International sanctions have forced North Korea's Air Koryo airlines to make do with rare airplanes dating back to the Cold War. For years, hard-core aviation enthusiasts have traveled to Pyongyang looking for thrilling flights on Russian aircraft like this Tupolev Tu-154.
Last May, a group of these self-described "avgeeks" flew on several of these rare planes. The trip to North Korea started out at China's Beijing Capital International Airport aboard this Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-204 built in 2009. It's the carrier's flagship airliner.
Mid-flight, timid flight attendants served the infamous "Koryo Burger" along with water and juice. The burger patty -- made of questionable ingredients -- was rather tasty and intriguing.
Once the avgeeks hit the ground in North Korea, their excitement was obvious. Every airplane offered another opportunity for a selfie.
Two days of flying aboard some of these rare Russian airliners included this beautiful Ilyushin Il-18. A tour guide said it once served as the presidential airplane for the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung. Today it's used for regular commercial flights.
This plane is one of Air Koryo's jewels. It allowed the Korean airline to open the important direct route to Moscow and, today, it's the last Il-18 in commercial operation anywhere in the world.
Check out its blue, Soviet Cold War-era propellers. During flight, they were incredibly quiet and stable.
The 18's cabin was not only wide and comfortable, but the seat pitch on every row was more than generous.
For many avgeeks in the tour group, flying on the 18 was the single biggest reason they'd made the trek to North Korea.
What? The 18 had an enormous galley which was fitted with this vintage refrigerator that would have been at home in any old-school American diner.
The group also caught a flight aboard Air Koryo's Tupolev Tu-134. Delivered in 1984, this T-tailed twin-engine jet was the third-to-last ever produced of its type.
The Tu-134's cabin had enough head room to completely stand up, but the seat pitch on every row was very tight. Blue curtains gave it a vintage feel.
The 134's cockpit was incredibly well-kept, despite its age.
Another aviation highlight: this Russian-made Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-154. The three-engined, T-tail aircraft flew for the first time in 1968. It became one of the most successful Russian airliners ever produced and Air Koryo's first jetliner.
Despite its loud engines, some passengers were able to catch some sleep during the flight. Note the basic design of the plane's overhead storage bins.
Here's the Tu-154's cockpit.
Takeoff aboard Air Koryo's 50-year-old Antonov An-24 airliner was stunningly quiet. During the 35-minute flight, the An-24 seamlessly surfed the clouds and handled turbulence very well for a Russian aircraft.
A passenger safety card aboard an Air Koryo Antonov An-24
The An-24 was the only aircraft the group saw during the tour that had a black flight deck instrument panel. Other Soviet airliners had turquoise -- a color chosen to reduce eye strain.
This 400,000-pound beast was built in 1990 -- one of the last Ilyushin Il-76MD cargo planes ever made. The landing approach was eerie. The plane's four ear-shattering Soloviev D-30 engines repeatedly accelerated and decelerated and the plane made high banks and turns.
If you were on the flight crew of Air Koryo's Il-76, this would be your office.
The tour centered around old and rare airliners, but the group also flew aboard Air Koryo's Antonov An-148, which the airline bought new in 2015.