The East Line Group was founded in the early 1990s by Anton Bakov and Dmitry Kamenschik and diversified into a variety of aviation related services not the least of which were control of Moscow Domodedovo airport and East Line Airways. The airline component was established on November 27, 1995 as East Line Air, that later on February 8, 1996 was granted Certificate No 61 by the civil aviation authorities of Russia. In 1997 it was renamed East Line Airways and grew to become one of the foremost cargo airlines in Russia and a not insubstantial passenger carrier also.
The Soviet-era produced vast numbers of aircraft but very few of them have garnered much respect in the Western world. One that definitely has is the Ilyushin IL-76, although admittedly it is a military type first and a civilian aircraft second. NATO gave it the codename 'Candid' and though far from a looker it has proven its worth over the years as a very effective all purpose transport aircraft - almost like a pure-jet Hercules. The type first flew in March 1971 and was designed as an Antonov AN-12 replacement capable of operating into unprepared airstrips in inhospitable regions and weather.
Let's face it the Ruslan is hardly a beauty but at certain angles it does have a robust charm and is certainly an impressive machine. The AN-124 is the second largest aircraft built, only beaten by the massive six engine AN-225. Ulyanovsk based Volga Dnepr was formed in August 1990 to offer out-sized cargo operations to the world using the giant AN-124 Ruslan.
Pulkovo Federal State Unified Aviation Service Company (“Пулково”) was formed from Aeroflot’s St Petersburg division in 1992 and was fully government owned. It operated St Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport as well as the airline which was the third largest in Russia by the late 1990s.
Initially operating in Aeroflot’s colours it began to rebrand in 1997 and became a fairly common sight at European airports.
The Tupolev Tu-154 was a rugged and effective aircraft for the often primitive operating environment found at many Soviet-era airports, especially during the Russian winter. However by the early 2000s the type was obsolete, although lack of funds and high tariffs on importing Western equipment kept the later TU-154Ms in service well beyond their use by dates, even with Aeroflot. That was a big bonus for enthusiasts as the type was one of only two Russian aircraft (the other is the IL-96), until the recent Sukhoi Superjet, to get into the beautiful 2003 era colours of the national airline and its affiliates.
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: