Ukraine International Airlines Operates Chernobyl Sightseeing Flight

Yesterday Ukraine International Airlines operated a sightseeing flight over the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, known worldwide as the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Today marks 35 years since the disaster, which has since inspired several TV shows and turned Chernobyl into something of a tourist destination.

Ukraine International Airlines, Chernobyl, Flight to nowhere
Yesterday Ukraine International Airlines operated a scenic tour of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Photo: Lukas von Daeniken via Wikimedia

Flights to nowhere are nothing new. After all, Qantas has been operating sightseeing flights to the Antarctic for many years. However, travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have seen a surge in popularity for such flights. ANA has even taken to flying its Airbus A380s around Mount Fuji. Now, Ukraine International Airlines has remembered a historic event with such a flight.

Visiting Chernobyl by plane

The Chernobyl exclusion zone has become a popular tourist destination since the nuclear disaster at the site. However, not all visitors come on foot. Yesterday, Ukraine International Airlines operated a 1-hour and 23-minute sightseeing flight over the inactive power station.

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Ticket holders departed from Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport at 08:20 in the morning. Having departed, the flight turned right before flying up the Dnieper River. The aircraft didn’t fly directly over the powerplant but instead flew back and forth a couple of times away from the site at just under 5,000 feet, meaning that passengers on both sides of the plane got a good look.

Ukraine International Airlines, Chernobyl, Flight to nowhere
The flight passed by the nuclear power plant (blue circle). Photo:

Arriving back in Kyiv, the flight passed over the city at 2,850 feet before landing back at Boryspil International airport at 09:44. However, this wasn’t the end of the experience for the passengers. Having arrived back in Kyiv, passengers could take a tour of a UIA Boeing 777, followed by a Q&A session with pilots.

Ukraine International Airlines, Chernobyl, Flight to nowhere
The flight lasted one hour and 23 minutes. Photo:

What happened in 1986?

So what happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 35 years ago. On April 26th, 1986, a simulation of a power outage was being carried out on the plant’s Reactor #4. Following the test, those operating the reactor attempted to shut it down. However, a series of unfortunate events led to an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

The reaction led to two explosions, damaging the nuclear reactor and the building housing it. As a result of the explosion, radioactive material was released from the site into the atmosphere. As such, today, an exclusion zone remains around the area, given the remaining radiation from the accident. Radiation from the disaster was noticed as far away as Scandinavia, although modern-day Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia were worst affected.

Ukraine International Airlines, Chernobyl, Flight to nowhere
Passengers would’ve likely spotted the site’s colossal metal containment shield. Photo: Tim Porter via Wikimedia

Yesterday passengers likely would’ve spotted the site of the disaster from the air. However, today it looks far different from the devastation of 35 years ago. Due to the site’s radioactivity, the usual work that might take place after such a disaster was not possible. However, work has taken place to contain the ongoing impact of the radiation.

In October 2017, a new shelter was rolled over the site to confine radioactive material. The giant metal arch would likely have been relatively visible from the aircraft amid the surrounding forest.

What do you make of Ukraine International Airlines’ flight to nowhere? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.