Only Five Aircraft Remain: A Look At The Ilyushin 96

There is just one Ilyushin 96 in active commercial service anywhere globally, and it is with Cubana. More widely, there are only five active II-96s globally across commercial, government, and other operators, reveals – and obviously more if stored aircraft are included. We look back at the quadjet.

This specific aircraft (CU-TI1250) is the only active II-96 in commercial operation anywhere in the world. Photo: Dmitry Terekhov via Flickr.

The II-96 hasn’t had many airline users

There have never been many commercial operators of the aircraft, with only Krasnoyarsk Airlines (KrasAir), Domodedovo Airlines, Aeroflot, and Cubana since 2004. And it was all about Aeroflot and Cubana. Between them, they had approximately nine in ten of the type’s scheduled flights, analyzing data from experts Cirium shows.

Three of four airline users of the quadjet in the past 17 years were Russian. Photo: Alexander Mishin via Flickr.

46,000 flights in 17 years

Built by the Ilyushin Design Bureau, the Il-96 is a shortened, long-range, and advanced technology development of Russia’s first widebody airliner, the Il-86. However, unlike the older type, the II-96 has winglets, a glass cockpit, and a fly-by-wire control system.

The primary II-96 variant was the Il-96-300. This first took to the sky in 1988, with Aeroflot the launch customer five years later. In 2018, Ilyushin said it was to build a modern, higher-density, and upgraded version of the aircraft. This became the II-96-400M.

The problem is, nobody wants the -400M. It has attracted very little interest even from governments and military operators, a key source of custom for Russian-built aircraft. Earlier this year, Aerotime Hub reported that mass production, with just two aircraft to be built.

Aeroflot retired the type in 2014. In that final year, it was deployed on three routes, including Sheremetyevo to Istanbul. The author flew that route to say goodbye to the aircraft. Photo: Aleksandr Markin via Flickr.

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And the top-10 routes were…

If all years since 2004 are combined, the very long domestic Russian route from Moscow Sheremetyevo to Petropavlovsk – some 4,203 (6,764km) apart – has had more scheduled II-96 flights than any other route. Aeroflot last operated it in 2012. The airport pair, with a block time to Moscow of almost nine hours, now sees B777-300ERs.

  1. Moscow Sheremetyevo to Petropavlovsk
  2. Sheremetyevo to Delhi
  3. Sheremetyevo to Bangkok
  4. Havana to Madrid
  5. Moscow Domodedovo to Krasnoyarsk
  6. Sheremetyevo to Khabarovsk
  7. Havana to Buenos Aires
  8. Sheremetyevo to Seoul Incheon
  9. Sheremetyevo to Istanbul Ataturk
  10. Havana to Paris Orly
The author flew the II-96 twice: with Aeroflot from Delhi to Sheremetyevo and Sheremetyevo to Istanbul. It was different, exciting, and memorable, even if the flight left India at 04:00! Photo: Dmitry Terekhov via Flickr.

The II-96 this winter

Cubana is still using the II-96. However, when writing, only CU-T1250 (delivered to Cuba’s flag carrier in 2005) has been used recently. According to Flightradar24, it last flew on November 2nd from Madrid back to Santiago de Cuba, which took just over nine hours.

This winter, Cubana has only a small number of scheduled services by the type, along with charters. Havana to Madrid is the ‘thickest’ (i.e., most served), normally operating via Santiago in both directions. Havana to Buenos Aires (often via Cayo Coco) is also served.

Have you flown the type? If so, share your experiences and memories by commenting.