|Il-96 at Petropavlosk Airport, Kamchatka|
“We have fallen into a trap, which has shifted from the category of economy into the category of national security: These aircraft we take on lease for dollars… — and the tickets are selling for the ruble”
November 3, 2015
Translated from Russian by Tom Winter, November 6, 2015
Meanwhile, according to developers, IL-96 was not really such an “ugly duckling”. There was criticism about economic unprofitability, there were technical flaws, but these were developmental matters that were quite capable of being corrected. Moreover, even the experts of Aeroflot recognized the plane’s competitiveness.
“With the Perm engines at first there were shortcomings, but now the engines are quite decent. Then they achieved a Category II landing, and now the plane has Category III** capability, and then they brought it to cycle … I always thought: let the equipment be a little easier, but let it be our own. As for the economy, then here’s a letter of an operator for the chief designer Il-96-300, dated 02.08.2011. It says:
“… exploitation of IL-96-300 JSC Aeroflot in competition with the long-haul aircraft of foreign manufacture proves its commercial attractiveness both for the loading and the regularity of departure in flight” – Henry Novozhilov, creator of the Il-96, said in a recent interview.
The designer, lately celebrating his 90th birthday, and who continues to work at Ilyushin, noted that Kristenko’s decision was just fantastic, considering that the aircraft was in mass production, had all the necessary certificates, and the highest level of reliability and competitiveness.
“The aircraft had back-ups for the back-ups. Failure of any of its systems does not lead to a situation deeper than just a complication of conditions of piloting. The IL-96 at that time was already in production. The IL-96T can be converted to passenger liner with 380-400 seats, just by changing out the interior. It’s the same size as the Boeing 777. In IL-96 there could be two built-in passenger ladders like the IL-86 so it could land and park in any airport,”- said Novozhilov.
The words of the designer confirms this fact – for the entire time this aircraft was in use there was not a single flight accident, that could have killed anyone at all. This is the actual proof of safety and technical level.
Just 25 years since the Soviet Union provided almost half of the world’s aircraft, we have reached a point where foreign components being only half in the “Sukhoi Superjet 100” is considered by some a major achievement of the Russian aircraft industry. Twenty-eight IL-96s 28 were produced in the 25 years, Tu-204 – 78 units, other machines, even fewer. However, even this is encouraging – yes, they’re in small amounts, but the aircraft are available, which means that the technology, human resources and production capacity are in place. The same IL-96 is produced in the cargo modification, and at the beginning of this year, the Defense Ministry voiced interest in tankers based on a modification of the aircraft.
“The first to realize the danger was our president, who gave the command for import substitution. But our ministers are groping in the dark – they are used to tear apart, but here it is necessary to build. To create – you need intelligence, you need to work day and night, and to work professionally. While import-substution is not yet fully possible, there are resources that can be restored, but this requires political will. We need national plans, and we need competent ministers,”- said Smirnov. [Oleg Smirnov is an independent aviation expert, and Honored Pilot of the USSR.]
And counting on foreign aircraft has shown what this leads to. And it’s not just the crash of the French Airbus over the Sinai Peninsula.
|Sunset on a Transaero Boeing 767|
“We have fallen into a trap, which has shifted from the category of economy into the category of national security: These aircraft we take on lease for dollars, provide maintenance, buy thousands of spare parts for dollars, have the repairs done abroad for dollars, learn to fly in the simulator for dollars, and teach pilots to fly also for dollars, acquire engineers for dollars — and the tickets are selling for the ruble, and the ruble has gone down, and today there is not enough revenue for the conversion of the ruble in the required number for these huge foreign exchange payments. Every company of ours, to put it mildly, it is in a precarious position, and the debts of Transaero proved unfeasible,”- emphasizes Oleg Smirnov.
**CAT II landings are on instruments, with 100-200 feet visibility; CAT III landings are with 5o-100 feet visibility. (Your translator is a pilot, as well as a retired language professor.)