DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Russia’s first wide-bodied airliner, the Ilyushin Il-86 (CCCP-86000), took to the skies for the first time in 1976. The prototype flew from the manufacturer’s Khodynka airfield – Central Aerodrome of Moscow for 40 minutes under the command of Chief test pilot Eduard Kuznetsov.
Work began on the airliner in late 1969. Initially, the Moscow-based plane maker looked at developing the existing Il-62, designated the Il-62M-250. Proposals saw a “double-decker” variant or “two fuselages side-by-side.”
However, SU was not happy with these offering and thus Ilyushin put a clean-sheet design forward in 1970. The four-engined, nine-abreast seating configuration would carry between 320-350 passengers on medium to long-haul flights.
“Luggage at Hand System”
One of the unique features of the Il-86 was the “luggage at hand system.” This saw passengers bring their luggage out to the aircraft. They would then board through the cargo hold, drop off their bags, and go upstairs and into the cabin. This allowed the airliner to operate in remote areas of the Soviet Union without airports needing to update their infrastructure. However, this feature was relatively under-utilised.
The Il-86 entered commercial service with Aeroflot (SU) from Moscow to Tashkent on December 26, 1980. SU initially used it on domestic routes within Russia. Later the airliner was used on high-density charter flights across Europe and medium/long-range routes, including Moscow (SVO) to Havana (HAV) vis Shannon (SNN) and Gander (YQX). The type marked a big improvement in passenger comfort for SU with its large cabin, wide aisles and updated seating. It was also the first Soviet-built aircraft to feature an in-flight entertainment system. This allowed passengers to watch films or listen to a choice of 12 pre-recorded audio programs.
Its predecessor, the Il-96, made its maiden flight in 1988. Production ended in 1991 after 106 examples had been built. The type was retired by SU in 2011 after stringent noise regulations limited the destinations it could serve.
Featured Image: Pictured at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) a pair of SU Il-86s. Photo: RIA Novosti archive, image #501495 / Vitaliy Arutjunov / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.