Cubana Ilyushin Il-96 Flies Medical Supplies To Havana

Cubana has put its Ilyushin Il-96 to use flying in medical supplies into Cuba. The aircraft recently performed a fair number of jaunts flying from China to Cuba, with 23 tons of medical supplies onboard. The Il-96 finally arrived in Havana yesterday, on August 16th.

Cubana Il-96
Cubana’s Il-96 flew to China and back. Photo: Getty Images

The Il-96 flies in supplies from China

Cubana flew an Il-96 across the world to Shanghai, China. In Shanghai, the aircraft was loaded with 23 tons of supplies, according to a report from On Cuba News. Cuba’s Ambassador to China, Carlos Miguel Pereira Hernández, took to Facebook to discuss the shipment.

Continúan los esfuerzos de nuestro Gobierno para garantizar un suministro estable de medicamentos e insumos médicos para…

Posted by Carlos Miguel Pereira Hernández on Saturday, 15 August 2020


Our Government’s efforts to ensure a stable supply of medicines and medical supplies to combat #COVID19 continue. As of today and with the last flight made a few hours ago, a total of six direct charter flights have been made from the Chinese city of Shanghai to the Cuban capital, several of which with the successful participation of our flag line. In addition, almost 180 tons in 30 commercial air shipments that, in several months of persistent work, have allowed significant donations, inputs, and materials to be made available to the country in support of the battle against the pandemic in our country. Our recognition to Chinese authorities and companies and the collective of Embassy colleagues, Consulates and Representation Offices, for making it possible. Another example that with everyone’s contest, there is no impossible task.

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The flight path

On the way back, the aircraft had some fun. The plane first headed to Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport (VKO). From Vnukovo, the aircraft tracked west over Scandanavia and the Atlantic Ocean off to Gander in Canada. Gander International Airport (YQX) is a vital airport, even though it does not see a large amount of traditional aircraft service.

Moscow to Gander Cubana
The aircraft flew nonstop from Moscow to Gander. Photo: Flightradar24

The airport is in some of the most Eastern parts of Canada. As such, it has, in the past, served as a refueling airport back when aircraft could not make transatlantic hops such as from New York to London without a few stops. In addition, the airport plays an integral role in facilitating transatlantic operations.

Gander’s team is responsible for managing air traffic in the Western half of the North Atlantic. The ATC controllers assign airlines certain tracks that help keep aircraft properly spaced and on the proper course heading over to Europe.

In addition, Gander also handles some long-haul widebody aircraft. Usually, this is when an aircraft suffers some sort of mechanical issue, or someone onboard needs urgent medical attention. This was the case with an Air France Airbus A330 last year, which diverted for an engine problem.

After departing Gander, the aircraft made its way down to Havana, around the airspace of the United States. All in all, the journey was about 10,200 miles or over 16,500 kilometers.

The final leg from Gander to Havana. Screenshot: Flightradar24

The aircraft took the long way home. Most likely because of the jet used. The Il-96-300 would require special authorization from the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to grant the aircraft permission since the Il-96-300 is not certified by the FAA.

In addition, with the ongoing diplomatic issues between the US and Cuba that recently saw the US banning private charter flights, there were likely diplomatic reasons that the aircraft visited more friendly territory in Russia and China on its way to Cuba.

The Il-96

Cubana de Aviacion, which is a 90-year-old airline flies Il-96-300s into Europe and other countries. The airline is one of the few in the world, and the only one outside Russia, to operate the Ilyushin Il-96. While the Ilyushin quadjets share some visual similarities with Western-built aircraft, there are some big differences.

CU-T1250, the Ilyushin Il-96-300 that flew the mission. Photo: Dmitry Terekhov via Flickr

The aircraft used for this mission is registered as CU-T1250. According to data from, the plane is 15 years old and has only flown for Cubana in its history.

What do you make of this aid shipment? Have you flown on or seen Cubana’s Il-96? Let us know in the comments!