Amid the Aviation sanction from the US and EU, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) reports that the initial test flight of the prototype of the wide-body passenger aircraft Il-96-400M occurred in Voronezh, Russia, on November 1, 2023. The aircraft in question, designated 96115 with serial number 01001, signifies a substantial advancement in modernising the Il-96-300 lineage. The aircraft underwent manufacturing at PJSC Ilyushin, a subsidiary of UAC.
According to the UAC press release, the aircraft’s stability, controllability, system functionality, power plant, and radio navigation equipment for landing were all evaluated during the initial flight. The testing programme was executed without incident, validating the consistent functionality of Russian systems and equipment, most of which were produced by enterprises under the Rostec State Corporation, according to the release.
Honoured Test Pilot of the Russian Federation Sergey Sukhar, Onboard Electrician-Tester Dmitry Semenov, First Class Flight Engineer-Tester Pavel Litvyakov, and Honoured Test Navigator of the Russian Federation Sergey Goremykin comprised the crew of the aircraft, which the aircraft commander and chief pilot of PJSC Ilyushin led. The flight lasted 26 minutes at altitudes of up to 2000 metres and speeds of up to 390 kilometres per hour.
The aircraft is a contemporary iteration of the Il-96-300, and it features an elongated fuselage that measures 9.35 metres, domestic PS-90A1 engines that are more powerful, and seating for 370 passengers. The PS-90A1 engine was certified in 2007 after demonstrating that it complies with the international ICAO noise and emissions criteria. It includes a unique combustion chamber designed to produce fewer emissions, and its maximum thrust has been increased to 17,400 kgf. It is Installed on the transport version of the Il-94 – Il-96-400T.
The initiation of the Il-96-400M programme was a decree issued by the President of Russia. By its capabilities, this aircraft will augment transport accessibility to diverse regions of the nation and streamline cargo air transportation. Primarily, when operating with a two-class passenger configuration, the aircraft has a range of 8100 kilometres at its most. Russian industry possesses all the necessary technologies to construct wide-body long-haul aircraft, as evidenced by the inaugural flight of the Il-96-400M, according to Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Rostec State Corporation. It is crucial to underscore that the development of such aircraft represents a distinct capability that will safeguard the nation’s technological autonomy, he asserted.
By modernising its avionics and radio communication equipment, the Il-96-400M has gained enhanced operational and transport capabilities. These enhancements ensure that the aircraft meets the evolving demands of Russian and international aviation regulatory bodies. Regarding flight dependability and safety, the Il-96-400M exhibits complete parity with its esteemed forebears, the Il-86 and Il-96, and the most exemplary models worldwide, owing to its aerodynamic configuration and redundant systems, said the release.
The newly upgraded iteration of the Il-96 aircraft family will serve as an asset to UAC’s wide-body passenger airliner fleet of civilian aircraft. In addition to the MS-21-310, SSJ-100, and Tu-214, it will provide the market with aircraft of diverse sizes and ranges that are capable of establishing a nationwide route network and substituting foreign counterparts, according to UAC CEO Yuri Slyusar after the inaugural flight.
The Il-96-400M cabin is furnished with contemporary galley equipment and a modern entertainment and information system that provides internet access, television, and satellite communication in addition to the ability to accommodate one, two, or three classes.
Implementing the upgraded navigation system will augment the level of safety during flights and streamline the approach and descent procedure for the personnel. Wide-body aircraft navigation equipment must adhere to the most recent standards when operating in the European Common Aviation Area, beyond reference terrain (oceans, deserts, and dense forests), and in non-reference environments. These routes present the greatest navigational challenges because pilots must rely on instruments and cannot visually determine the aircraft’s location. The new navigation complex has been built with Russian components by international navigation system standards.
On the hood of the “Volga” car, the flight manifest for the inaugural sortie of the Il-96-400M was affixed the signatures of Konstantin Letov, Head of the Flight Test Centre of PJSC Ilyushin, and Danil Brenerman, Managing Director of PJSC Ilyushin. Over half a century ago, Genrikh Novozhilov, the Chief Designer of the Ilyushin Design Bureau, initiated this customary practice by affixing his signature to the flight record of the Il-76 transport aircraft onto the hood of an official vehicle. Since the Ilyushin could execute a successful takeoff, their community has adopted this signing ritual as a tradition.
Only three manufacturers in the entire globe are equipped to produce wide-body airliners. The Il-96-400M programme is upgrading onboard equipment and systems and implementing cutting-edge technologies to create a dependable and time-tested Il-96 platform. Post-first flight, Danil Brenerman remarked that a substantial quantity of certification and testing of the modernised aircraft lies ahead.