Dear Sky: Air Koryo

Arthur Mebius’ book, Dear Sky, is an intriguing insight into the Air Koryo, the state-owned national airline of North Korea…

Air Koryo is the state-owned national airline of North Korea. International sanctions and environmental restrictions have reduced the airline’s international destinations with only China and Vladivostok remaining.

The old Antonovs, Ilyushins and Tupolevs rarely fly abroad and therefore seem superfluous.


Nevertheless, these aircraft and their crews are kept ready for operation. Occasional domestic flights are all the more important for the flight attendants and pilots to practice and to keep up their knowledge and skills.

Arthur Mebius monitors the routine operations by the crew which appears as a rehearsed play of maintenance, controls and procedures. A beautiful ground control dance of which an image of dedication and pride arises.

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The book is complemented with fictive anecdotes based on true historical events.

Flight to Moscow onboard Tu-154

August 17, 1975

On the far side of the Yalu River into China, Shenyang is very much a Korean city, but beyond is the rest of China, a place of extremes expressed as political calamity; and on the long trek to Moscow are Irkursk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk – frozen solid in winter, wild and untamed in summer. How happy are the interepid and brave crew of Choson Minhang to return to the predictable and orderly world of their beloved leader.


Il-62 Schonefeld turnaround

February 12, 1980

Pools of yellow light illuminate the freezing fog. A cross-section of the Interflug fleet are scattered around the airfield.
The visitors’ terrace on the roof of the passenger terminal, busy in summer with kids and their parents watching the comings and goings of Aeroflot, JAT, LOT, Tarom, Malev and the rest, is empty.


After a long and tiring journey from Pyongyang via Moscow and Sofia, the Il-62 jetliner can rest while the handful of passengers wearily clamber down the steps to the damp German tarmac and disappear into the gloomy city, swallowed up by the small line of Trabant taxis waiting outside arrivals to take them to the Berlin Stadt Interhotel, to a military base, to apartments in marching tower blocks not dissimilar to the neighbourhoods of cities back home.


The flight, traversing entire Eurasia, operates every week as regular as a Hamhung city tram.

Photographer Arthur Mebius (Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1971) studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. Besides his work for commercial advertising, he is constantly working on personal projects with a strong interest on aviation.

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