Flying Bear: Perm Airlines
Perm is a city of just over 1 million people in central Russia. Long a crossroads and the gateway to Siberia following the breakup of the Soviet Union the successor of the Urals CAD / 1st Perm UAD of Aeroflot became Perm Airlines one of many new airlines of the new Russia. Carrying the Bear logo of Perm the airline was first to fly the new Tupolev Tu-204.
Perm is a city that due to its geographic location has an interesting but unpleasant history. Situated about 900 miles east of Moscow on the banks of the Kama River, near the Urals Mountains, the access the river provided meant that it became a major trade and industrial centre. It is also an important railway junction on the Trans-Siberian railway. These two factors would define much of its existence.
During both the Czarist and Soviet eras it was known as the last stop to nowhere. The point where criminals, political prisoners and millions of other unfortunates would pass through, using the railway, on their way to the gulags and often near certain death. During the Cold War its industrial capacity was involved in production of military equipment including ballistic missiles. This earned it the dubious status of a 'closed city' erased from the map and special authority was required to visit or stay.
Since the collapse of the USSR Perm has been reborn and has developed itself as a cultural centre of art and theatre. Perm is served by Perm International Airport (formerly Bol'shoye Savino Airport), which was the home of the Urals CAD / 1st Perm UAD of Aeroflot. In 1992 this became Perm Airlines (Permskiye avialinii) and used its fleet of typical Soviet types (Antonov twins, Tu-134s, Tu-154s and Yak-40s) to continue to serve traditional destinations such as Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Surgut, Baku and Novosibirsk.
Perm Airlines logo, and still the logo of the airport, was a Eurasian Brown Bear. Perm itself had long used the 'Walking Bear' on the city's coat of arms. In keeping with many early post-Soviet airlines many of the fleet continued to wear Aeroflot style cheatlines but with the new blue tail and PAL logo. Later the cheatlines were dropped and the fuselage became all white.
With Aeroflot's change to a primarily international airline in the early 90s Tupolev was looking for new customers for its new Tupolev Tu-204s and Perm Airlines signed an agreement for three of the series 100s. One aircraft, RA-64016, was displayed at the Moscow airshow, MAKS-95, wearing full Perm Airlines colours and its delivery soon afterwards allowed Perm Airlines to become the first operator of the fully certified Tu-204.
Perm Airlines took a further Tu-204-100, RA-64017, in 1996 and both frames were leased from the manufacturer. The airline developed international services to the usual Russian favoured Mediterranean cities and the Tu-204s could be seen at destinations as far away as Barcelona.
Unfortunately the economic situation in Russia was very unstable in the late 90s and the 1998 Russian Financial Crisis had a severe impact on many of the first generation Russian airlines. Perm Airlines found the leasing payments for the Tu-204s too expensive and both aircraft were returned to Tupolev. The planned third Tu-204 never entered service.
RA-64016 would be leased to KMV in May 1998 and would serve with them until they ceased operations in 2011. RA-64017 joined Sibir in late 1999 and is still in service nowadays with Kosmos Avia after a long career with various operators such as KMV, Red Wings and Orenair.
Perm Airlines survived the 1998 crisis and continuted to rely on its old Soviet fleet, which consisted mainly of 1970s build Tu-154B-2s and Tu-134As alongside Antonov 24s and 26s. Around 2006 it appears Perm Airlines came under the auspices of the growing Sibir (now S7 Airlines). A few Tu-154Ms were leased but increasingly all passenger services were operated by Sibir. Perm Airlines license was finally revoked on May 16, 2009. Nowadays it seems Perm Airport is not home to any airlines but is served by a variety of airlines and most of the old Perm Airlines network has been discontinued.
The history of Perm Airlines mirrors many of the new airlines formed out of Aeroflot CADs. Battered and bruised by regular financial crises and strong competition only a few have survived into the present day. Perm Airlines however did at least get to play with some shiny new toys, in the form of the Tu-204s.
Komissarov, D & Gordon, Y. Russian Airlines & their Aircraft. Midland Publishing
Perm Airlines. RZJets.net
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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: