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Bush-Gorbachov Summit, December 1989

This article is being reproduced from the magazine Air Force International (incorporating MODELAID International), January 1990. It was written by Michael Bonello, and is being presented here as it was originally written then.

Almost forty years after the momentous meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt in Malta on their way to Yalta, the tiny island Republic was once again in the forefront of the world's news when it hosted the historic "non-summit summit" between President George Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Credit for choosing Malta as the site for the meeting was claimed by Bush but he did admit that the fact that Gorbachev would be in Italy at the time made it very convenient for the Soviet leader. As soon as the announcement was made, a gigantic logistic machine went into action with Maltese, American and Soviet advisers looking into all the fine details that the average man in the street would never even begin to think about.

Weeks before the meeting Malta was literally invaded by television crews from all over the world who were all looking for special angles and back-ground to send back to their stations. In fact, over 1,200 newsmen from the West and 800 from the Soviet Union covered the meeting.

The major change from recent summit meetings between the superpowers was the fact that both provided a warship for the meeting. It had been planned to alternate the venue over the two days of talks but freak stormy weather diverted the venue to the Soviet liner Maxim Gorky which was firmly moored in Marsaxlokk Harbour. The Gorky had arrived two days previously with Soviet experts and pressmen.

The American cruiser was USS Belknap (CG26) which was commissioned in 1964. The Soviet cruiser was the Slava, which was commissioned, in 1983 and is the lead ship of the Slava class of missile cruisers. Its primary role in combat is that of leading surface battle groups against NATO aircraft carriers and sea lines of communications in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Slava's armament is awe-inspiring - she carries twin SS-N-12 55Okm -range anti-ship cruise missiles, which can carry a conventional warhead or a 350 kiloton nuclear bomb. These missiles, code named Sandbox by NATO, have a maximum speed of Mach 2.5. The Slava is also equipped with eight SA-N-6 air defence missile launchers with 64 missiles in store. These missiles, code named Grumble, can also carry conventional warheads or a 25 kiloton nuclear bomb. Other armaments are 40 SA-N-4 Surface-to-Air missiles fired from two twin launchers, these Gecko's, as they are known, carry a 50kg High Explosive Fragmentation warhead at a speed of Mach 2. As if all this was not sufficient, the Slava is also equipped with a twin-barrel 13Omm OP gun, six ADG6-30 3Omm CIWS mountings, two antisubmarine 12 barrel rocket launchers and two quintuple 533mm antisubmarine torpedo tubes. The Slava's flying armament is a Kamov Hormore B missile targeting/ELINT helicopter which uses its radar to provide targeting and guidance data for ship-launched cruise missiles. The KA-25 is the only helicopter in the world in large scale service to use contra-rotating main rotors.

The US counterpart, the USS Belknap, is by comparison, a poor cousin. The cruiser was badly damaged by fire in November 1975 when it was involved in a collision with the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy in the Mediterranean. It was subsequently towed back to the US for rebuilding. As the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, the USS Belknap has a luxurious suite of cabins as well as a conference room. She is armed with quadruple Harpoon SSM launchers with eight missiles that do not carry nuclear warheads but only a 227kg blast fragmentation HE warhead. It flies at Mach 0.85 and has a 16Okm range. The Harpoon anti-ship missile is designed to penetrate the target before exploding in order to cause maximum possible damage, somewhat similar to the High Explosive Squash Head shells used in the anti-tank role in the past. The cruiser also carries a twin Standard SM-2-ER/ASROC SAM/ASW launcher with Standard missiles and 20 ASROC missiles, the former being for long range defence with a speed of mach 2.5 and a range of 150 km. The ASROC anti-submarine rocket can carry either a Honeywell Mk 46 acoustic homing torpedo or a 1.5 ton yield W44 warhead on a Mk 17 nuclear depth charge. In addition to these missiles, the Belknap has a 127mm DP gun, two 2Omm Phalanx CIWS mountings and two triple 324mm Mk 32 ASW torpedo tube mountings with 12 Mk 46 torpedoes. The flight deck on the rear of the cruiser takes a Kaman SH-2D Sea Sprite multi-role helicopter.

President Bush arrived in Malta at 09:40 hrs on Friday, December 1. He flew from Andrews AFB in Air Force One, a Boeing VC-137C serialled 72-7000. The Presidential Flight is based at Andrews AFB in Maryland and all aircraft are assigned to the 89th Military Airlift Wing. The wing consists of a Beechcraft C-6A, three C-9C Skytrain IIs, two C-12As, three C-20A Gulfstream IIIs, four C-135B Stratotankers, five C-137B/Cs, nine UH-1N Iroquois helicopters and four CH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters. Air Force One was delivered to 89th MAW in October 1973.

