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Korea du North seventh part


As I told you on the sixth part, I had a flight on an Antonov An-24.

This flight happened before the Tupolev Tu-134 flight that I described there. It was much easier for me to write about it right here, and here it goes.

There was no need to go anywhere in particular. The chance arose to fly in the Aeroplane departing Pyongyang, and coming back to the same place.

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And I took advantage of the chance. Since I had arrived in North Korea throwing money to the sky, and shooting my shotgun, all while I would tell beautiful North Korean women:

-“Hey babe all this is yours”.

But no one understood English, and they all ran scared.

The ride costed its good amount of euros. Nah, in reality not so much, but when you’re not a millionaire everything seems expensive.

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The An-24 is a turboprop that carries more than 40 passengers and flew for the first time in the late 50s.

They designed it on purpose to replace the Ilyushin Il-14 that I mentioned beforehand.

Remember the Il-14 was the replacement of the Il-12, which replaced the Li-2 that was a soviet DC-3. Hi hi hi.

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This Aeroplane on its many variants turned out to be SUCH a good Aeroplane, that nowadays there are many still flying. Even in Colombia.

On top of the original Antonov, they make two Aeroplanes called the MA-60 and the MA-600 in China that are based on the An-32.

In Saudi Arabia, there’s a company called Taqnia that is making yet another improved An-32. It’s called the An-132, and it’s made jointly with the main factory in Kiev.

Here in Colombia, they operate the An-26 and the An-32, later versions of the An-24. Even the army has a pair of An-32, as can be seen on the photo below.

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I don’t know if there’s an original An-24 flying around here.

The An-32 in particular has a huge engine and is deliciously sexy. But the one I had in front of me there in Pyongyang was an original An-24, and it thrilled my socks!

So, I boarded P-537 that by that time was more than 45 years old. It’s one of the oldest Aeroplanes that I’ve had the honour of flying on. Then, we went to take a little flight around the neighbourhood.

What a masterful sound! What an eardrum-busting symphony! Nah, it was louder than a modern turboprop, but not soooo much so, no.

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The Aeroplane’s interior was very classic. And like many Aeroplanes of this kind and vintage, it didn’t have a window for all the seats. Fortunately, it wasn’t a problem for me, and I got a full window.

It was curious to see the sign they had to activate the emergency exit. It said:

-“FOR STEPPED OUTSIDE CABIN ATTRACT THE HANDLE”.

Another example of funny and misused English in Asia, something all too common there.

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I have no idea exactly where did we fly over. But I do remember we went almost all the way to the Chinese border, and as usual, I was having a blast.

After some time we started the descent and started the approach. The sun was already out (it had been cloudy when we took off), and I saw the shadow of the Aeroplane get progressively bigger as we got lower.

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And so, we landed. And what would be the next-to-last flight within North Korea on that trip was over.

The next would be the Tupolev Tu-134 flight described on the sixth part. And after that one, the return flight to China.

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Minutes after I stepped out the Aeroplane, the Air China Boeing 737 inbound from Beijing landed. The only flight operated to Pyongyang by a foreign airline.

November 2017 update:  Air China has suspended flying to Pyongyang indefinitely.
September 2018 update:  Air China resumed flying to Pyongyang from June 2018.
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Just like in the Tu-134 flight, on this one the crew was happy and postured for us.

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-“Heeeey waaaaait for meee!”

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Now that’s more like it.

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Bye-bye friendsss!

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Little by little, the trip was coming to an end.

And indeed it came to an end. What did you think? That it was going to last forever? Well, no!

It was time to go back, and for this, I had a choice to return to either Beijing or Shenyang. I chose Shenyang.

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The reasons for that were threefold. The first reason, is that in theory the flight was going to be on a Tupolev Tu-154. It’s another Aeroplane I’m dying to fly on (note I write that on present tense).

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The second reason is that it was a city that I hadn’t been to. I had been to Beijing already anyway.

