Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a prominent aircraft manufacturer overseeing brands like Tupolev, Ilyushin, and Sukhoi, has announced the successful test flight of its new widebody passenger airplane, the IL-96-400M. The prototype took to the skies for the first time, marking a significant milestone in Russia’s aviation ambitions. UAC claims that this aircraft could serve as a replacement for Western counterparts in the country’s aviation landscape.
According to a recent news release by UAC, the IL-96-400M prototype completed a successful test flight that lasted 26 minutes. During this flight, it reached altitudes of up to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) and speeds of up to 390 kilometers per hour (242 mph). This achievement underscores the aircraft’s potential as a long-haul passenger airplane.
The IL-96-400M is designed to accommodate up to 370 passengers, positioning it in competition with established models like Airbus’ A340 and Boeing’s 777. UAC states that the aircraft offers customization for up to three passenger classes and boasts a “modern infotainment system,” providing internet, TV, and satellite communications. Additionally, it will feature a contemporary kitchen, enhancing the overall passenger experience.
The development of the IL-96-400M comes at a crucial time for Russia’s domestic aviation industry, facing challenges stemming from Western sanctions imposed due to the invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions, particularly on leasing planes to Russia, have led to a significant loss of commercial aircraft for the country. To address this, President Vladimir Putin enacted laws allowing Russian airlines to seize and re-register leased aircraft domestically.
The IL-96-400M’s introduction serves as a strategic move by Russia to reduce reliance on Western aircraft manufacturers. With limited access to parts for planes from companies like Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, and Embraer, Russia aims to strengthen its domestic aviation capabilities. The new widebody passenger airplane is presented as a potential alternative in the face of increasing difficulties in maintaining airworthy fleets due to Western sanctions.
Reports suggest that Russia is considering offering the IL-96-400M to countries like India and China. The widebody passenger airplane could be locally manufactured with technology transfer, making it an attractive proposition for nations seeking to enhance their aviation capabilities. India, in particular, has faced challenges in establishing local production plants with Airbus and Boeing.