After the usual ceremonial on arrival President Bush flew for talks in Valletta in a VH-3D helicopter and less than an hour later he was winging off to the USS Forrestal, escorted by two CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters. The aircraft carrier was operating some sixty miles to the west of the island of Gozo.

The object of the visit was to praise the US Navy for its role in preserving peace. On the Forrestal Bush watched a demonstration of launchings and recoveries of aircraft. After lunching with the enlisted men, President Bush made a symbolic presentation of a piece of the Berlin wall and noted that while his generation had been called upon to win World War II, today's sailors are charged with preserving peace. "And lasting peace is not an accident. Lasting peace takes planning and patience and personal sacrifice. Lasting peace stems from strength that is moral and intellectual, economic and military" said Bush.

As is customary when the US president travels aboard, one of the four Boeing E-4B National Emergency Airborne Command Post aircraft accompanied the President but did not land in Malta, being stationed at nearby NAS Sigonella, Sicily. The aircraft is kept in a state of readiness and in case of war it provides the necessary communications lifeline between the President, the Department of Defence, the State Department and the White House. Alongside the E-4B at Sigonella was a C-9A Nightingale Ambulance aircraft which carries a fully equipped hospital complete with a blood bank for the President's use.

Mikhail Gorbachev, accompanied by his wife Raissa, left Milan, Italy in a hurry as fog was rapidly descending and was threatening to close Malpensa airfield (Linate was already closed due to fog). Cutting short a Press Conference which was being transmitted live, the Soviet leader and his delegation flew in an II-62M four-engined airliner of Aeroflot serialled CCCP-86540 and arrived at Luqa airport just after 2300 hrs.

Unfortunately Malta's sunny weather did not live up to its reputation and at about the time that Gorbachev arrived, a storm of tremendous proportions whipped up. President Bush as an ex-navy man was perfectly at home on the storm lashed the Belknap, but President Gorbachev, a lawyer and agronomist by profession, decided that he would be happier on board the liner Maxim Gorky and this is where he spent his first night. By the next morning, December 2, the first day of the talks, the storm had still not abated and therefore in deference to the Soviet President the first round of talks were held on the Gorky, where the crew had worked all night to provide the necessary facilities.

Sunday December 3, although still cloudy and wet, was not so stormy and Bush was able once again to attend the final rounds of talks that were also held on the Maxim Gorky. In all, the two Presidents spent eight hours in talks, and subsequently both Presidents gave a joint press conference in which they confirmed that the "non-summit" summit was an unqualified success and that they were both hopeful that the Malta meeting would be the start of a lasting era of peace.

Of course during the days preceding the summit Luqa airfield was a hive of activity with the coming and going of several aircraft that had never been seen here before.

Summit aircraft

The following is a list of all the US aircraft seen at Malta.

26.11.89 Beech UC-12M   Sigonella  
05.11.89 B. VC-135B 62-4126    
11.11.89 B. VC-137B 58-6972    
26.11.89 Gr. C-2A Greyhound 162159/JM/22 VR-24  
26.11.89 Gr. C-2A Greyhound 162176/JM/20 VR-24  
17.11.89 Gu. C-20A 30500 58th MAS  
  Gu. C-20B 50049 58th MAS  
29.11.89 L. C-5B Galaxy 50007 436th MAW  
16.11.89 L. C-5B 87-0030 60th MAW  
17.11.89 L. C-130E 63-7875 435th TAW  
26.11.89 L. C-130F 149801/JU/03 VR-22  
29.11.89 L. C-141 40619 437th MAW  
24.11.89 L. C-141B 50270 437th MAW  
29.11.89 Si. CH-53E Sea Stallion 161536 HC-4  
29.11.89 Si. CH-53E Sea Stallion 161537 HC-4  
29.11.89 Si. CH-53E Sea Stallion 161538 HC-4  
29.11.89 Si. CH-53E Sea Stallion 161539 HC-4  
29.11.89 Si. CH-53E Sea Stallion 161541 HC-4  
29.11.89 Si. VH-3 Seaking 159354 United States of America  
29.11.89 Si. VH-3 Seaking 159356 United States of America  


The following is updated information on some of the ships and aircraft mentioned in the article.

USS Belknap (CG-26)

Decommissioned on 15 February, 1995, this ship was used in a US Navy "Sinkex" exercise, where the ship is sunk during the testing of a missile or torpedo. This took place on 24 September, 1998, off the East coast of the United States.


