View Full Version : 1972/3 Moscow ATC Nightmares !!

8th Dec 2012, 16:04
I was seconded to a North African airline & parked my 737 alongside the BEAline Trident that had just landed in front of me. An hour later, after refueling & passengers on board, we both asked for Startup Clearance - but were told to Standby.
5 minutes later, Bealine asked the reason for the continuing delay. We were then both given a 2 & half hour delay. On asking for the reason, several times, we were informed that "the President (Brezhnev) was in the air". Bealine asked if he was landing at this airport ? ATC announced that he was airborne SOMEWHERE over the Soviet Union & that no flights would be allowed to land or take off - until he had landed (in two & a half hours).
So we sat there (with a young Russian soldier armed with his weapon - to shoot our tyres out if we moved ? - standing by the nose in the -24degrees C snow storm for the allotted time). Exactly, as promised, we were cleared to start after the promised delay.

The previous month, we were climbing out of Sofia towards Moscow & requested Border Crossing Clearance the stipulated 10 minutes beforehand. The Russian radios at that time were virtually unreadable at that range & position. They were weak, & VERY congested. From experience we knew the situation improved significantly just over the border - so we pressed on for a couple of minutes after crossing & then were able to give our estimates etc. No problem.

On turning off the runway at Moscow I was asked to visit ATC before leaving. (I had to visit it to check my return flight plan was OK anyway). I was ushered into the SATCOs ? office. It was almost dark with just a desk lamp for illumination. He was like the evil villain from a 007 film. Army uniform with breeches & high boots - wearing a monocle !! I was asked, via an interpreter, why I had crossed the border without permission. I said that it was well known that the radios were weak & congested crossing there - but improved rapidly just over the border.

He went over to his window & studied the night scene of the airport for a minute without saying anything. He then said that I may go.

Another crew were flying it home whilst we rested down the back. They had a most frustrating flight !! Any time they approached the border to leave Russian airspace, they were told to return towards Moscow - & then return towards the border - only to be told to return towards Moscow. This continued for 3 and a half hours !!!
Eventually Moscow gave crossing clearance when told refueling would soon be necessary. We landed & refueled at Vienna.

We didnt know of this until on the ground- when it became obvious that SATCO had got his revenge for my cheeky criticism !!

9th Dec 2012, 05:21
An interesting read. I visited Russia for the first time (Siberia) earlier this year and was treated to official Russian "hospitality" on arrival. My first impressions were that things had changed from what I imagined it to have been like, but not everything.

9th Dec 2012, 10:09
The post reminds me of Chinese ATC fifteen years ago.

I was flying an 332L from Wenzhou to Shenzhen with a refuellling stop at Xiamen. We arrived at Xiamen, refuelled, had lunch and put in the flight plan. Everybody happy so we got in and asked for start clearance. There was a delay so it was refused. After repeated requests over half an hour we went up to the tower to see what the score was.

There was a military air exercise at Shantou which was on our route and all non scheduled traffic was prohibited from using that airway; that included us.

Not a big problem, as far as I was concerned, it meant that we would have to wait until 17.00 before getting airbourne because PLA exercises ALWAYS ended at 5.00 o'clock.

!7.00 hrs came and went. It was now getting serious but unnoticed by me my Chinese co-pilot had sent our engineer on a mission. He returned thirty minutes later holding a slab of Coca Cola and a carton of Marlborough which he proceeded to hand around the tower like Father Christmas.

The change was immediate. ATC showed us a 'special' route that bypassed Shantou completely and in twenty minutes we were on our way.

Aileron Drag
9th Dec 2012, 15:56
This thread brings back memories! A rostered LHR-SVO-LHR always cheered me up (except in the winter), because it was a nice long 'quiet' trip. Of course, Russian ATC were dreadful, shouting at you from inside a biscuit-tin, and NDB tracking in the days before LNav was a real pain, but the entire trip out over Clacton, the North Sea, and the Baltic was quite relaxing.

So much so that, one day, the three of us were so engrossed in the daily papers that we forgot to call before USSR 'territorial waters'.

Nothing was said, but as we set the parking brake at SVO the aircraft was surrounded by small troop-carrying tanks. When door 1L was opened half-a-dozen armed shock-troops and a Commissar stormed into the flight-deck and arrested us.

A two hour 'interrogation' followed, similar to Luffers79, and the captain was forced to write an explanation/apology. He went into great detail about the radio problems we had been coping with, and they eventually let us go.

How could the captain have told the truth? The Ruskies would never have heard of the 'Sun' - let alone 'page 3'.

10th Dec 2012, 10:55
Ah the joys of flying on the approved route. Having to call Moscow Centre on HF and requesting the NDBs be turned on and when trying to tune them finding them not on the published frequencies but drifting around all over the spectrum.
Later in the days of GPS finding that airfields were not at their published position but at times up to 15 miles away. Happy days