Ilyushin Il-96-400M Widebody Taking Shape

 - April 11, 2017, 10:55 AM

The Ilyushin design house has issued its first official presentation of the Il-96-400M, a four-engine design meant to fulfill Russia’s aspirations to develop a new indigenous widebody as a contingency in the event a planned joint Russian-Chinese program fails to materialize. Ilyushin general designer Nikolai Talikov presented the details during a recent conference of Il-96 operators organized by the Russian civil aviation authority Rosaviatsiya. Plans call for the latest iteration of the widebody quadjet to carry a 90,000-pound payload as far as 4,860 nautical miles. Officials expect the first prototype to fly in 2019 and become factory standard the following year.

Designed for a maximum takeoff weight of 595,000 pounds, the Il-96-400M incorporates the same fuselage used on the Il-96M/T stretch that won U.S. FAA shadow certification in 1997. It will go into production at United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) plant in Voronezh (VASO), which has so far assembled 103 Il-86s and 30 Il-96s—the only commercially available widebody passenger jets of Russian origin. Three Il-96-300s remain in service with Cubana de Aviacion, and about a dozen with Russian government bodies.

The Kremlin instructed UAC to boost Il-96 production to guarantee air links between the European part of the country and big cities in Siberia and on the Pacific coasts in case escalation of East-West relations further limit the use of imported jets. The Russian government has approved construction of an initial batch of six to ten quads for government structures as a first step to revive widebody jet production at VASO.

Talikov said the factory could boost Il-96 production from one to two airframes in recent years to the eight to 10 it used to build during Soviet times. “I believe that, responding to the call to buy Russian having considered the new capabilities of the Il-96-400M, the airlines will place their orders,” he concluded.

Last year the Russian government allocated 53 billion rubles ($925 million) for the program, of which half will go to a leasing company—IFC or GTLK—that would place newly built airplanes with airlines on operating lease terms. The remaining half will go to the industry, including 10 billion rubles ($175 million) to the Ilyushin design house for modifications to the already certified Il-96 platform.

Ilyushin won a formal contract for -400M development on December 29 of last year. Officials expect a short flight-test program given that earlier versions had already won a number of certificates, including the 1997 U.S. FAA shadow certification of the Il-96T/M. Talikov told AIN designers have begun a special effort to replace old wiring as a weight-saving measure, promising to cut operating empty weight (OEW) by one to two tons.

Planning to limit Western content to an absolute minimum, Ilyushin will consider only Perm-based Aviadvigatel engines. The PS-90A1 has won certification and became operational on the stretched freighter, whose maximum takeoff weight exceeds that of the baseline Il-96-300 by some 45,000 pounds. Polet operated four Il-96-400Ts between 2009 and 2013, before going bankrupt. Polet’s operational experience, however, allowed the industry to find and fix teething problems associated with the PS-90A1 and subsequently reach average time between removals of 10,000 flight hours, generally considered a good figure for a Russian engine.

Since Cubana took deliveries of the last Il-96-300 airliners in 2007, design of a completely reworked interior has begun. Ilyushin has invited completion companies to compete in an associated tender.

Although designers have settled on a specification, Talikov said the terms aren’t so firm that the winner will not enjoy room for creativity. However, he said the Il-96-400M must come with a central luggage bin, which neither the Il-86 nor Il-96-300 feature because their designers wanted to create “spacious” impression. However, passengers now tend to bring more hand luggage into aircraft cabins, requiring more space than available with the existing left- and right-hand bins.