While reading Wikipedia about Ust-Kut Airport, I've run into the following picture:

enter image description here

I'd like to know which operation is depicted here?

This doesn't seems to be a take-off, as per my very limited knowledge. It is by far landing. If I am correct then how it is possible that a landing plane, at this altitude, still doesn't have its gear down?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It looks to me like a demonstration flight. I am not sure where to check whether there was any airshow on 8th December 2009 there. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Oct 26, 2020 at 21:37
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ It could just be a random low pass. There may never have been an intention to land. Or, they may have been trying to gauge the condition of the runway from closer than traffic pattern altitude. I’ve done low passes to practice tracking the runway and to scare wildlife off of the runway. Or, even just to set myself up for a missed approach during multiple practice instrument approaches. It cuts down on time. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Oct 26, 2020 at 21:39
  • 24
    $\begingroup$ The aircraft has no flaps deployed which suggests neither take off nor landing, but a low pass. Why it's doing this would be a matter of speculation. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2020 at 22:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 -- not if you keep the nose down & the gear retracts quickly. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Oct 27, 2020 at 5:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well that would not be a normal takeoff. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Oct 27, 2020 at 9:39

2 Answers 2


The flight in question is most probably an evaluation/calibration flight for radio navigation systems at Ust-Kut. The aircraft is a Yak-40 special version designated for such tasks:

Aviamuseum - Yak-40 "Calibrator"

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Wow, nice. Were you able to make out the tail number from the picture, or did you just recognize the paintjob and double-check from there? $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2020 at 14:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @T.J.Crowder luck and mad googling skilz 😃 Of some help was the unusual antenna arrangement, and understanding of what such buzzing might be about. The paint scheme as such was not sufficient, as it is carried by some Yak factory a/c. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Oct 28, 2020 at 16:35

It looks like a low pass, for unknown reasons but more likely a demonstration of some kind than an runway inspection. That's just a guess, of course, but I think it's the simplest thing that explains what the picture seems to show:

  • Gear retracted means it isn't landing
  • Level flight means it isn't taking off (probably)
  • Very low altitude means it isn't asking the tower to check if the gear is down (that sometimes happens if there's a gear problem and the pilots don't know if it's down or not)
  • No flaps means it isn't trying to fly slowly (which would be better for a runway inspection)
  • Directly over the runway (apparently) means it isn't doing a runway inspection (flying off to one side would give a better view of the runway)

Having said all that, the angle of the picture doesn't clearly show the aircraft's position relative to the runway. And I know nothing about turbine aircraft operations :-) So I may be completely wrong.


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