, and then I wanted a space to get some nice footage.
There was the Captain in his left seat, First officer in the right seat, Flight Engineer just in front of the center panel, by the throttles. Then you had the Radio operator who sat behind the captain turned sideways operating the radio and navigation panel and finally the 5:th guy who sat behind the copilot and fiddled with some switches.
I have no idea what he did, or his title. He was just there and flipped a switch now and then.
Among all these people I tried to get a good view out the front windows and to get balanced. It wasn’t easy!
Without any paperwork or checklists the engines were quickly started and the whole aircaft started swinging a little. Before I knew it we were taxiing for takeoff.
The windows were all open in the cockpit allowing some wind to blow in and I could hear the turbines as we progressed out from the terminal area.
Suddenly I was offered the 5:th guy’s chair and I quickly accepted the offer and sat down. Squeezed myself into position behind the copilot and arrange my cameras for the best view.
The 5:th guy now used my old spot to stand in.
Shortly before we reached the end of the runway for lining up, I was asked to flip the switches as the 5:th guy couldn’t reach them from where he stood. So, I flipped them.
Aligned with the runway we were given the takeoff clearance from Djibouti to Hargeisa in Somalia and the windows were closed.
The turbines screamed as we increased to full takeoff power and started rolling down the runway. The flight engineer continously adjusted the throttles as we picked up speed.
That’s when I remembered…. The poor condition of the main gears, the worn tires….
Not the best time to think about that, rolling down the burning hot runway in this old IL-18 on full power. Oh boy, ok hope it lasts for a few more hours…
We rotated and barely lifted off the ground. The climb rate almost didn’t show, that’s how slow we climbed out of JIB.
Gears retracted and we continued on runway heading for a long time. It was so hot in the cockpit now that I could barely hold my cameras. My shirt was all soaked and glued to my wet back.
I noticed the drops of sweat kept re-appearing on the forehead of the captain, as he kept wiping them off with his hand.
The only thing to cool us down was the large Russian rubber fans mounted in the roof of the cockpit.
You can find these in any Russian built airliner. They’re everywhere, and they’re big!
Without them I don”t know how it would have felt…
I went back for a while to take some cabin footage and the heat facing me when I opened the cockpit door was amazing. The air was absolutely still back in the cabin!
It was hot, damp and so humid.
The passengers were using whatever they had as a fan, waving in front of their faces hoping for a little bit of wind and chill…
When I reached the galley in the aft of the cabin the crew was preparing the crew meal. Due to ramadan there would be no meal service for the passengers. The female crew were all wearing white shirts as their uniform and just like mine it was soaked of sweat.
Water was passed out to all passengers who all swallowed it the second they received it, wanting more! It was a tough environment for the cabin crew.
We shortly reached our destination and started our descent into the African landscape. The sky was still clear and only the haze prevented us from having a beautiful view of this part of Somalia.
We turned slightly and the runway appeared in front of us in the distance. We received landing clearance and started our final approach. At approximately 500 feet I was suddenly surprised and reacted to the angle of attack, before remembering that we were flying an IL-18.
They usually fly the thing into the ground, not like western built aircraft. The sight of the runway filling the front window surprised me and it was an awkward feeling flying towards the runway like this.
Just as we crossed the threshold we levelled off and touched down.
Brakes were applied as we rolled down the runway and windows were quickly opened to let some fresh air in. We turned around and backtracked to the taxiway leading into the terminal area. Parked right in front of the terminal and I could see one more IL-18 parked at the airport. One with a green cheat line, interesting.
A cool fresh wind reached me as I stepped outside for a while, lovely!
Hargeisa is situated on high ground and therefore a bit cooler than Djibouti and the rest of Somalia.
All the crew took the opportunity to cool off a bit during this short stop to drop off and pick up new passengers for the rest of our leg down to Mogadishu in Somalia.