Once The Largest Jetliner In The World: 59 Years Of Ilyushin Il-62 Flight

On January 3rd, 1963, the Soviet Union’s Ilyushin Il-62 performed its first flight. At the time, it was the world’s largest jetliner, going on to pioneer long-haul flying with the likes of the Vickers VC10, Boeing 707, and Douglas DC-8.

Ilyushin Il-62M civil jet airplane of Aeroflot Soviet Airlines registered CCCP-86482 pictured at Knevichi Airport
The Il-62 had the capacity for over 180 passengers, while the IL-62M could hold approximately 170 guests. Photo: Getty Images

Based on another powerhouse

The narrowbody was a successor to the large Il-18 turboprop that first flew in July 1957. The Il-18 remains in service and weighs around 35,000 kg (77,200 lb), making it a behemoth in its prime. Over the decades, the Il-18 broke 25 world records and was a success globally. The plane’s capabilities paved the way for further technological advancements with the launch of the Il-62 program.

With a length of 53.12 m (174 ft 3 in), a height of 2.35 m (40 ft 6 in), and a wingspan of 43.20 m (141 ft 9 in), the plane was the largest jetliner of its time. However, passengers would have to wait over four years to set foot on the behemoth after its first flight.

Aeroflot, which often had the honor of introducing new Soviet aircraft, entered the Il-62 into service on September 15th, 1967. The first revenue flight was a trip to Montréal, Canada, from Moscow, Soviet Union.

The initial commercial variant was backed by four 103.0 kN (23,150 lb) Kuznetsov NK-8 turbofan engines. In March 1974, the more advanced Il-62M, with quieter 107.9 kN (24,250 lb) Soloviev D-30KU turbofans, entered service. Airlines appreciated the Il-62Ms new containerized luggage and freight system along with modified wing spoilers, increased fuel capacity, and improved flight deck.

Museums IL 62 in Stölln
The cockpit of the Il-62. Photo: Getty Images

Plenty of benefits for the period

Those behind the program are proud of the aerodynamic configurations that the plane brought to the Russian industry. Produced by the S.P. Gorbunov Kazan Aircraft Production Association, there were plenty of advantages to be had with the aircraft’s introduction.

“The Il-62M is a monoplane with a low-mounted sweptback wing, T-tail unit and four engines positioned in the aft fuselage. Such positioning of the engines has allowed for improved aerodynamics of the wing, reducing noise level in the passenger cabin, and reduced chances of fire onboard due to the remoteness of engines from fuel tanks,” Ilyushin states.

“The main landing gear is positioned before the center of gravity of the aircraft when empty, which allowed for reducing the area of horizontal tail surfaces. For parking and ground taxiing operations of an empty aircraft, designers introduced a special retractable tail landing gear, which made aerodrome loading and unloading much easier, and it can be performed in any sequence.”

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Still going

Airlines all across the continents deployed the Il-62. Several military and government organizations also entrusted the plane over the years. Today, the quadjet is still in limited service. Belarus’ Rada Airlines and North Korea’s Air Koryo are two commercial that fly the plane, while North Korean, Russian, and Sudanese officials also continue deployment.

Ilyushin Il-62 Getty
CAAC Airlines, Cubana, Interflug, EgyptAir, Air India, LOT Polish Airlines, and TAROM are some notable names that flew the Il-62 series. Photo: Getty Images

Altogether, 292 Il-62 units were produced between 1963 and 1995. Of the builds, 193 were Il-62Ms, 94 were of the launch Il-62, and five were prototypes. Large quadjets such as the A380 are swiftly disappearing from fleets. The Airbus superjumbo is 72.72 m (238 ft 7 in) long, making the Il-62 nearly 20 meters shorter, but it’s still impressive to see the Russian veteran still hitting the skies today.

What are your thoughts about the Ilyushin Il-62? Have you managed to spot the aircraft over the years? Let us know what you think of the plane and its operations in the comment section.