The Slava (Glory) which was commissioned in 1982, was renamed Moskva (Moscow) in 1995. Overhauled between 1991-98, she was involved in the 2008 South Ossetia War.

Maxim Gorkiy

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ship was transferred to the Sovcomflot, whilst remaining on charter to Phoenix Reisen. The charter ended in November 2008 due to the high fuel costs.

In 2008 plans by Orient Lines, to rename it Marco Polo II and put it in service came to nothing.

After being laid up in Greece, where plans to convert here to a static hotel ship also came to nothing, the Maxim Gorkiy was purchased for €4.2 million and taken to a scrapyard in Alang, India in February 2009, and eventually broken up.

Lockheed C-141 Starlifter

Originally designed for both military civilian use, the C-141 made its first flight on 17 December 1963.

Deliveries of the first aircraft to the Military Air Transport Service took place on 19 October 1964, to the 1707th Air Transport Wing, Heavy (Training) located at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

Delivery to an operational unit was on 23 April 1965, to the 44th Air Transport Squadron, 1501st Air Transport Wing at Travis AFB, California.

On 8 January 1966, the Military Air Transport Service was disestablished, and all C-141s were transferred to the Military Airlift Command.

On 16 September 2004, the Starlifter was retired from USAF service, being confined to Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard Units.

A little over a year late, on 25 September, only eight (8) aircraft remained in service with the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB.

The C-141 Starlifter was officially retired from military service in 2006.

Although the aircraft had also been design for the civilian market, and was awarded an FAA type certificate on 29 January 1965, none are known to have served with civilian airlines. Slick Airways and Flying Tiger Line, who were going to order four aircraft each, cancelled their orders.


All the other aircraft mentioned in the article are still in service with their respective operators as of February 2016.


Italian visitors

These aircraft arrived from Lampedusa on 24.05.90 for fuel. Presumably departed the same day.



I-LEMO P. PA-24-250 Comanche c/n 24-1278, reg canx on 26.01.06
I-TOTE P. PA-24-250 Comanche c/n 24-1853, current as of April 2005.
I-BETT P. PA-28RT-201T Turbo Arrow IV c/n 28R-8331023
I-LECI P. PA-28RT-201T Turbo Arrow IV c/n 28R-8031138. w/o in take-off accident on 17.07.10, no fatalities.
I-PGAR P. PA-28RT-201T Turbo Arrow IV c/n 28R-8231063 current as of June 2013.
I-SIMI P. PA-28R-180 Cherokee Arrow c/n 28R-30600 current as of 03.16
I-SDMB Socata TB-20 c/n 693 rr F-GMIX .95


Not an air show. Not an open day. Entry into the airport strictly prohibited. But the events listed on these pages did provide some interesting aviation activity for aircraft enthusiasts.

This page added on 11.07.15.

Ltm Open Day

In its early days of operations, Lufthansa Technic, Malta would organise an open day.





13.12.06 A321 Spanair EC-HRG  
13.12.06 B738 Eurcypria 5B-DBX Departed as C-GDBX (Skyservice) on the 16th.
07.07.07 A320 Spanair EC-JNC  



A charity event to raise funds for the Community Chest Fund takes place at Safi maintenance facilities. This involves groups of people pulling an aircraft a distance of 20 (twenty) metres on level ground.

First conducted in 2014, the aircraft used so far has been a DHL B.757.





31.03.14 B.757 DHL D-ALEC  
31.03.15 B.757 DHL D-ALE_  


Royal Air Squadron, 2017

Not to be confused with the Royal Air Force, this is an association of friends with a common interest in all forms of private light aviation. Their objective is to promote and support aviation in the United Kingdom, and develop and maintain aviation links around the world.

The following aircraft were flown over to Malta by members of this organisation, and stayed at Park 4.

At the time, there was talk of a Spitfire and a P-51 Mustang coming over as well, but both aircraft eventually cancelled.

Aircraft have been listed in order of registration.





