After years of development, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the parent company of Russia’s largest aircraft manufacturers, managed to achieve the maiden flight of the Il-96-400M, the largest widebody ever developed in the country.
Derived from the IL-96-300, the new jet has a maximum takeoff weight of 270 tons and a fuselage almost 64 meters long capable of accommodating up to 370 passengers in a single class.
It is an aircraft similar in size to the Airbus A330-900neo, but while the European twin-engine aircraft can fly up to 7,200 nautical miles (13,334 km), the Il-96-400M only offers around 8,100 km in a two-class configuration.
One of the reasons is the fact that it continues to be a four-engine engine, equipped with obsolete PS-90A1 turbofans, which consume a lot of fuel. Russia is only now developing a large-diameter engine with a more modern design, the PD-35.
Despite this, the IL-96-400M incorporates improvements, such as the on-board entertainment and navigation systems, both developed by Russian companies – the country is subject to sanctions from the West due to the invasion of Ukraine.
“The new modernized version of the Il-96 family aircraft will complement the UAC line of civil aircraft in the wide-body passenger aircraft segment and will allow us to offer to the market, together with the MC-21-310, SJ-100 and Tu- 214, aircraft of different sizes and ranges, capable of providing a route network throughout the country and replacing foreign counterparts”, said Yuri Slyusar, general director of UAC.
The role of the Il-96-400M in air travel is still unclear, however. The aircraft’s development was suspended and then only directed to producing two airframes for government operation.
In the meantime, Russia abandoned the CRAIC joint venture, which was created to design and assemble a modern widebody in partnership with China’s COMAC.
The now C929 will be developed only by the Chinese while some UAC companies remain as suppliers. The plan for entry into service of the aircraft similar in size to the Boeing 787 is unknown.
Given this, a limited production of the Il-96-400M to serve Russian airlines, most of which have ties to the government, could be a solution.