Air Show 'Glasnost' : Soviet Union to Exhibit Three Planes for First Time at Brown Field Expo

Times Staff Writer

For the first time on American soil, the Soviet government will exhibit three of its planes--one of them the largest in operation anywhere in the world--at an international air show and exposition scheduled for Brown Field next month, organizers of the event announced Wednesday.

Alexander F. Voinov, chief of exhibits for the Soviet Ministry of Aviation, told reporters at a Wednesday-morning press conference that his government agreed to accept the invitation to bring the planes to Air/Space America '88 in San Diego as part of the new era of "glasnost" and mutual cooperation instituted during the last couple of years under the regime of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Voinov also said Soviet officials hope the San Diego appearance of the aircraft may eventually lead to business deals or sales of the planes to companies in America and elsewhere.

"Our main purpose is to make the Americans acquainted with the achievements of our industry and, as a result of this, we may be serious in some business circles about cooperation or sales," Voinov said through an interpreter.

Optimistic About Future Expositions

"It is our first exposition on the territory of the U. S. A. , but we are optimistic about future expositions," he said.

One of the planes to be exhibited is the huge Soviet transport, the

Antonov-124, which is considered a counterpart to the C-5A Galaxy transport used by the U.S. Air Force. The Soviet aircraft has a normal payload of 150 tons and was developed to carry building materials to Siberia and the Far East.

The An-124 is the largest flying aircraft anywhere in the world, and has set a world record by carrying 170 tons at an altitude of nearly 33,000 feet, Voinov said Wednesday.

The only other airplane that is larger is the Spruce Goose, built decades ago by billionaire Howard Hughes. The plane, however, is no longer operational and is a museum in Long Beach.

Along with the An-124, two aircraft, which were designed to perform aerial stunts, will be on display in San Diego. Those are the Mi-34, a light helicopter, and the Su-26M, a state-of-the-art single-seat airplane that enabled Soviet Union to win 11 gold medals at the 1986 World Aerobatic Championships.

Voinov said the transport will carry both of the lighter aircraft from Moscow to San Diego's Brown Field, with one stop--at Gander, Newfoundland.

A contingent of 65 Soviet aviation experts, including the deputy minister of the Ministry of Aviation and designers of the planes also will attend, said Voinov.

Bob Wilson, former U.S. congressman from San Diego and the president of the not-for-profit corporation staging Air/Space America '88, said there were no problems obtaining permission from the State Department to allow the Soviet contingent into San Diego, normally considered a "closed city" to Soviet diplomats because of the number of defense contractors in the area.

San Diego is only off limits to employees of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, while other Soviet tourists are allowed to roam around, said Wilson.

But the Soviet experts visiting the air exposition next month will be prevented from traveling outside a radius of 25 miles from downtown, said show promoters.

Voinov on Wednesday laughed off questions about whether KGB agents will be among the Soviet party sent to San Diego.

Wilson emphasized that there could be nothing the Soviet visitors could find out at the Brown Field event about American aircraft, including military fighters, that they don't already know by reading aviation publications such as Aviation Weekly.

Also showing planes and aviation hardware will be exhibitors from Ireland, Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Switzerland and France, Wilson said. The focus, however, will be on American aviation, including the small-time entrepreneur who is working on airplanes in his garage, said Wilson. So far, 325 exhibitors have signed up for the show, which will feature 150 aircraft.

Modeled after the famed Paris Air Show, the Air/Space American International Aerospace Trade Exposition and Air Show will be held from May 13 to May 22.

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