Cubana is the world’s last remaining commercial user of the Ilyushin 96 (Il-96), with just two aircraft in active service. Indeed, there are just 13 active II-96s globally, across commercial, government, and other operators. We take a look back at the type and see that the 4,203-mile domestic service from Moscow Sheremetyevo to Petropavlovsk was the aircraft’s top route.
There have never been many commercial operators of the aircraft, with just four since 2004: Krasnoyarsk Airlines (KrasAir); Domodedovo Airlines; Aeroflot; and Cubana. And of these, it was really all about Aeroflot and Cubana. Between them, they had approximately 41,000 of the 46,000 IL-96-operated scheduled services in the past 17 years, analyzing data from Cirium indicates.
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46,000 commercial 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. Unlike the -86, the -96 has winglets, a glass cockpit, and a fly-by-wire control system.
The first Il-96-300, the base and ultimately primary variant, took to the skies in 1988, with Aeroflot the launch customer five years later. And in 2018, Ilyushin said that it was to build a modern and very upgraded version of the -96, becoming the II-96-400M.
However, the -400M has struggled greatly, attracting very little interest even from governments and military operators, a key source of custom for Russian-built aircraft. In April 2021, Aerotime Hub reported that mass production of the -400M had been canceled, with just two aircraft to be built.
Top-10 II-96 routes in the past 17 years
With over 3,700 round-trip flights, the Moscow Sheremetyevo to Petropavlovsk – a domestic route in Russia some 4,203 miles long – saw the most Il-96 services, as follows. This is based on combining all years since 2004. This route was operated by Aeroflot until 2012, two years before the airline retired the aircraft.
- Moscow Sheremetyevo to Petropavlovsk
- Moscow Domodedovo-Krasnoyarsk
- Havana-Buenos Aires
- Sheremetyevo-Istanbul Ataturk
- Havana-Paris Orly
Unexpectedly, the author of this article has flown two of the top-10 routes: Aeroflot from both Delhi to Sheremetyevo (served until 2009) and Sheremetyevo to Istanbul (until 2014). They were exciting and certainly felt different and exotic, even with a ~04:00 departure from India. One memory is of carpet coming up!
Aeroflot retired the type in 2014
Aeroflot retired the II-96 in 2014. This was an acceleration of its plans, as is so common now in this coronavirus era, not helped by poor economics. Hardly much of a surprise given four engines and old technology, the same true of multiple quads now.
In that final year, Aeroflot used the type to three destinations from its Sheremetyevo hub: domestically to Sochi, and internationally to Istanbul and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). The end came on Sunday, March 30th, as RA-96008 touched down in Sheremetyevo from the Uzbek capital.
The aircraft, ‘008, had been with Aeroflot since July 1993, ch-aviation.com shows, with Cubana using it as CU-T1717 from September 2014. It is presently stored.
The II-96 in 2021
Cubana is still using the II-96 (CU-T1250 and CU-TI1251) on scheduled services, along with charters. (‘250 flew from Sheremetyevo back to Havana on June 10th, having operated a charter service to Russia.) Havana to Madrid is by far the leading route, typically operating via Santiago (Cuba), joined by Havana-Buenos Aires (normally via Cayo Coco) and Havana-Caracas.
Have you flown the Il-96? If so, what are your thoughts about it? Let us know by commenting.