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Onboard a Ilyushin IL-96-300 Jetliner

Aeroflot last Ilyushin retires from the fleet

Aeroflot's last remaining active Ilyushin IL-96-300 wide-body jetliners will retire on March 31 this year…thus ending its career with Aeroflot. Aeroflot fleet will then mainly consist of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, except for a couple of short and medium range twin engine Sukhoi Superjet 100-95В.

With this in mind we decided to book a ticket on one of the last remaining IL-96 flights out of Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) airport and then onwards to Istanbul Ataturk airport (IST). Due to the cheap ticket fare we decided to stay with Aeroflot and depart from Amsterdam (AMS) to Moscow, onboard the daily A320 night flight departing AMS at 23.50 hours local. We favored Istanbul airport due to the excellent aircraft spotting facilities at the nearby Fly-In shopping mall.

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The design of the IL-96 comes from its previous model the Ilyushin IL-86 'Camber', which first appeared at the 1971 Paris Airshow. Little was known of its proposed configuration, but the first pictures of the IL-86 prototype (CCCP-86000), which made its maiden flight on 22 December 1976, showed similar lines to the Airbus A300…except for the 4 engine under wing configuration. The IL-86 accommodated up to 350 passengers, split between two cabins which were separated by wardrobes. Access to the aircraft was unique; it featured two lower deck air-stair type doors. As a passenger you would be able to carry your luggage onboard and deposit it into to the lower deck stowage compartment. Scheduled service started during December 1980, initially with Aeroflot between Moscow and Tashkent. Primary users where: Aeroflot, Siberia Airlines, Kras Air and Donavia. The main problem facing the Il-86 project was the lack of a suitable engine. It was never properly resolved. It featured the less-advanced Kuznetsov NK-8 series engines. In the end the IL-86 flying career ended due to the higher fuel consumption and it being somewhat under powered. As of May 2011 no civilian IL-86 remained in commercial service. Ilyushin introduced the new and improved IL-96-300 model back in 1985 which were built by the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association. The prototype a/c made it maiden flight in September 1988. First deliveries were to Aeroflot in December 1992. The IL-96-300 featured a supercritical wing, fitted with winglets, a glass cockpit and fly-by-wire controls and was powered by four Aviadvigatel PS-90 two-shaft turbofan engines. The Il-96-300 had a standard passenger capacity of 262 seats in a two-class configuration with 18 business class seats. The main Galleys are positioned on the upper deck, and the lower deck accommodate 18 LD-3 containers and crew rest areas. Additionally it had a lift for the food and drink trolleys stowage area on the lower deck. As of early 2014 the IL-96 primary users where: Aeroflot, Rossiya, Cubana and Polet Airlines.

AEROFLOT SVO Moscow Sheremet - IST Istanbul Ataturk Aircraft

After a 3 hours smooth flight onboard flight SU 2193 we landed at Sheremetyevo old Terminal F (1980) and exited the Airbus A320 into the outdated terminal. Normally when you enter Russia you will need a visa, but this being an international transfer, we only needed to pass through passport control and baggage security. We had plenty of time…our IL-96 would be leaving at 11.25 hours local time. After checking the departure information board we found out that our flight SU 2130 would depart from Terminal D, which is a 30-40 minutes walk. Terminal D was opened in November 2009 and is a hub for Aeroflot and its Sky Team partners. With 22 jet-ways and 11 remote stands it is a vast area. Once in terminal D we settled in one of the trendy coffee shops and try to relax, we noticed that almost all the gates where occupied by A320 and A330's aircraft. No sign of our IL-96 jet!

According to Aeroflot schedule the IL-96 would arrive from its daily flight from Tashkent and be prepared for its ongoing flight to Istanbul. 30 minutes before boarding we decided to head out to Gate 5 which appeared to be at the lower level. Our flight was still on time with an 11.25 departure. We got on the airport bus and drove past Terminal D, E and F and then towards the cargo area, passing many Aeroflot aircraft types, wondering which would bring us to Istanbul. Then finally we arrived on the cargo ramp and there she was RA 96008 basking in the crisp morning air. We wondered why she was parked so remotely far from the terminal.

