The Ilyushin IL-96-400M: Advancement or necessity?


The Ilyushin IL-96-400M represents a significant milestone in the evolution of Russian aviation technology. Born out of a blend of technological progression and the necessity created by the West's sanctions against Russia, the IL-96-400M combines the heritage of the IL-96 family with modern advancements in aerodynamics, systems, and passenger comfort. With its impressive range, passenger capacity, and safety features, the IL-96-400M presents a compelling option for operators seeking a cost-effective and reliable wide-body aircraft.

The History of the IL-96 Family:

The IL-96-400M traces its roots back to the IL-86, the first Russian wide-body aircraft that entered service in the 1970s. As an evolution of its predecessor, the IL-96 was equipped with PS-90 turbofan engines, offering a longer range but limited passenger capacity. It was envisioned as a flagship aircraft, capable of serving both domestic and international routes, and made its debut with the IL-96-300, which entered service in the early 1990s. Recognizing the need for a higher-capacity variant, the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) embarked on the development of the IL-96-400M.

Ilyushin IL86 air stairs

The Ilyushin IL-86, the ancestor of the IL96-400M sported internal airstairs that could be deployed in remote locations where airport services were lacking. It is unclear whether this will be carried forward to the IL-96-400M. Whilst a great feature, there is obviously a space penalty which could impact paying cargo.

Over the years, the IL-96 family has undergone several iterations and improvements. The IL-96-400, introduced in the early 2000s, incorporated advancements in aerodynamics, avionics, and systems. However, the IL-96-400 faced limited commercial success, primarily operating in a few niche markets.

The Development of the IL-96-400M:

The IL-96-400M represents the latest iteration of the IL-96 family, addressing the need for a modernized and efficient wide-body aircraft. The development of the IL-96-400M reflects the ongoing efforts of the Russian aviation industry to enhance its capabilities and compete in the global market.

Technological Advancements:

The IL-96-400M incorporates significant technological advancements to improve its performance and passenger experience. The aircraft features a modernized wing design, advanced aerodynamics, and state-of-the-art systems. These enhancements contribute to increased fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and improved operational capabilities.

Ilyushin IL96-400M

The IL-96-400M is designed to compete with the Boeing 777-9 and Airbus A350-1000.

Passenger Comfort:

The IL-96-400M places a strong emphasis on passenger comfort, offering a spacious and welcoming cabin environment. Airlines have the flexibility to configure aircraft to meet their specific requirements, accommodating a range of seating layouts and cabin amenities. Passengers can expect a pleasant and enjoyable travel experience, with ample legroom, larger overhead compartments, and advanced in-flight entertainment systems.

Range and Capacity:

The IL-96-400M boasts an impressive range, some 10,000km, making it well-suited for long-haul operations. With its efficient engines and improved aerodynamics, the aircraft can cover vast distances without the need for frequent refueling stops. Additionally, the IL-96-400M offers a substantial passenger capacity, accommodating 436 travelers in a single-class configuration and enabling airlines to maximize revenue potential on popular routes.

The IL96-400M is stretched nearly ten metres longer than the IL96-300 pictured.

Operational Flexibility:

One notable feature of the IL-96-400M is its four-engine configuration. While many Western manufacturers have transitioned to twin-engine wide-body aircraft, the IL-96-400M retains the four-engine layout. This configuration provides advantages in terms of safety, operational flexibility, and suitability for challenging environments. However, the downside is higher maintenance costs with having to service and carry spares for more engines. This is a concept in the West that has seen the decline of airliners such as the Airbus A340, Boeing 747, and Airbus A380.

Recognizing this, Ilyushin is studying a new variant based on the Il-96, powered by two Aviadvigatel PD-35 engines rated at 340 kN (76,000 lbf). The target is to have the engine developed by 2025 from the PD-14, or powered by foreign power plants. The goal, of course, would be to reduce fuel consumption and maintenance costs. The foreign power plant option would of course be wholly dependent on sanctions being lifted, so perhaps not their preferred option.

The IL-96-400M's four engines offer redundancy, ensuring the ability to operate on long-haul routes over remote areas or vast stretches of the ocean. This characteristic makes it particularly appealing for airlines operating in regions where alternate airports are scarce or where stringent safety regulations necessitate the use of four-engine aircraft.

The fuselage section of Machine 0001 of the Ilyushin IL-96-400M prototype.

Current Status and Future Prospects:

At present, the IL-96-400M is in the advanced stages of development. The prototype, assembled by the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association (VASO), is undergoing comprehensive ground and flight tests to validate its performance, systems, and safety features. These extensive testing procedures are essential to ensure the aircraft meets regulatory requirements and operational standards.

The development and production of the IL-96-400M involve collaboration among various Russian aerospace companies. The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a state-owned entity overseeing Russia's main aircraft manufacturers, plays a central role in coordinating these efforts. Leveraging their expertise and resources, these companies aim to deliver a reliable and competitive wide-body aircraft that can cater to the needs of airlines worldwide.

While the IL-96-400M is primarily targeted toward the Russian market, there is potential for its adoption beyond Russian borders. The aircraft's range, passenger capacity, and operational capabilities make it suitable for international long-haul routes, offering airlines an alternative to existing offerings from Western manufacturers.

IL-96-400M prototype under construction.


The Ilyushin IL-96-400M represents a remarkable advancement in Russian aviation technology. It combines the rich heritage of the IL-96 family with modernized features, improved performance, and enhanced passenger experience. With its impressive range, passenger capacity, and safety features, the IL-96-400M presents a compelling option for operators seeking a cost-effective and reliable wide-body aircraft.

As the IL-96-400M progresses toward certification and commercial readiness, its potential impact on the market remains to be seen. The aircraft's combination of modernized features, enhanced performance, and four-engine configuration provides a unique proposition for operators seeking a reliable, long-haul wide-body aircraft. Its range, passenger capacity, and operational capabilities make it well-suited for a range of applications, from long-haul international routes to specialized missions in challenging environments.


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