Russia has completed a test flight of a domestically manufactured long- range widebody passenger plane, the IL-96-400M, in what it claims is a show of aviation strength that allows the country to fly in the face of anti-war sanctions.
The Russian Federation’s Deputy Prime Minister, Denis Manturov, has hailed the IL-96-400M for the “highest level of competence of domestic aircraft manufacturers” and “high performance”.
Made by Voronezh Aircraft Manufacturing Company, under the umbrella of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the IL-96-400M passed various systems tests on a maiden take-off and flight that reached 390 km per hour (242 miles per hour) and an altitude of 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) and lasted 26 minutes.
The plane will be able to accommodate passengers in three classes, served with a kitchen. A “modern infotainment system” will provide internet, TV and satellite communications.
Development of the IL-96 began in the 1980s and debuted with the “300” model as far back as 1993 – an aircraft still in use by President Putin today. However it was not a commercial hit and later models required large input from Western manufacturers.
Earlier this year, Russia withdrew from a widebody aircraft plan with China but continued to develop its own new IL-96. Federal Air Transport officials say the new craft’s systems were produced mainly by the Rostec State Corporation. Worryingly, according to Simple Flying, Russian defence insiders have been saying since 2021 that a craft based on the plane was being developed as a possible post-nuclear command post, with the Russian military due to take delivery of two.
Trying to restore Russia’s pre-1990 aerospace industry is a massive gamble. In fact, it will lose the state billions.Murdo Morrison, head of strategic content at FlightGlobal, told CNN
With 2014’s annexation of Crimea and the build-up to the invasion of Ukraine that led to sanctions forbidding manufacturers from supplying Russia, the country turned to China and Iran for parts and spares, but many of the foreign-made aircraft it has seized and continues to fly and repair are dangerously in need of original manufacturer upgrades. The International Civil Aviation Organization has “red-flagged” Russia’s regulatory oversight, which, CNN notes, is a fate suffered by only three other countries – Bhutan, Congo and Liberia.
“Although Moscow won’t admit it, the sanctions that followed the Ukraine invasion have really damaged Russian aviation,” concluded Morrison.