The third reason is that my grandfather had lived in Shenyang. And I wanted to undo the old man’s steps, even though he had died a long time ago, and he couldn’t tell me anything about it.

Postcard my grandfather sent my mother when he lived in Shenyang, notice the "muchos besos para ti y para Andrés" ("lots of kisses for you and for Andres"). That "Andrés" is me.
Postcard my grandfather sent my mother when he lived in Shenyang, notice the "muchos besos para ti y para Andrés" ("lots of kisses for you and for Andres"). That "Andrés" is me.

Ramírez.

So, on flight JS155 I was off to Shenyang.

But so many people were going to Shenyang that day, that they changed the Tupolev Tu-154 for an Ilyushin Il-62. The latter can carry more passengers than the former.

To make things even more flavourful, lots of people were going to Beijing as well. So much so that they put an extra flight on top of the original, that was operated on Tupolev Tu-204.

The original to Beijing was JS151, and the extra was JS221, as seen a couple of photos up. And this additional flight was flown on… Tupolev Tu-154! Damn it!

I felt like if I had been told I was “HIV-Aladeen” (see video).

I was going to be flying the magnificent and spectacular Ilyushin Il-62 again. But my Tupolev Tu-154 day wasn’t going to be that one!

I still haven’t been able to fly on the Tu-154 at the time of writing this, and time passes by… I wonder if I’ll make it.

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Thing is, I made the formalities to exit the country and got back my blue Nokia mobile. Then, I departed to Shenyang very happy with all I had experienced.

Besides, I was going to be able to get on the internet again, great!

Back then, Air Koryo had two Ilyushin Il-62 Aeroplanes flying passengers, P-881 and P-885.

I had arrived in the country on P-885, so in light of the Tupolev Tu-154 change, I hoped at least it was going to be P-881, but no joy.

The return flight was again on the P-885.

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I talked to you about the P-885 already. I can only mention one thing about that particular flight.

Besides the sheer delight that was to be able to fly on Ilyushin Il-62 again despite everything, the food was the famous Koryo Burger.

It’s pretty famous in the world of Aviation geeks such as myself. Can’t really say it was bad.

Another detail I saw when departing is that there was another Il-62 that had been operated by Cubana somewhere else in the Airport. It was kind of hidden, but still visible to some extent, and it still had Cubana’s colours.

Someone told me they had bought it for spares for the rest of the fleet.

Its registration was CU-T1280. And it was very curious, because I had seen that exact Aeroplane in Bogota’s Airport a couple of times before. Do you remember I told you that Cubana used to fly Il-62 between Havana and Bogota?

And I came to see it again in Pyongyang of all places, ja!

Cuba and North Korea have diplomatic relations and interchanges. So much so, that in Panama they seized a ship that was travelling between both countries after having departed from the island.

They declared they were carrying only sugar. But they also had on board some Aeroplanes, some radars, and other undeclared ordnance.

The Cubans later said it all was going to be serviced in North Korea. It created turmoil!

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The day was beautiful, and so we left for Shenyang. Bye-bye Pyongyang!

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The flight went by normally, and soon we were descending to land.

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Shenyang is the biggest Chinese city close to North Korea. It’s the capital of Liaoning province.

So, this flight was shorter than the Beijing one.

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Approaching Shenyang, my last minutes on board an Ilyushin Il-62 up until writing this. And who knows if forever.

Some friendss were waiting for me in Shenyang. My friend Feiruitao took the photo below.

That’s P-885 coming to land in Shenyang, with me as a passenger.

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After disembarking, I had one last photo taken with the Ilyushin Il-62. Then, they bussed us to the terminal to do the formalities.

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Ilyushin Il-62 mon amour!

Ramírez.

Once I finished the immigration and customs formalities in China, I met with my friendss.

We then went to a forest that runs parallel to the runway at Taoxian Airport. It can be seen on this other photo taken by my friend Feiruitao, in which my friend Zhao also appears.

I would meet Zhao again in Australia a couple of years later.

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We reached the forest so quickly, that the Airplane I had arrived in was still in the Airport.

