As it happens, I've just followed my colleague Helen to Domodedovo myself - mainly to open an exhibition of Flight International magazine covers at Domodedovo airport, which I'll blog separately, but I think Moscow deserves its own despatch.
I'm blogging this on the flight home after a three day refresher lesson in capitalism in the raw, and feeling better for it.
I love places like this where you can directly observe trade in action, see business cases work or not, and watch some individuals succeed for often subtle reasons and others fail. That is much harder to do in mature Western economies which can be impenetrably complex and where the true reasons for success and failure are not always obvious.
(For the same reason I like the airport at Istanbul where I saw a whole terminal level covered with pallets of portable goods watched over by lone traders of unguessable nationality in black leather jackets, and wearing expressions that suggest they've trodden a a rougher path through life than I have. I wouldn't fancy my chances haggling with them.)
Moscow is rather more sophisticated, but the rules of the aviation sector are not so different from those governing the Istanbul entrepreneurs. The one big difference is the interfering hand of the Russian state of course.
I flew Lufthansa into Sheremetyevo - Moscow's oldest, biggest and least pleasant airport. Exactly why Lufthansa, which has perhaps the widest aspirations of any Western carrier in Russia, uses it I don't know. But Shermetyevo-based Aeroflot, which is still very much the 65 tonne gorilla of the sector with its wide domestic network, can and does make life very difficult for airlines that talk about switching to Domodedovo.
There are finally stirrings of change at Sheremetyevo - they've grudgingly put in some lighting so it's not quite so depressing (but still miserable), and a railway link is planned, which will be a blow to the legions of piratical taxi drivers who are allowed to aggressively hassle arriving passengers until they manage to get out of the terminal. (Yes, like JFK, but very much worse.) The immigration line for both Russians and foreigners is a one-hour disaster area which makes the worst of Washington or London look positively attractive.
I flew out on Transaero from Domodedovo, which is about as different as can be imagined. Functional, light, airy, already with a rail link, and generally the very model of a modern airport. No surprise to find Emirates choosing Domedovo or to see a gaggle of 'Singapore girls' leaving the frozen airport in their renowned SIA frocks, but wrapped in rather less-marketable SIA greatcoats.
Both airports still play host to an exotic and colourful collection of Soviet-era aircraft in various states of repair and disrepair (a couple of which Helen photographed), and leased and occasionally new Boeings. Airbus is pretty much restricted to the new Aeroflot fleet - otherwise this is the land of the leased 737.
Taxying around Domodedovo provides a wonderful view of this eclectic display. Despite long-standing predictions to the contrary, Russia still has some 230 airlines and counting (unclear whether upwards or downwards), ranging from Aeroflot down to one- or two-aircraft fleets from all over this vast land.
How they all stay in business in their ultra-niche markets remains unexplained, but no doubt partly lies in the lurid stories of what often happens if you try to set up in competition to them - that first involves overcoming a mysterious series of local government-inspired obstacles which, if you don't take the hint, are followed by some alarmingly personal attentions from representatives of the incumbents themselves.
It's anybody's guess who designed some of the liveries, but they certainly had fun. No-one more so than the folks who came up with the eyeball-searing green of Sibir/S7 Airlines which I have only ever seen elsewhere on my 11 year-old son's bedroom walls - and even he eventually thought better of it. Leaving that room left you with a slight orange afterglow to your vision for an hour or so, but in the grey-white Russian winter, the same green with red trim works superbly.
We pass numerous examples of the ubiquitous Il-76 freighter, now largely banned in Europe on noise grounds, a few Tu-134s including one pretty snappy-looking one with a huge KD on the side that I rather fancy for myself, plus Tu-154s, a surprising number of Il-62s, plenty of Il-86s and the odd Tu-204.
There is also a cornucopia of registration prefixes - Russia, Ireland and assorted Caribbean tax-havens are of course well-represented, but Libya's 5A- is in evidence and somewhere that owns 4K- also has a presence. (I used to know that sort of stuff - please leave a comment if you still do!)