Monday, 16 April 2012
Ryanair may not be your favourite airline but compared to what the Russian carrier Aeroflot was like in the 1950s flying with the Irish company would certainly present a more attractive proposition.
I have recently acquired a copy of a most interesting series of books by the respected American journalist of the 1930s to 1960s; John Gunther called Inside Russia Today who wrote a series of in-depth books that documented the social and political events in many countries across the world.
The Russia volume was written in 1957 and in it Gunther describes some of his flying experiences as a passenger with Aeroflot, the state owned airline. Some of his observations are worth recounting especially as much of what he said had me in fits of laughter.
"All civil aviation within the Soviet Union is, of course, a state monopoly: he explains."Aeroflot has no competition, except on flights outside the country, and is run by the Ministry of Defence. Flying in Russia is apt to be pretty rough. This is an understatement. It is extremely rough. It is also fun, and comparatively safe".
He continues by stating that as a general rule at the time Russian aircraft did not have seat belts. "This is because the Russian didn't like them" and that only seldom did anyone know when the plane was about to land and nobody bothered to extinguish cigarettes during take-offs or landings. There were no emergency exits on domestic flights and some planes had one seat that was fitted with a seat belt that the author presumed was used if a passenger was sick or for some "old fashioned crank" who required it. Some planes apparently had seats that were equipped with half a seat belt; the buckle end was there but the other piece was missing.