Right at the moment the ultra beautiful Ilyushin Il-62 was getting ready to depart back to Pyongyang, a Korean Air Boeing 737 landed from Seoul. They crossed each other while moving.

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After that, the south’s Boeing 737 followed the north’s Ilyushin Il-62 along the taxiway. The former arriving and the latter departing.

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I wonder what the Pilots of each Aeroplane were thinking when they saw the others.

Would they be having stern looks between themselves? Cursing each other?
(All in the generally civilised world of taxiing in Airports).

At that moment, some security guy from the Airport arrived, and I thought he was about to get annoying about the photos.

But he was simply talking with my Chinese friendss. After a while he started to do a crazy dance, got into his Volkswagen Santana, and left.

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After him, a second guy arrived and also began talking to my friendss.

This time around it was about me, he asked whether I was studying Chinese, where was I from… I was the curiosity!
He didn’t annoy at all with the photos.

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And after a little while, the Aeroplane I had arrived in finally began its voyage back to Pyongyang.

When it left, I just remained there some more time, taking photos. Then, I left with my friendss, to meet some other friendss of theirs, and to eat.

Below there’s a photo of me on that extra time we remained in the place, also taken by Feiruitao.

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Eating in Shenyang after arriving with my friendss and friendss of theirs.  The food was delicious!  The world is so much more than beans.
Eating in Shenyang after arriving with my friendss and friendss of theirs. The food was delicious! The world is so much more than beans.

Ramírez.

On arrival in Shenyang, I realised in my suitcase’s tag (a warrior and beaten up suitcase by the way) that my name was still “Anders”.

As if I was Danish, the little detail I had discovered in Beijing’s Airport before our departure days before. Turn your head 180 degrees and read the image below.

I then laughed about it, and went to take a stroll around the city.

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I saw and did a lot in North Korea within what was possible, but there were many things left to do.

For instance, I want to go to the Arirang Mass Games (see video) and I want to go to Mount Paektu without the bus stalling, and see the Heaven Lake.

I also want to go to the International Friendship Exhibition. It’s a museum showing the many gifts Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il were presented by other foreign dignitaries. Some of them quite curious!

I want to go to Kim Il-Sung Square when they’re on a military parade. I want to go to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il are embalmed. Like Lenin, in the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square.

In fact, I was supposed to go to Kumsusan. They were refurbishing it, and the work wasn’t finished by the time I went there.

Besides that, I want to fly on the Tupolev Tu-204, the Tupolev Tu-154, the Mil Mi-17 (this one’s a Helicopter), and the Ilyushin Il-76.

This is all possible at the time of writing this. I hope it still is when I get out of my current financial quagmire, and I am in a position to do so. It may happen if the regime hasn’t collapsed, or there hasn’t been a nuclear war.

The trip left me some of the best experiences. Not only in the North Korea part, but also in the remaining places I visited, which as I said are material for another article.

I met some friends that I still talk to, many years later, and I have souvenirs that I cherish.

On top of all that, an article on the Aviation part of the trip I made was published on a Japanese magazine. When it went out, it apparently was a hit, and they said to me:

-“Heeey it was a hit! We’re going to pay you more just because of that”.

They told me that after all had been paid and settled as far as I was concerned. What a great moment that was!

First page of the article I made for a japanese Aviation magazine about this trip. See my name surrounded by soft and artistic mouse brush strokes in paint.  I hope it was properly translated!
First page of the article I made for a japanese Aviation magazine about this trip. See my name surrounded by soft and artistic mouse brush strokes in paint. I hope it was properly translated!

Ramírez.

I was not on a financial surplus. I have never been in that position in my life so far.

I was squeezed even tighter after all this adventure. But the not budgeted for, and unexpected yen that came my way because of the article in Japan helped cushion the hit. Go figure!

North Korea is best Korea.

Knowyourmeme

Even with all this, ask me if I regret it one single second! The answer, as my Korean friendss would say, would be an outright and resounding 아니요.


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