International sanctions mean that Russia can’t buy new planes, or make its own, for now at least – but it has the “new” Ilyushin Il-114-300.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought sanctions that have brought commercial aviation in Russia to a halt. Airlines in the country can still operate domestically. But international flights, even to countries that haven’t introduced sanctions to Russia, have already stopped. This is to stop foreign lessors and/or banks from repossessing aircraft that Russian airlines are operating. Even domestic Russian flights could stop, because of non-functional booking and passenger service systems.
This is where aircraft like the Ilyushin Il-114-300 could come in handy – eventually. We recently looked at the Irkut MC-21 (or MS-21, properly Latinized). As we saw, there are several reasons why airlines in Russia can’t expect to replace their 737s and A320s with this plane. Even if UAC/Irkut could start producing a certified version with Russian engines tomorrow, many other parts aren’t Russian.
These systems include most (if not all) avionics, electric distribution systems and for now at least, the APU. “Russification” of all of these systems, plus their certification, could take many years. Conversely, the Ilyushin Il-114-300 turboprop could enter service with few worries about non-Russian systems. So, what is it?
The Ilyushin Il-114-300 – Old Or New?
We previously looked at this aircraft, when the prototype had its first flight in December 2020. This turboprop isn’t really new. The very first variant flew back in 1990, the aim being to replace older types like the Antonov An-24. Unusually for an aircraft meant to work in harsh environments and from rough surfaces, the Il-114 has a low wing design. It is also a bigger aircraft than the An-24, seating more passengers.
So what makes the Ilyushin Il-114-300 different from previous models? Outwardly, the answer is “very little”. The fuselage of the aircraft remains the same, as does the wing. Klimov is making the engines – as with the previous version. The current model is the TV7-117ST, which is an updated and more powerful version of the original TV7-117S engines. Also, the aircraft will feature new avionics.
But perhaps the main difference between the Il-114-300 and its previous Ilyushin variants is the location of its assembly factory. Originally, planes were assembled in Uzbekistan, although the manufacturer shipped many components there from Russia. The assembly site for the new model will be the Sokol plant in Nizhny Novgorod. This site is in Russia, about 400 km (250 mi) east of Moscow.
From the start, authorities emphasized that the new Ilyushin Il-114-300 would use only Russian-made parts and systems. Authorities took this decision, and the decision to restart the program itself, following reactions after Russia’s forced annexation of Crimea. And this was also the time when “Russification” efforts for the MC-21 began.
A Second Chance?
But interestingly, the original aircraft wasn’t really a success. Only 20 Il-114s of all variants came out of the assembly line with only six being operational commercial planes! Production was always slow, with few orders and some management issues. And, somewhat ironically, given current events, some of those early Il-114s had Pratt & Whitney Canada PW-127 turboprop engines!
Also somewhat ironically, the Russian Air Force previously planned to get a version of the new Antonov An-140T. This plane would replace An-26s and An-72s, in military service. Of course, Antonov is Ukrainian, so these plans changed in 2014, i.e. after the annexation of Crimea. So a version of the Ilyushin Il-114-300 will also assume part of this military role.
The other new military aircraft will be the Il-112V, also to replace existing An-26s and An-72s. This is currently in development, with a commercial variant also in the works, as the Il-112T. This Ilyushin twin-turboprop has the same updated engines as the Il-114-300. But it has a fuselage configuration oriented more towards the cargo role. Unfortunately, the first prototype crashed last summer, after an apparent engine failure.
Obviously, neither of these two turboprops can really replace larger Airbuses and Boeings in Russian airline service. There are some ATRs with Russian operators, as well as some older Antonovs. But Russia is a vast country, with considerable needs for aircraft that can cover long distances. So even if the Ilyushin Il-114-300 solves some problems, Russia will still need jets. And again, an MC-21 with Russian engines AND systems, is a long way away.