The next morning, Thursday, 7 May 7, it had to happen: the dress rehearsal of the entire parade, including the flying part. One person decided to go to Kubinka airfield on his own while the remaining 19 took the subway in the morning to the spot on the south bank of the Moskva river where we hoped to get a nice view of the flying parade. The ultimate place, the Red Square, was closed for the general public (and remained closed throughout the week), but fortunately there were enough alternatives. Once positioned it quickly became busy with more (sometimes pushing and line cutting) spectators. After some time the parade finally began, heralded by a few heavy cannons. We did not see much of the parade on the ground, except for large groups of marching troops, tanks and other vehicles that came back from the Red Square, a bit depending on where one stood and what views they had on the other side of the riverbank. A little after eleven o’clock the rehearsal ended, which was inaugurated by… a Tu-160 Blackjack! Our choice to stand in this place turned out to be a good one because we had beautiful views and great photo opportunities for all that came flying by. And that was quite a bit, nearly 150 aircraft and helicopters passed in a few minutes for our lenses. One formation had not yet passed while the next was already arriving quickly. It was absolutely spectacular, both in terms of numbers, the different types, as well as sound, formations and perfect timing. After the last Frogfoots disappeared from view, everyone was still looking a little dazed, this was absolutely cool!
We did not have a lot of time to linger around, as the bus was to pick us up at the nearby subway station and bring us to our target for the afternoon: the huge Air Force Museum in Monino. An interpreter had been arranged beforehand for today and tomorrow, to smooth any problems that would arise. Of course, no problems were faced but it was surely handy to have an interpreter at hand. Besides that, talking with our guide gave a good insight in today’s Russia and Moscow in particular. Heavy traffic in Moscow made the one hour trip to the museum into a two-and-a-half hour trip, giving everybody the opportunity to get some sleep in the bus. Despite the heavy traffic, we made it to the Museum on the agreed time, just after their closure for lunch. Monino museum is one of the biggest and most beautiful museums in the world. Despite the somewhat crowded set up and fainted paint in some cases, the variety of unique (proto)types makes this museum a unique experience. Noticeable was that some types had disappeared from the museum (among them the A-20 Havoc and P-63 Kingcobra). If this had anything to do with the celebrations, or that the aircraft are under restoration was not clear. The hours planned for the museum were used to the maximum by most people, working hard to see and photograph everything. In the meanwhile we saw some aircraft, including an Il-22, departing from nearby Chkalovsky resulting in some extra aircraft being logged!
On the way back to the hotel we passed the small airfield Chernoye, home of one of the maintenance companies specializing in An-2, Mi-2 and Mi-8 maintenance. Our interpreter had contacted the company before our trip but never got any workable answer. Therefore, we decided to drop by and see what was possible! Our interpreter gave it its best, literally begging the secretary and the head of security, but unfortunately without success. Due to the holidays there was no one to show us around, at least that was the excuse they used. We did however receive permission to photograph the stored aircraft from outside the fence. Of course we would have rather walked on the base, but this was as good as it got today. Very nice was the MChS Belorussia (Belarussian) An-2 among the parked An-2s that could be photographed quite nicely. Our bus driver, at first a bit skeptical about our hobby, became more and more enthusiastic and helped out finding the best places to photograph and see the An-2s on the airfield. After this intermezzo we faced the horrific Moscow traffic again but we reached the hotel on schedule. Most of the group enjoyed diner in the same restaurant as yesterday, lighting up the place. At one time even the disco lights were turned on!