29 March 1990 – first flight of Ilyushin Il-114

On 29th March 1990, prototype of new Soviet turboprop airliner, Ilyushin Il-114, performed its maiden flight at Zhukovsky airfield.

In the early 1980s, several airlines in the world were looking for a new, comfortable and commercially viable, regional aeroplane. That market demand was quickly responded by aviation companies and led to creation of a few twin-engine, turboprop passenger aircraft, such as ATR-42/ATR-72, Dash 8, Fokker 50 and Saab 2000.

A similar situation occurred in the Soviet Union, where Aeroflot (Аэрофлот), the biggest national airline and practically the monopolist in the passenger aviation market within the country, was searching for replacement of its ageing fleet of regional airliners. At that time, domestic and regional flights in the USRR were carried out by Yak-40 and Tu-134, two passenger jets developed at the beginning of the 1960s, and An-24 turboprop aircraft, designed in the late 1950s.

Current market trends were closely monitored by the Soviet aviation manufacturers. Therefore, it was no surprise that the new regional aircraft, designed by Ilyushin construction bureau, alluded to the aforementioned Western small airliners. The company proposed a low-wing monoplane, powered by two turboprop Klimov TV7-117C (ТВ7-117С) engines and able to carry up to 60 passengers. Expected range of the new aircraft was about 1,000 kilometres and, characteristically for the Soviet airliners, the aeroplane had to be able to operate from unpaved runways and remote, poorly equipped airfields.

In 1986, the project created at the Ilyushin bureau was approved by the Council of Ministers of the USSR and its development gained momentum. Works on the new airliner, officially designated Il-114, were carried out by a team of constructors led by G.V. Novozhilov (Г. В. Новожилов) and N.D. Talikov (Н. Д. Таликов).

During the development of the Il-114, special attention was paid to reduce its fuel consumption, simplicity of use and maintenance, as well as noise reduction, both in the cabin and outside. The aeroplane had to be operated by a crew of only two and adapted to operate from airfields providing only basic ground services. Therefore, its cabin was designed to accommodate increased number of luggage items, as they were expected to be carried onboard by passengers, instead of being loaded into a special compartment under the cabin floor.

On 29th March 1990, the new Soviet regional airliner performed its maiden flight. The first test flights were positively evaluated, and it seemed the aircraft would be soon approved for serial production. It was expected the aeroplane would be produced by Tashkent Aviation Production Association named after V. P. Chkalov (Ташкентское авиационное производственное объединение им. В. П. Чкалова), with expected production rate of one hundred airliners per year.

However, the dissolution of the Soviet Union followed shortly and led to suspension of the Il-114 development programme. The aviation plant in Tashkent was no longer under the Soviet (and then Russian) management and now was located in the foreign, independent country of Uzbekistan. In addition, the Russian government dealt with significant financial crisis and at that time there were no funds to continue any aviation development programmes. In 1993, in aftermath of tragic crash of the second prototype during its test flight, the Russian authorities officially ceased further funding and governmental support for the Il-114.

However, the Ilyushin company continued with the Il-114 development, basing only on its own resources. The manufacturer made several attempts to obtain funding necessary to continue the programme, especially via partnership with any Western aviation company. The Il-114 was repeatedly displayed at aviation trade shows in Paris, Farnborough, Bangalore, Berlin, and Tehran. However, no cooperation agreement was reached.

On 26th April 1997, seven years after the maiden flight of its prototype, the Il-114 received the type certificate. It allowed the airliner to be serially produced and then introduced into operational service. Only a few examples of the aeroplane were built and all of them were acquired by just two air carriers, Uzbekistan Airways and North-West Aviation Transport Company Vyborg (Северо-Западная Авиационная Транспортная Компания «Выборг»). The exact number is difficult to determine due to only partial information available. However, the most probable estimation is six or seven passenger aircraft made for Uzbekistan Airlines, two examples built for Vyborg, another two aeroplanes in cargo variant, designated Il-114T, as well as up to ten additional airframes. In 2012, the production of the Il-114 was ceased.

What´s more, approximately ten more variants of the Il-114 were made, some created by conversion of the existing aeroplanes and built usually in one specific prototype example. They included a few maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), flying testbed, early warning and control aircraft, as well as Il-114 AGAT, a Radar-MMS testbed aeroplane and MPA demonstrator. Most of those prototypes were developed to arouse interest of potential foreign customers but failed to achieve any. 

In 2014, the Russian president Vladimir Putin started personally investigating the matter of the further Il-114 development. Faced with increasing shortage of regional airliners on the Russian domestic market, as well as consequences of economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, the president instructed the Russian government to take into account the possibility of re-launching serial production of the Il-114.

In consequence, several Russian authorities expressed their support for that project. At that time, it was expected the serial manufacturing of the Ilyushin regional airliner would be possible within five years. Aviation plant in Samara was chosen as the production site and works on the Il-114-300, an updated variant of the airliner, began shortly after.

Nevertheless, the development of the Il-114 was still struggling with many issues, especially related to its new Klimov powerplants. As a result, no deadline was followed and the date of launching the serial production of the airliner was postponed several times.

Assembly of the first prototype of the Il-114-300 began in 2019 – the year the Russian officials initially promised the aeroplane to enter serial production. Respectively, it was postponed to 2021, together with another announcement that expected no less than twelve airliners would be made that year. However, and within just a few months, the date of launching the Il-114 serial production was revised one more time, and postponed to 2023.

Meanwhile, all the already manufactured Il-114 airliners ceased their operation. In 2010, the Vyborg company was shut down, and its aircraft were left at Pskov airfield. Until 2018, Uzbekistan Airways retired all its Il-114 from active operations due to low reliability and short service life of the Klimov engines.

In December of 2020, the Il-114-300 finally performed its first flight. The aeroplane was powered by new TV7-117-ST-01 (ТВ-117-СТ-01) engines developed by the Klimov company. At that time, the airliner was expected to receive the type certificate by 2022. However, in August of 2021, evaluation programme of the Il-114 was suspended for a few months, due to tragic disaster of Il-112V aircraft that was equipped with the abovementioned, new type of the Klimov powerplants.

As one would expect, the year 2022 brought another delay in the development and change of the deadlines. The beginning of the serial production was set for 2024 and the number of examples in the initial batch reduced to eight aeroplanes. During 2022, one prototype of the aircraft underwent static testing, and two more prototype examples were in different phase of construction.

In 2023, the TV7-117-ST-01 engines finally received the type certification. The first serial made Il-114-300 is still expected to be delivered to its customer within the year 2024. That first, and so far the only, potential buyer for the Il-114 regional airliner is State Transport Leasing Company (Государственная транспортная лизинговая компания) that ordered three examples of the aircraft.

Although – according to Russian press and the manufacturer – some other preliminary agreements were also signed and the total number of the ordered Il-114 aircraft exceeds sixty examples, it is highly questionable. Most of those orders were placed already in 2019 and have not been updated.

Photos show the Il-114LL (Ил-114ЛЛ) testbed aircraft, operated by the Radar MMS company as technology demonstrator. For almost a decade, it was the sole example of the airworthy Il-114 in Russia. The aircraft was displayed, inter alia, at MAKS-2017 and MAKS-2019 air shows, where the photos were taken.