Boeing? Airbus? Why not Ilyushin? Part one

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Ilyushin Il-96-400T
October 3, 2015

October 6, 2015
Translated from Russian by Tom Winter
The plane crash over the Sinai Peninsula has spawned a new wave of debate about how to develop the domestic aircraft industry. A number of aircraft from the Soviet past stopped flying a few years ago. And from the new projects, the most “hyped” is the “Superjet” which has gone into the second hundred in the order books, and is the best result for domestic aircraft in the post-Soviet era. But it is short-haul airliner. One other project, which is “almost right now” a reality is the MS-21, a medium-range airliner.

However, there is a notable gap in the niche of long-haul aircraft. – Hopes for a joint aircraft project with China can be justified only after 2025. And until that time, do we have to accept the dominance of Boeing and Airbus? Or there is an opportunity to fight for their share of the market.

The IL-96 is in fact, the only wide-body long-range domestic airliner. In the late 1980s development work began on the basis of the legendary IL-86, and in 1988, the aircraft made its first flight. Production started in 1993 and, in fact, is still going on, but in a very limited way: total production is 28 aircraft. Four aircraft of this type have been equipped as a board №1; four standard Il-96-300 aircraft are in service in the presidential squadron. Three of the 28 aircraft were even given over for export – the national airline of Cuba got them.

However, what is good for the president is somehow is not suitable for ordinary people. In any case, all three air carriers with Il- 96s in their fleet (Aeroflot, Polyot, and Domodedovo Airlines) have put them in storage.

Viktor Khristenko, former head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, did nothing to improve the Il-96 popularity when he said in 2009 that Russia does not need to make such aircraft, as the world already has their direct competitors. Federal officials said that “IL-96 was a plane without a future,” and “it would be pointless for Russia to compete in this segment of the market with international leaders” – the European company Airbus and the American Boeing.

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In addition, the Russian minister said at the time that the decision was made to zero out the import duty for passenger aircraft with a capacity of more than 300 people – the category of the Il-96-300. And in the words of the head of the Ministry of Industry, “a lot of work is being carried on with the western companies,” in particular, “the Russian side delivers a significant amount of titanium structures.” Such a position from the head of the ministry responsible for the development of the domestic industry, can not be seen, to put it mildly, without surprise – it’s state lobbying of incredible power in denigration of their own industry, fully opening the door to competitors, with whom “it is useless to compete.” A surrender of national industrial interests, which a couple of years later President Medvedev supported, prohibiting the use of the An-24, Yak-42 and Tu-134.

But neither Medvedev nor Khristenko were original in such statements – they only brought the aviation “doctrine”, formulated by the “father of liberal reforms,” Yegor Gaidar to its logical conclusion.

“I myself heard his speech, when he answered a journalist’s question about aircraft development. He replied that all this requires a lot of resources, finance, great intellect, a large number of plants, components, equipment, development of electronics, electrics, radar – this is a no-go for us. He said that he was in accord with Boeing, which will provide us with any number of their aircraft. And that stupid joke of the Prime Minister has led to the fact that it has become a state policy for decades to come. Over the last 25 years years civil aircraft construction was destroyed to the extent that we carry 97% of passenger traffic on Western aircraft,” Oleg Smirnov said to Nakanune.RU. Smirnov is an independent aviation expert, and Honored Pilot of the USSR.

He recalled that in 1990 there were 13,500 aircraft under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, aircraft, which provided transportation for 143 million passengers a year and treated 100 million hectares of farmland. All of these aircraft were domestically produced, in addition, Soviet planes were used in more than 40 countries around the world. However, a consistent government policy has brought us to the point that hundreds of aircraft rot, parked at the fences, fences and aviation companies buy foreign “aviatrash.”

“Our Prime Minister – this is the first prime minister in the world who publicly and completely discredited our aviation equipment, saying that all this stuff, it’s unsafe, it’s bad, it eats too much fuel, etc. and hundreds of aircraft and their support stand rotting at airport gates – no one country in the world has done this. No State counts itself rich enough to throw airplanes and their gear under the fence. But we have been great help to America and Europe in buying their planes on a massive scale, and they applaud the policy of our government,” said the expert.

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