Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Ukrainian State Aviation Museum in Kiev. I will publish a full report later, but just wanted to share the disturbing experience I had there.
I had a 10 hours layover in Kiev, and I didn't care staying for so long in Borispol Airport, and also didn't want to visit the city when I have the opportunity to visit such a promising museum.
The museum houses a very large collection of Soviet era aircraft of all types, including very large ones (Il-86, Il-62), Bombers, fighters, helicopters, special aircraft (An-71) and experimental. I am not sure if there is such a cluster of soviet built aircraft anywhere else in the world. It is located just next to IEV airport and it takes like an hour to reach it using public transport/taxi.
When reaching the museum it was noticeable that my visit will be a bit different then I expected. Apparently, the museum hosted in its premises collectors of cars, motorcycles and bikes. These collectors presented exemplars of all motorized vehicles produced in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Block up till 1991, and Russian cars manufactured afterwards. In addition, collectors of cars and motorcycles from any other parts of the world were present as well. This combination of air and land vehicles is not something rare, and it brought a huge crowd to the museum. This made the possibility to take pictures very problematic.
When entering the museum I was very sad and disturbed to see the way things were organised and allowed, and here is a short list of them:
1. Managerial decisions: The museum's management, with its endless wisdom, allowed the car owners/collectors to put their items between the aircrafts/helicopters no matter how rare they are, and to use these aircrafts/helicopters as stands for their stuff and as places to sit on. For example, the nicely restored Yak-3 was utilised as a bench for jackets, coats, bags etc. which belonged to the owners of a collection of Jawa motorcycles sitting next to it. In other places you could find numerous food stands located between aircraft with some of them operating BBQ stands with open fire.
In a different part of the museum (this place is really big) a concentration of more than a dozen caravans and portable homes was located. When I walked next to these caravans I could see the occupants preparing food, opening an inflatable pool, and their children running around. And all of this inside an aviation museum pretty close to the exhibits.
2. Visitors behavior and staff reaction: Many of the visitors behaved in a very poor manner. These persons climbed on the exhibits without any judgement, let their kids climb on the wings and run on them freely, checking that everything is screwed to its place and that the propellers are moving. Some of the visitors (mainly children) were hanging from various places of the aircraft. When staff noticed such activity the most they did was to protest, but did not acted to stop it in a more active manner. In addition, since it was a very hot day, groups of people started to picnic under the large aircraft wings and bodies - families opened their food baskets, smoking their narghile (hookah) and letting their kids run around and climbing the aircraft with no supervision or limitations. Again, no reaction from the staff and no trying to stop it.
3. Organized damaging of exhibits: Some of the exhibits were given by the museum management to graffiti painters to change its original color scheme to something not related to military aviation. I saw two Mil helicopters being painted using graffiti spray canisters on top of the original Soviet/Ukraine air force color scheme. In the morning you could still view the original colors, but up till the afternoon it was already covered with the local psychedelic craziness - patches of black, white, green, red, orange and various other colors applied with no relation to each other.
Bottom line, for me as an aviation enthusiast the museum is indeed very interesting and I would like to visit it again in the future. Unfortunately, if what I witnessed during my visit is the regular norm, than this museum will not survive for long. The scandalous behavior of both visitors and management/staff with the latter allowing it, and the very low maintenance levels of exhibits which are located in an open field, will all lead to the disintegration of exhibits and their demise.
This is very sad indeed.