Only two Il-96-400Ms are going to be built, the sources say, painting a grim future for the new flagship of Russia’s aviation industry.
The change in plans was revealed by Russian newspaper Vedomosti on March 15, 2021, quoting several sources from the Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). It was later confirmed by the government.
“There are no orders from airlines, and since wide-body airliners worldwide are grounded due to COVID-19 pandemic, there are no plans to mass-produce the Il-96-400M,” the press service of Russian deputy prime minister Yuri Borisov told Vedomosti.
According to sources within UAC, two aircraft are going to be built for the Special Flight Detachment “Rossiya”, which is a company responsible for transporting Russian officials, including the head of state.
Il-96-400M is a deeply modernized version of Il-96, a four-engine wide-body airliner which first flew in 1988.
Conceived as a stopgap measure before the new Russian-Chinese wide-body twinjet CR929 enters production, the project was initiated in 2015, with hopes to start deliveries in 2019. The first flight of the new jet was delayed several times, with the last plan calling for it to take on the maiden flight in “late 2020 or early 2021”.
A commercial version of the Il-96-400M was planned to carry between 300 and 430 passengers depending on configuration, and have a range of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles). It was supposed to have new engines, upgraded avionics and longer fuselage than the previous version of the aircraft, Il-96-300.
As CR929 faced delays due to disagreements between Russia and China, much hope was put into the Il-96-400M, dubbed “the Boeing killer” by the Russian press – presumably for its ability to compete with similarly-sized Boeing 777.