Birch Tree: Samara Airlines
Samara, known between 1935 and 1991 under the Soviet name of Kuybyshev, is the 8th largest city in Russia and is situated on the edge of European Russia, close to the Urals and on the River Volga. The city has a background in many leading industries especially aviation, missile defence and the Soviet space programme. In fact, these aspects led to it being a 'closed city' under the Soviet system.
As with most large population centres under Soviet rule it had its own Aeroflot division - the Kuybyshev Aviation Enterprise, which was established in 1961 and morphed into the Kuybyshev Joint Aviation Squadron (KuAO). Following the break up of the USSR most of these squadrons of Aeroflot became nominally independent and the KuAO was privatised in 1993, becoming the Joint Stock Company Samara Airlines. The new airline was 51% owned by the state and 49% by private investors.
Samara appears to have weathered the political and economic storms of the late 90s reasonably well. It was forced to lease out some aircraft, but was also able to add further Tu-134s and Tu-154Ms to its fleet. Additionally in 2000 the first of an eventual 4 Yak-42Ds joined the fleet after a single machine was leased in 1997/98. Samara grew to become one of the largest airlines in Russia and in 2005 joined Russia's first airline alliance - AiRUnion, which consisted of KrasAir, Domodedovo Airlines, Omskavia, Sibaviatrans and Samara Airlines. AiRUnion was run by the two brothers Boris and Alexander Abramovich but still had a strong state-owned component.
The aircraft represented by this Aeroclassics model, RA-85817, was a 1995 build Tu-154M originally operated by Tatarstan Airlines but acquired by Samara by August 1996. It saw several lease periods with the Iranian airline Kish Air but appears not to have seen any further service after Samara's collapse. Samara operated over 20 Tu-154s during its history and still had 12 on strength in May 2008.
As with other component airlines some of the Samara Airlines fleet began to wear the new combined AiRUnion colours and by 2007 the 5 airlines (by then merged into a single holding company) were the 2nd largest airline in Russia behind only Aeroflot. This was a boom time for Russian airlines, however the Global Financial Crisis that hit in 2008 had the impact of massively increasing fuel prices as well as curtailing demand.
Despite a brief dip in traffic caused by Samara Airlines collapse traffic figures at Kurumoch International Airport recovered and grew quickly from around 1.5m passengers per annum in 2010 to over 3 million by the start of 2019. Traffic at the airport is diverse but it appears Ural Airlines, Utair, IrAero and Kazan based CRJ operator UVT Aero are the airport's biggest operators.
Komissarov, D. Tupolev Tu-154. Aerofax
Samara Airlines. Wikipedia
Samara Airlines. RZJets.net
Samara Airlines. Timetableimages.com
Kremlin props up AirUnion with 24,000t of fuel. Flight Globalwww.flightglobal.com/kremlin-props-up-airunion-with-24000t-of-fuel/82597.article
Russia to create air behemoth to rescue AiRUnion. Reuters
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: