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On the 21st of December, 2004 a Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft arrived at Christchurch to commence a aircraft retrieval operation. A Russian Antonov-3B aircraft had been stranded at the South Pole in January 2002 and the Ilyushin-76 had brought a replacement Antonov engine.The full story of this event can be read here.

The picture at left shows the Ilyushin on the Tarmac of the Christchurch Airport Antarctic Apron.

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ILYUSHIN1  (December 21st) postcard postmarked at Christchurch Airport US APO.   Price US$10

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Note: the above postcard bears signatures of several of the Ilyushin-76 crew members including both the chief pilot and the co-pilot and also a special cachet prepared for the flight. Backstamped at McMurdo Station December 28th 2004.

The chief pilot Dimitri Petrov is at extreme right in the photo at left with the co-pilot Vitali Belov beside him in the white shirt along with 3 other crew members.

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ILYUSHIN2  (December 21st) postcard postmarked at Christchurch Airport US APO.   Price US$5

Note: this postcard is the same as the previous one but it has no signatures and the McMurdo arrival datestamp is on the front of the postcard instead of on the back.

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ILYUSHIN3  (December 24th) postcard postmarked at Christchurch .   Price US$5

Note: this postcard features a view of the Ilyushin-76 on the Christchurch Tarmac and is autographed by crewmember Y. Cheznyshevt.

Datestamped at McMurdo 28 December.

The back of the postcard is shown at right which gives extra details about the flight and the postcard itself.

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The Ilyushin-76 flew from Christchurch to McMurdo on Monday 27th December and off-loaded various Russian repair and news media people as well as the replacement engine and then flew back to Christchurch later that evening.

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Luggage from Ilyushin-76 at McMurdo

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Front view of Ilyushin-76 at McMurdo

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ILYUSHIN4  (December 29th) postcard posted via Ross Dependency Agency .   Price US$5

Note: The above postcard was carried Christchurch to McMurdo and Return on the Ilyushin-76 and it was then posted at the Ross Dependency Postal Agency in Christchurch.

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ILYUSHIN5  (December 29th) postcard postmarked Ross Dependency Agency.   Price US$8

Note: The above postcard was carried by the aircraft from Christchurch and posted back via the Scott Base mail. After returning to Christchurch it had the design at lower left printed on and then it was signed by both the chief pilot Dimitri Petrov and the co-pilot Vitali Belov.

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ILYUSHIN6  (December 30th) postcard postmarked Ross Dependency Agency.   Price US$8

Note: The printed design on this postcard is based on the Official Russian 2004 Expedition patch which incorporates at top the emblem of the Ilyushin-76 aircraft, the Antarctic continent with the overlaid image of the Antonov flight plan from South Pole to McMurdo.

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ILYUSHIN7  (December 30th) postcard postmarked Ross Dependency Agency.   Price US$3

Note: the above item showing an attractive view of the Ilyushin-76 on the ice runway at McMurdo was not carried on the aircraft. It is a souvenir postcard posted through the Ross Dependency Agency in Christchurch.

The Ilyushin-76 is shown at right at Christchurch Airport after returning from its first Antarctic flight.

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ILYUSHIN8  (January 5th 2005) postcard postmarked Christchurch.   Price US$10

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The above postcard has been autographed by the leader of the Expedition, the famous Russian Antarctic Explorer and hero of the Soviet Union, Dr Artur Chilingarov who is shown in the middle of the photo at left. To his right in the striped shirt is another member of the Russian Polar Explorers Club, Valery M. Okulov who is also the Chairman and CEO of Aeroflot while the third person shown is Konstantine A. Zaitsev, the personal assistant of Dr Chilingarov.

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ILYUSHIN9  (January 5th 2005) postcard postmarked Christchurch.   Price US$8

Note: This postcard has been autographed by Konstantine A. Zaitsev , a member of the expedition and personal assistant to the expedition leader Dr Arthur Chilingarov. The stamp on this postcard is a New Zealand Post DIY stamp with a special design showing the Russian Antonov aircraft which was the subject of the expedition. The blue cachet at bottom left is the official cachet of the Russian Polar Explorers Club of which Dr Chilingarov is President. The red cachet is the personal cachet of Dr Chilingarov and shows him with a couple of polar bears under his arms. Dr Chilingarov and /or Konstantine Zaitsev personally applied these two cachets.

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ILYUSHIN10  (January 5th 2005) postcard postmarked Christchurch.   Price US$10

Note: this postcard has been autographed by Valery M. Okulov, a leading member of the Russian Polar Explorers Club on the expedition. Mr Okulov lists mountaineering as one of his interests. He is currently CEO and managing director of the Russian airline Aeroflot. His wife is the daughter of ex Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The stamp affixed to this postcard is a New Zealand hologram stamp.

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ILYUSHIN11  (January 5th 2005) postcard postmarked South Pole Station.   Price US$8

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Official Patch of the Antonov crew.

Note: the above postcard was postmarked at the South Pole on the 5th of January which was the date the Antonov aircraft had been repaired and it was scheduled to depart for McMurdo. However after the postcard was postmarked and handed to a Antonov crew member it was found that weather conditions at McMurdo were bad enough to delay the flight until the 12th of January. 150 postcards were carried on this flight to McMurdo and these were then handed to the co-pilot of the Ilyushin-76, and after backstamping at McMurdo were carried on the Ilyushin-76 from McMurdo to Christchurch. The design at top left of the postcard was added later in Christchurch as an explanation of the historic nature of the item.

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The above view shows the Antonov on the South Pole runway on January 12th prior to take off

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The Antonov is shown above just after her take off from the South Pole

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ILYUSHIN12  (January 7th 2005) postcard postmarked Christchurch.   Price US$5

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Ilyushin-76 taking off from Christchurch Airport bound for Pegasus runway, McMurdo, Antarctica

Meanwhile the Ilyushin-76 had been waiting at Christchurch for better weather at McMurdo. Eventually she flew south on the 11th of January and after waiting there for the Antonov to arrive from the South Pole, she eventually departed McMurdo on the 12th January returning to Christchurch with the Antonov inside and carrying all the expedition members.

The postcard above was carried on the Ilyushin from Christchurch to McMurdo and return. It was backstamped at McMurdo January 12th.

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ILYUSHIN13  (January 7th 2005) Envelope postmarked Christchurch.   Price US$5

Note: this envelope which has both the personal cachet of Dr Chilingarov and the cachet of the Russian polar Explorers Club also bears a cut-out from a Russian stamp souvenir sheet which features the Antonov 3-t aircraft flying over the South Pole.

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Antonov-3t at McMurdo's Pegusus runway January 12th, 2005.

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Antonov-3t with Ilyushin-76 behind at McMurdo's Pegasus runway, January 12th, 2005.

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ILYUSHIN14  (January 12th 2005) Postcard postmarked McMurdo.   Price US$5

Note: This postcard with various cachets was carried on the return flight from McMurdo to Christchurch. Backstamped in Christchurch 13th January, 2005.

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ILYUSHIN15  (January 12th 2005) Postcard posted from Scott Base.   Price US$5

Note: the above postcard bears a Scott Base dated cachet of 11th January on its reverse. The card was carried on the Ilyushin and postmarked at Christchurch at the Ross Dependency Bureau when it arrived back. The date on the Bureau datestamp should have read the 13th of January but it has been incorrectly dated 12th January. - the aircraft did not arrive back in Christchurch until after 8pm on the 12th.

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