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.
By 2000 scheduled passenger operations served routes to Cologne, Hanover, Stuttgart, Karaganda and Bishkek whilst charters operated to various Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Italian and Turkish destinations. The passenger fleet included an impressive array of the usual ex-Soviet types like Ilyushin IL-62s, IL-86s, Tupolev TU-134s, TU-154s and a trio of Yakovlev Yak-42s.
It was however in cargo where the majority of East Line's operations were located. By 2000 they had the capability to carry over 8000 tonnes per month with a fleet of 22 Ilyushin IL-76s, 7 Antonov AN-12s and 2 AN-74s. Many of the carriers cargo routes were to China were it served 17 destinations. The airline was also a designated air carrier on routes to Greece, South Korea and the UAE.
This aircraft, RA-76817, was built in 1992 and first operated with Liana before joining Transaero-Samara in 1995, and then Samara Airlines in 1998. She joined East Line by 2000. 76817 went to Atlant Soyuz after 2006 and was then sold on to Abakan Avia in 2008/9. They operate cargo services within Russia from Abakan and also for the UN from a base in Sudan.
East Line itself became Russian Sky Aviation in October 2004 however there were disagreements between the two owners, Alexei Kuimov and Vitaly Kachur, which led to them deciding to sell the company. By that time the fleet had shrunk to 7 IL-76s, 8 IL-62s, 6 IL-86s and 2 TU-154Ms. The buyers, in May 2005, were the expanding charter company VIM Avia which had the year earlier purchased the entire Condor fleet of Boeing 757s. The passenger operations appear to have been transferred to VIM during mid-2006. Even the cargo operations appear to have stopped by 2010 though operations with a single IL-76 resumed in September 2011. It's a little unclear what caused this reduction or whether the much reduced Russian Sky still flies today. VIM Avia is still going strong with a mixed fleet of Airbus A319s, Boeing 757s and Embraer EMB-195s.
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: