Aerial tour of Pyongyang: What North Korea looks like from above

On one frosty November morning, Aram from DPRK360 and I climbed into an Air Koryo light plane to be the first ever foreigners to use this bad boy for an aerial tour over Pyongyang city.

Prior to boarding the plane we arrived at Pyongyang’s new Sunan Airport terminal located 60 minutes north of Pyongyang city. This world class terminal supports all international flights coming into North Korea as well as the majority of domestic flights going to Samjiyon (Mt. Paektu), Orang (Chongjin city) and Mt. Myohyang. It has cafes, retail, electronic, duty free and other restaurants available for passengers.

After checking in and collecting our boarding pass, we went through a security check and waited at our very own boarding gate. Once the boarding announcement was made, we exited through the doors, out the exit of the sky bridge and onto the tarmac of the airport to be escorted by bus to our light plane.

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We were then dropped off directly at the plane where we were greeted by our friendly pilot who was very eager to meet us, He expressed his excitement for having the chance to take foreigners on a tour around Pyongyang. The condition of the plane is very new and still has that new car smell.  The entire plane was assembled in the DPRK. Everything has been perfectly looked after and was equipped with the latest equipment and GPS navigation systems. Very impressed.

As we began the take off procedure from the runaway heading in a northern direction, we did an immediate hook turn over the rural towns surrounding the capital as we began to make our way towards it. Between the take off and reaching the city, foreigners are informed not to take photos of the countryside. We passed over a few smaller towns and lots of farmland, nothing out of the ordinary.

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As we approached Pyongyang, we did a low fly by over Kwanbok (Liberation) street and the new Mangyongdae School Children’s Palace which was recently opened by Kim Jong Un on New Year’s Eve. The view was impressive. Rows of huge apartment blocks overshadow the street, trams and a handful of cars running up and down the main strip.

We then aligned ourselves over the Taedong River, flying in a north east direction. The next highlight of the flight was seeing the new Mirae Scientists Street from above. It has just recently opened to the public, so the new paved roads and footpaths looked rather empty, yet the infrastructure of the new street was very impressive.

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We then flew directly over the Yanggakdo International Hotel and the stadium, passing the Juche tower on the right with Kim Il Sung Square on the left with the giant 105 story Ryugyong hotel in the background. Once we reached May Day Stadium we hooked a right turn over the east district of Pyongyang to return to the airport.

The flight lasted for roughly 40 minutes between take off and landing. We offer this light plane aerial tour to independent tourists wanting to see more of Pyongyang city from the sky. We also offer an old soviet helicopter tour as part of our independent or group tours.

The helicopter has been refitted to look like something Air Force One would resemble with fancy sofas, and a posh carpet. The cockpit whilst not being changed through the forty odd years had a laptop sitting on the cockpit dash with the GPS coordinates of the flight.

Our next group tour to host the helicopter aerial tour will be for Kim Il Sung’s 104th Birthday tour for 200 euros per person.