Alrosa's Tu-154
– the end of the era
Svetlana Balaeva / AviMedia
On 28th of October 2020, Novosibirsk Tolmachevo airport welcomed the Tupolev.
Tu-154M aircraft under the registration number RA-85757. The plane is owned by the Alrosa airline and is indeed the last of the Mohicans – it is the last flying Tu-154 in Russian civil aviation. Sadly, the flight en route Mirny – Novosibirsk on that day became the final in its "career" as the aircraft is being retired due to the flying certificate expiration. This event also marks the end of a whole era – the era of Tu-154 in regular passenger service over the Russian Federation.

AviMedia's editor-in-chief Artyom Kuzhlev shares his first-hand experience of flying
on the Tupolev for one last time.


Tupolev Tu-154M under serial number 0939 was built on the Samara "Aviacor" aviation plant and first took off on 25th of November 1992. The history of its further operation is quite diverse: during the '90s the mighty Tupolev got to fly in Iran, Belarus and Azerbaijan. In 2002 this Tu-154M was acquired by Alrosa (Mirninskoye Aviapredpriyatie back then) and has since served airline well for long 18 years.

Despite the coronavirus travel restrictions 140 passengers managed to take flight on the Tu-154 on the 28th of October: aviation enthusiasts from all over the world, journalists and casual commuters and yours truly amongst them.
Svetlana Balaeva / AviMedia
The flight was scheduled to take off from Mirny on 9:40 AM local time. All of the Alrosa employees based at Mirny came to say goodbye to the legendary airliner.

Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
After the quick start-up, the three Soloviev D-30KU engines started singing their "symphony". The aircraft began to taxi, and after a few minutes we lined up on the runway. RA-85757 took off for the last time. After performing a farewell passage over the city of Mirny at the height of 500 m. the crew proceeded to a visual approach procedure for the runway 07 and then performed a low pass over the runway at 15 m. height. After that captain waved the wings goodbye twice and started the climb to the flight level 36000 ft.

Артём Кужлев / AviMedia
Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
The flight took us 2 hours and 40 minutes. But for every person on the plane, it felt like a few minutes – the emotions of flying this beautiful machine as a passenger for the final time were overwhelming.

Marianna Rychkovskaya / AviMedia
Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
The aircraft started its descent. The weather conditions on the ground in Tolmachevo were quite miserable with thick fog, mist and overall visibility of 700 metres. But this was definitely not a problem for the crew – every person in the cockpit had more than 30 years of experience of flying the Tupolev.

Soon we have passed the approach marker and got onto the glideslope. Runway lights appeared from the fog seconds before the touchdown.

Finally, the plane was on the ground. The landing was so soft most of the passengers did not even notice the moment when all 14 wheels of the Tupolev touched the runway!

100% reverse thrust, speed brakes, quick U-turn on the runway, and we followed the follow-me car to the 25th ramp parking slot.

Svetlana Balaeva / AviMedia
Marianna Rychkovskaya / AviMedia
Svetlana Balaeva / AviMedia
In Novosibirsk, the flight was met by aviation photographers, media representatives and Tolmachevo airport management.

Svetlana Balaeva / AviMedia
Svetlana Balaeva / AviMedia
The flight engineer turned off the engines, and the mighty "Tushka" went silent forever.

The flight was performed under the guidance captain Aleksandr Leshkevich, other members of the crew included first officer — Nikolay Voroshilov, navigator — Igor Kontarez and a flight engineer — Mikhail Bogdanov.

Svetlana Balaeva / AviMedia
Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
Marianna Rychkovskaya / AviMedia
Marianna Rychkovskaya / AviMedia
Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
For captain Aleksandr Leshkevich this flight has also become the final one. After more than 30 years of flying the Tu-154, he decided to retire alongside his aircraft.

Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
Marianna Rychkovskaya / AviMedia
This is how the era of Tu-154 operation in regular passenger service ended.
The era that began on October 3, 1968, when the classic airliner first took off.
It transported its first passengers in 1972 – the pre-production tests took almost three years. Over the past half-century, 1026 units of such aircraft have been produced, they have carried millions of passengers and have forever left their mark on the aviation history of the USSR and modern Russia.

In 2020, the aircraft of this model remain in service in air forces of many countries with a socialist past: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea and China.
At the moment, North Korean Air Koryo remains the last airline in the world to use the Tu-154 on regular flights.

RA-85757 is retiring, and we are grateful to it for the emotions it gave us – passengers.

However, it might be early to say goodbye to it, the Tu-154 has been put to storage for now, and its further fate has not yet been determined. AviMedia is monitoring the situation and will provide updates to this article.

Artyom Kuzhlev / AviMedia
Marianna Rychkovskaya / AviMedia
Article: Artyom Kuzhlev
Photography : Artyom Kuzhlev, Svetlana Balaeva, Marianna Rychkovskaya
2/11/2020


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