G-ATKT R/Ce. F.172G 12.07.17 15.07.17 c/n 206.
G-AYLC SAN Jodel DR.1051 Ambassador 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n 536.
G-BIRT Robin R.1180TD Aiglon II 12.07.17 c/n 276.
G-BRHA P. PA-32RT-300 Lance II 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n 32R-7985076, previously N2093P.
G-GORD Robin DR400/155CDI Ecoflyer 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n 2669.
G-GOSL Robin DR-400-180 Regent 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n 1974.
G-SWEE Beech 95-B55 Baron 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n TC-1406.
G-VIPA Ce. 182S Skylane 12.07.17 c/n 182-80720.
HB-KHG Cirrus SR22 12.07.17 c/n 560.
M-YBLS PC-12/45 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n 176.
N100RZ Cirrus SR22T G3 X-Edition 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n 34.
N301GA Ce. 180K Skywagon 12.07.17 c/n 180-52490.
N2379C Ce. R182 Skylane RGII 12.07.17 16.07.17 c/n R182-00170.
N7223Y Beech 58 Baron 12.07.17 c/n TH-1456.


SAR Changeover

A flyby by an AB.212 of the Italian Air Force, and an Augusta 139 of the Air Wing near the Italian Ambassador’s Maltese residence at Ta’ Xbiex, marked in a matter of speaking, the “passing of the baton”, of SAR duties from the Italian Military Mission (IMM) to the Armed Forces of Malta. (See Air Wing page for additional details about the IMM.)





02.06.16 A.139 Armed Forces of Malta AS1429  
02.06.16 AB.212 Italian AF MM81212  


Como-to-Malta Seaplane Rally 2016

This event was organised by the Malta Seaplane Association, Aero Club Como and the Ministry of Tourism of Malta.

With both aircraft being amphibians, a landing at the airport was made. Both aircraft made an initial trial sortie consisting mainly of touch and go manoeuvres and circuits over the Grand Harbour later the same day.

On Saturday, the 10th, a flying display took place intermittently between 09:00z – 12:00z and again between 13:00z – 15:00z. This programme was repeated on the 11th.

During these displays, runway 23 was closed for landings, the opposite runway 05 being closed for take-offs.





I-DROV Cessna 172XP 09.12.16 11.12.16 c/n 72.
N197TF Aerofab Lake LA-270 Turbo Renegade 09.12.16 11.12.16 c/n R172-2810.


Como-to-Malta Seaplane Rally, October 2022

Unfortunately, bad weather over Italy disrupted most of the planned arrivals, with only two participants showing up for the Como to Malta Seaplane Rally-Roberts Cup.





I-9206 ICP Savannah VG
I-GDHR Cessna 172


Second Corsica Air Rally, May 1985

Somewhat sketchy details about this ten-aircraft rally organised by VAP.

Details are limited to reg, type, arrival, and – where known – departure date.

Aircraft have been listed in order of registration.





F-BOJH P. PA-23-250 Aztec C   24/26  
F-GBMO P. PA-28-181 Archer II   24/26  
F-GCSQ Ce. 340A   24/26  
D-EDHL P. Saratoga SP   24/ ? Probably the first visit by the type at the time.
D-EEGV P. Cherokee   24/ ?  
D-EMIR P. PA-28-180F Cherokee   24/ ?  
D-EMNU Be. A23-24 Musketeer Super III   24/ ?  
HB-CVV Ce. 182L Skylane   24/ ?  
HB-OVR P. PA-24-250 Comanche   24/26  
HB-PCF P. PA-28R-201T Turbo Arrow III   24/26  


Sport Flug Marl 1973

This was a rally that visited a number Mediterranean countries. The following aircraft all arrived on 20.06.73, departing on the 22nd for Djerba, Tunis.

The FROM column lists the airport from which the aircraft arrived from, as listed in Custom files 13. The STA/STD column gives the arrival and departure times of the aircraft to/from Malta. The NOTES section gives additional details, and were known, the c/n, date of registration, and previous registrations.

Aircraft have been listed in order of registration.

Pilots names weren’t always legible, and I thus apologize for any mistakes which may appear. The 1977 Registers of Germany, an Air Britain publication, was also helpful both in identifying aircraft, and also owners names.






