Russia Looks To Resurrect Il-114

Sep 16, 2014 - 1:09 PM

Worsening relations between Moscow, the new regime in Kiev and the latter’s supporters in the West have prompted the Russian government to “dust off” the Ilyushin-114 turboprop. The Kremlin favors the outdated, but home-grown, design to Ukraine’s Antonov An-140, now in low-rate production at the Aviacor plant in Samara, and the Bombardier Q400, local production of which by Russian aerospace conglomerate Rostec remains under negotiation. Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, who appears on the EU’s sanctions list, acts as the driving force behind the Il-114, often suggesting it as a direct alternative to the Rostec Q400 plan. A development in favor of the Il-114 ocurred on September 9, when Rogozin chaired a meeting of government officials with various ministries and industry heads. “The meeting […] approved of Il-114 production restart,” said Rogozin. “The Ilyushin design house is ready to accept the work.” He stressed that the effort requires “a complete digitizing” of the original drawings after “a deep modernization”.

President Vladimir Putin gave his personal approval for Rogozin’s initiative in August, with a rider that the government should evaluate “commercial worthiness” of such a project. Shortly thereafter, general manager Aleksei Gusev declared Aviacor’s intent to accept the work. The plant makes the An-140 under license from Antonov. A Ukrainian design, however, that 52-seat turboprop has fallen into disfavor due to deteriorating relations with the new regime in Kiev.

Russia’s ministry for industry and trade initially expressed concern about the age of the Il-114s design and a lack of commercial viability. On September 9 the Kremlin gave the ministry two weeks to reconsider its earlier evaluation of the home-grown airplane and prepare a plan in support of it.

Run by the Russian Machines privately held corporation, the Aviacor plant in Samara is not a member in Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Nevertheless, its owners and the Samara regional administration have expressed readiness to invest into the Il-114 project. The local authorities have promised to invest between 1 billion roubles ($27 million) and 1.5 billion roubles ($40 million) into Aviacor’s modernization, according to Samara governor Nikolai Merkushkin. Estimates place total investment needed for the project at 8 billion to 12 billion roubles. Rework of the original drawings and their digitizing would take another 3 billion roubles to 4 billion roubles.

After some hesitation, Ilyushin agreed “refresh” the Il-114, originally designed to a 1987 specification. First flown in 1990 and certified in 1997, the airplane could transport 64 passengers 900 km. Its superb loitering capability makes it attractive to the Russian defense ministry, making it a more likely candidate for a larger production run.

The biggest issue now lay with the airplane’s Klimov TV7-117S/SM turboprops. Even though the Russian engine has demonstrated lower fuel burn than Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW127H on the Westernized Il-114-100 certified in 1999, it also showed lower reliability and on-wing lifetime in Il-114 revenue service. The engine maker has many times reported developments of newer, more powerful and more mature versions, including the TV7-117SM and Bogatyr for the Il-112 tactical airlifter now in development. None, however, have entered serial production. If not for political considerations, the PW127H (Il-114-100) or the TV3-117VMA-SBM1 (developed for the An-140) might rank as candidates for the powerplant requirement.

Ilyushin developed the Il-114 in the late 1980s as an alternative to the British Aerospace Advanced Turboprop (ATP), which BAe offered to the Soviet Union for local production in 1985. In the early 1990s the airplane entered low-rate production at the TAPO plant in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. TAPO built about 20 airframes. Seven Il-114-100s with Canadian engines and U.S.-made propellers, APUs, avionics and interiors remain in revenue service with Uzbekistan Airways. They have reportedly yielded an annual utilization rate of 1,800 flight hours, barely sufficient to generate a profit.

The Ilyushin’s empty equipped weight, at 16 tons, totals 3 tons more than that of the ATR 72-600; the Franco-Italian aircraft can seat up to 74 passengers in high-density layout, while the Ilyushin can take only 64 (in a cabin with similar dimensions) due to current certification restrictions. The big wing (880 sq ft compared with the ATR 72-600’s 690 sq ft) retards the airplane in cruise flight but gives it superb loitering capability at slow speeds.

Only one Russian airline—Vyborg—operated the Il-114 commercially, taking a pair of reworked aircraft previously operated by Uzbekistan Airways. Revenue flights lasted from 1999 until 2010, when the company disbanded, leaving both aircraft parked at Pskov airport after the service lives of its TV7-117S expired. The only TV7-117SM-powered airplane still operating belongs to Russia’s Radar-MMS radar company, serving as a testbed for radio-electronics.