The Ilyushin Il-86 is one of the classic Soviet-era jet airliners that we don’t hear a lot about any more.
Reading Charles Kennedy’s excellent book Jetliners of the Red Star, I was fascinated to discover more about this aircraft, which was Russia’s first widebody airliner.
Built in response to the new breed of widebodies coming out of the West, like the Boeing 747, Douglas DC-10, Lockheed L1011 and Airbus A300, the Il-86 was designed to carry a large number of people on trunk routes.
It had some fascinating features, like boarding stairs built into the lower deck where passengers would deposit their luggage before climbing up to the main passenger cabin, which as a result did not have overhead luggage bins.
The IL-86 was notoriously fuel-thirsty and under-powered. It would consume 3 tonnes of fuel per hour, and was only really suitable for short- and medium-haul routes.
Nevertheless, the airlines that flew the type would send it all over Russia, Asia and the Middle East. I remember seeing them flying into Dubai in the early 2000s, and there are some hair-raising videos of them departing runways of European holiday destinations with only metres to spare. See this video as an example:
Who Flew the Il-86?
The Ilyushin IL-86 was developed for the Soviet national airline, Aeroflot, and entered service with them on 26 December, 1980, flying from Moscow to Tashkent.
As well as domestic trunk routes, it also flew to Eastern European and Scandinavian destinations in its early days.
On occasion it flew on long-haul routes to Cuba and South America, but required numerous fuel-stops along the way.
Other airlines that flew the IL-86 include:
- China Xinjiang Airlines
- Air Kazakhstan
- East Line Airlines
- Krasnoyarsk Air
- Moscow Airlines
- Orient Avia
- Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise
- Russian Sky Airlines
- S7 Siberian Airlines
- Transeuropean Airlines
- Vnukovo Airlines
- Atlant-Soyuz Airlines
- Uzbekistan Airways
Various cargo carriers also operated freighter versions on the IL-86, and it was also delivered in military and government variants.
Are Any Il-86’s still flying?
Of the 106 Il-86 aircraft known to have been built, none have been operational in carrying passengers since around 2012 when the last examples carrying holidaymakers to European resorts were retired.
A few military and government examples are still thought to be active, or stored in an active condition in Russia, but are rarely seen anywhere, and so it’s hard for enthusiasts to witness the noisy, smoky old Russian ‘airbus’ in action any more.
Where to see an Il-86 today
Thankfully a few examples of the Il-86 are easy enough to see. The following examples are preserved or otherwise visible:
Preserved at the State Aviation Museum next to Kiev Zhuliany airport. This was one of the prototype aircraft.
Moscow Chkalovsky Air Base
This is the location of Russia’s government fleet of Ilyushin Il-86 aircraft, which may or may not be active. At least four reside here, with one designated an Il-80 variant.
Other Il-86s have been withdrawn from use here in the past, and so may still be present on the airfield.
Sadly this is not an easy place to spot at, and would cause a lot of suspicion if you tried.
Retired at Moscow’s main airport, RA-86103 previously flew for Aeroflot until 2009 when it became a ground trainer here. It is stored on the remote ramp (off airport) to the north east, along with a Il-76 and Tu-154.
Preserved at Novosibirsk International Airport, this aircraft was stored at the airport for a number of years. It still wears S7 Airlines markings, and is on display near the car parks and hotel outside the airport terminal.