RA 96008 named I.A. Moiseyev (Я. Моисеев) was built in 1992 with construction number 74393201005 and looked in excellent condition. A total of six Aeroflot IL-96 were seen at SVO that morning but only 3 aircraft were flying the last schedules. After leaving the bus I tried to make some pictures but was told off by a ground agent (old soviet restriction still in use today). We boarded the aircraft mid ship at door 2 LH and were greeted by three friendly Aeroflot flight attendants and seated ourselves in seat 10 A and B, which are just in front of the wing. The main section (economy class) of the IL-96 is configured with a 3-3-3 seating plan. The cabin was tired looking and felt outdated, but what would you expect after 22 years. There were no English newspapers/magazines, no music and no In-flight Entertainment. No problem as we came to listen to the sound of the four Aviadvigatel PS-90A turbofan engines.

Once all the passengers arrived, the doors were closed and the crew prepared the aircraft for departure. Today's flight was about 70 % full. The safety briefing and cabin announcements were done in Russian and English. Within 15 minutes the engines were started and we began to taxi out towards runway 07R. The morning rush was already gone so we were cleared for take-off as soon as we lined up on the runway. The take off was smooth and steady and as we climbed out I noticed the snow covered country side which surrounded Sheremetyevo airport. As we climbed we made a 180 degrees turn and flew along Moscow Vnukovo airport. After we reached our cruising altitude the crew started the in-flight service with a cold drink first and then meal, which consisted of Chicken or Beef. Then afterwards the crew came round for coffee/tea and or cola.

After the in-flight meal I wandered around the cabin, soaking up the atmosphere. The aft cabin lacks center overhead luggage bins, thus creating a spacious area. The aft cabin featured 6 toilets and a crew station and stowage. The forward section featured the business class cabin which accommodated 12 comfortable seats. As we flew onwards the clouds obscured our view of Ukraine and the Black Sea. Some 30 minutes before our scheduled arrival time of 12.45 local time the IL-96 began it's descend. As we slowly descended we broke through the clouds and flew over the Sea of Marmara for our final approach. The massive gear came down and the IL-96 flaps and leading edge flaps where extended. After a flight of 1089 miles and a total time of 2.40 hours we gently touched down on Istanbul Ataturk runway 06.

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AEROFLOT IST Istanbul Ataturk - SVO Moscow Sheremet Aircraft

The following morning I joined my friends at the Fly-In Shopping Mall for some coffee. This place is located on the south side of the runway and has excellent aircraft spotting possibilities. Its great for take-off and landing shot's with a standard 70-300 mm lens. My return flight to Moscow was at 14.05 hours local time so I had plenty time for spotting. During the morning one of my friends checked the internet for the incoming Aeroflot IL-96 from SVO and notified me that the flight had a delay of 2,5 hours! I started to get worried that I would not be able to catch my connecting flight to Amsterdam and would have to spend the night at Sheremetyevo. Around noon I decided to head out to the main terminal and check in for flight SU 2131. I was worried that the incoming flight had gone technical and was replaced by an Airbus! To my relief, after waiting at the gate for 2 more extra hours, I saw an IL-96 landing at it turned out to be the same aircraft I flew into Istanbul. I later learned from fellow Dutch spotters, who were on that flight, that the scheduled a/c was initially the RA 96007. But this a/c had brake problems and all the passenger had to switch over to the back-up IL-96 RA 96008. My return flight was without drama…but 2.5 hours late! I checked with one of the cabin staff and informed her of my onwards connection to Amsterdam. She was sure I could make it…there where plenty of other passengers for connecting flights? We had a smooth flight and landing docking at Terminal D. It was a bit of a struggle to get out of the IL-96 and once in the terminal one of the ground staff was already calling for a single passenger to Amsterdam. I made my self know and she responded: are you able to run! She grabbed my ticket and we both made a run for Terminal F. It took me about 10 minutes to reach the gate for flight SU 2192 and I was the last passenger to enter the aircraft. Catching my breath the forward door closed and we where on our way to AMS.

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Postscript Aeroflot completed the retirement from service of its Ilyushin Il-96 aircraft with the last flight of an airplane of the model from Tashkent to Moscow-Sheremetyevo. On 30th of March 2014 Aeroflot withdrew last Ilyushin Il-96-300 RA-96008 aircraft from its fleet after its flight from Tashkent.

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IL-86/96 data info from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia & thanks to Andre van Loon

AEROFLOT IL-96-300 Flight Video

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