D-EASM Ce. 182M Dr. Wagner Olbia 15:12-11:03 c/n 59654, date of registration (dor) 06.69.
D-ECAR Ce. 177A J. Wagner Olbia 15:20-11:15 c/n 01254, dor 11.69, pi N30419
D-ECMN R/Ce. F.172K M. Zink Olbia 15:14-11:05 0784, 03.71
D-ECSZ R/Ce. F.172L Raff Hans Werner Palermo 18:40-11:32 0848, 05.72
D-EDAS P. PA-24 Comanche 260C Prof. Dr. B. Spiegel Olbia 14:15-10:30 24-5016, 06.72, N9498P
D-EDDB Jodel D.11A Club Ullrich Fossgrum Boccadifalco, Palermo 18:35-11:30 Liz.612, 01.72
D-EDFB Dornier Do-27B-1 F. J. Micus Olbia 15:30-11:20 299, 07.71, 56+27, QA+405, PQ+111, PL+406, D-EKAP
D-EDPD P. PA-28R Cherokee Arrow 200 M. Pauckert Olbia 14:35-10:35 28R-7235056, 05.72
D-EEXZ Ce. 182P Jansen Olbia 15:00-10:50 61174, 07.72
D-EFFS Mooney M.20F Executive K. H. Wietholg Olbia 14:50-10:44 680149, 01.69, N3902N
D-EGHL Ce. 182J Pieper Hugo Olbia 15:10-11:00 56806, 06.70, N2706F
D-EGLO Bolkow BO 07 A. Trugge Olbia 15:40-11:25  
D-EIHS MS.880B Rallye Club H. Scharpf Palermo 19:10-11:40 256, 07.64, G-ASCW
D-EJDU P. PA-28R Cherokee Arrow 180 E. Neufang Olbia 14:55-10:46 28R-30616, 06.68, N4880J
D-EKHK MS894E Minerva 220 Dr. Wessel Palermo 18:55-11:35  
D-EKPB Mooney M.20C Mark 21 Voss Olbia 14:45-10:40 670042, 10.67, N9748M
D-ELDF P. PA-28 LSC Barfot Leverkusen 15:35-11:50 This is a German city, no Sicilian airfields were listed in the Custom Files.
D-ELGW CEA DR.253B Regent Aero Club Dusseldorf Olbia 15:05-10:55 160, 04.70
D-EMDP P. PA-28R Cherokee Arrow 200 J. Shutzdeller Olbia 14:30-10:33 28R-7135075, 07.71, N5071S
D-EMKR Wassmer WA.52 Europa Karl Rademacher Olbia 15:15-11:10 59, 04.73
D-ENBK R/Ce. F172E S. Koimper Guiele Olbia 15:18-11:13 0033, 06.68, OY-AHH
D-GAXF P. PA-30 Keinharst Olbia 14:05-10:25  
D-ILFG P. PA-31 Navajo 310 Fa. Lahn-Flug W. Otto GmbH Olbia 13:55-10:22 31-817, 06.72, N7430L
D-ILPA Beech 95-B55 Baron Hager Olbia 13:35-10:20 TC-616, 05.64
HB-HEH FFA AS202 Fliergschule Altenrhein Palermo 18:45-11:33  

German Rally ‘74

The following seems to have been a special event, all aircraft landing at Hal-Far on 02.06.74, departing on the 8th. They were NOT part of the International Air Rally of Malta, which took place towards the end of the month.

They arrived from Cagliari, departing for Palermo. Aircraft have been listed in order of registration, the column STA/STD give the arrival & departure times, and the Notes column gives the c/n, date of registration and p.i.’s where known.
D-EAAD Bolkow 209 Meier Ottman 17:00-09:15  
D-ECOD Beech F.33 Bonanza Pockes Eugen 17:35-09:16 CE-641
D-EDPB P. PA-28 Grollert Rudolf 17:10-09:17  
D-EEFC Jodel D250 Blechuel Gottfied 16:55-09:12  
D-EEMG Ce. 210 Muller Herbert 16:50-09:18  
D-EEXO R/Ce. FR172H Pfeffer Josef 17:40-09:16 0316, 05.72
D-EFFD Robin DR.400/125 Petit Ptince Neumair Simon 17:05-09:15 716, 06.73
D-EHFW P. PA-28R Cherokee Arrow 180 Herbert Voltl 16:45-09:13 28R-30405, 04.68, N4544J
D-EMBS R/Ce. FR172H Schatz Julius 17:33-09:17 0275, 02.72
D-ENQZ P. PA-28R Robert Rieger 17:05-09:10  
D-GHWC PA-34 Brander Herbert 16:48-09:15  

US world tour

From what I’ve been told, the aircraft – or rather, the pilots – were on a world trip, whih had started on 24 January, 2018.

All four aircraft arrived from Catania, eastern Sicily, and departed for Athens, Greece.

The arrival/departure times listed are a close approximate. Aircraft have been listed in order of registration alphabetical order.






N900JV Socata TBM9 29.05.18 31.05.18 12:14/09:59  
N910RW Socata TBM9 29.05.18 31.05.18 12:01/10:14  
N910XX Socata TBM9 29.05.18 31.05.18 11:48/10:03  
N930VT Socata TBM9 29.05.18 31.05.18 12:09/10:04  

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