Russia is a country with a fascinating aviation history, with flag carrier Aeroflot having been in existence for nearly a century. It is also a nation with a significant aircraft manufacturing sector, with several Soviet and Russian designs having sold more than 1,000 units. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the history of Russian aircraft in Aeroflot’s fleet.
The post-war era
In the years that followed the Second World War, Aeroflot introduced several key Soviet designs to its fleet. For example, the late 1940s saw the arrival of both the 12-passenger Antonov An-2 and the Ilyushin Il-12. The Il-12 typically held between 21 and 32 passengers, and it was succeeded by the Il-14, which Aeroflot also flew from 1954.
The 1950s also saw larger four-engine turboprop designs enter service with Aeroflot. Indeed, the large and popular Ilyushin Il-18 joined its fleet in 1958, with the Antonov An-10 following a year later. The 1950s even saw Aeroflot enter the jet age with the Tupolev Tu-104. This was the world’s second commercial jetliner, and Aeroflot flew it from 1956 to 1979.
The jet age
An interesting variety of other Russian jetliners flew for Aeroflot during the remainder of the 20th century. Arguably the most notable of these was the supersonic Tupolev Tu-144, although its commercial career was comparatively short-lived.
Other Tupolev jetliners to have flown for Aeroflot include the Tu-124, Tu-134, Tu-154, and Tu-204. As we shall see, the latter two of these served the airline into the 21st century. Aeroflot also flew the high-performance Tu-114 turboprop airliner from 1961 to 1976.
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Three passenger-carrying Ilyushin jetliner designs joined the airline between 1967 and 1993. The first of these was the rear-engined Il-62, which, at one time, was the world’s largest jetliner. The others were the four-engine widebody Il-86 and Il-96 designs.
As far as the Yakovlev Design Bureau was concerned, two models from this company served in Aeroflot’s 20th-century fleet. The airline began by taking on the 32-passenger Yak-40 trijet, which it flew from 1966 to 1995. It followed this up in 1980 with the Yak-42, which could seat in the region of 120 passengers. This served Aeroflot until 2000.
A recent decline
Since 2000, and particularly in the first decade of the 21st century, the number of Russian aircraft in Aeroflot’s fleet has been in decline. As seen in this graph from ch-aviation.com, the carrier’s Russian-built fleet is presently just a third of what its size was in 2000.
It isn’t just the number of individual aircraft that has dropped, but also the variety of Russian designs in Aeroflot’s fleet. At the turn of the century, the Russian flag carrier flew jetliners from both Ilyushin (Il-62, 86, 96) and Tupolev (Tu-134, 154, 204). However, slowly but surely, these were phased out. The Tu-154 lasted the longest, until 2016.
Since 2011, you can see that the number of Russian aircraft in Aeroflot’s felt has slowly been on the rise. This is thanks to the increasing prevalence of the Sukhoi Superjet 100, which began flying for the airline in 2011. The data from ch-aviation shows that there are presently 59 of these in Aeroflot’s fleet, with 28 historical examples, and 88 more on order.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see what sort of a role the Russian-built Irkut MC-21 will play in Aeroflot’s fleet. After all, the carrier presently has 50 of the aircraft, which recently entered mass production, on order. With Rossiya set to take on Aeroflot’s remaining Sukhoi Superjets, the MC-21 could be the future of Russian aircraft at the carrier.
Which of Aeroflot’s Russian-built aircraft have you flown on? Do you have a particular favorite? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.