Russia's first widebody airliner, the Il-86 has endured a very chequered career. It has suffered from poor fuel economy, reports of failing to meet its design range, and has been produced in only relatively modest numbers.
Il-86 development was announced at the 1971 Paris Airshow. But a protracted development program followed and the first examples did not enter service until almost a decade later in late 1980. Antonov, Tupolev and Ilyushin were all asked to respond to Aeroflot's requirement for a widebody airliner, with Ilyushin's design proving successful.
The Il-86 initially was similar in configuration to the narrowbody Il-62, with four rear mounted turbofans and a Ttail. However the same problems that affects most Ttail designs such as poor low speed handling, plus the heavy structural weight needed to support the four engines caused a rethink, resulting in the adoption of a conventional tail and under wing mounted engine configuration.
Although a conventional design, one unusual feature of the Il-86 is that - where airport aerobridges are not provided - passengers can board the aircraft via airstairs leading to a lower deck baggage stowage area, before climbing a fixed internal staircase to the main passenger cabin.
The Il-86 was first unveiled in prototype form in 1976. The first of two prototypes flew for the first time on December 22 1976, while the first production aircraft flew on October 24 1977. Airline service began in December 1980 (Aeroflot had previously hoped to have it in service in time for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games). About 100 had been built when production ended in 1994.
Plans to equip the Il-86 with CFM International CFM56 turbofans to dramatically improve fuel economy, range and reducing noise levels to within ICAO Stage 3 limits have been discussed at various times, but the cost of such an upgrade has so far has proved prohibitive.
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