Ilyushin Il-86 & Il-96

This Ilyushin aircraft family was the first wide-body jet airliner in the Soviet Union, and still remains as such until the CR929 sees the light. Externally, there is quite a similarity with the Airbus A340. The Il-96 (and Il-86) has different cockpit windows (nearly triangular last window) and taller winglets, apart from smaller differences. The Il-86 also as different engine nacelles and lacks winglets.

Nose and cockpit windows of Ilyushin Il-86 (and Il-96).

Engine nacelles of Il-86.

Different versions

To differentiate between the different Il-86/Il-96 subtypes you have to look at

  • the length of the fuselage
  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the existence of a cargo door
  • the number of windows between cabin doors and emergency exits

Ilyushin Il-86

There were no high bypass jet engines yet when the Ilyushin Il-86 was developed, so it has noisy turbofans in slim nacelles. They are recognisable by the rectangular shaped fan exhaust on the side of the nacelles. Also unique to the Il-86 are the entry doors in the lower fuselage, one just behind the nose gear and the other before the tail.

Ilyushin Il-86

Engine nacelles of Il-86.

Ilyushin Il-80 (Il-86VKP)

This is the airborne command post version of the Il-86, having NATO reporting name "Maxdome". The aircraft is also known as Il-86VKP, from vozdushniy komandnyi post. It can be distinguished from the regular Il-86 by the large bulb on top of the forward fuselage, refueling probe and lots of antennas.

Ilyushin Il-80 (Il-86VKP) - photo Wikimedia (Dmitry Terekhov)

Ilyushin Il-96-300 & -300PU (Il-96)

In the 1990s finally more efficient Russian engines became available and these were used to modernise the Il-86. The first variant of the Il-96, as the aircraft is designated, is the Il-96-300, although it was known simply as Il-96 until new variants came along. It has a shorter fuselage than the Il-86, larger diameter engine nacelles with a single exhaust, and winglets. With these engines it looks like the A340-200, but is shorter and has four wheels on the middle main landing gear instead of two wheels.

Cubana aircraft are designated Il-96-300M, probably because these aircraft are slightly different from the ones operated by Aeroflot.

The VIP version used by the Russian government is called the Il-96-300PU, where PU means 'punkt upravleniya' or command post. It has a very long dorsal fin, probably holding special equipment.

Ilyushin Il-96-300

The Il-96-300PU can be distinguished from the standard Il-96-300 by the extended dorsal fin and other extra antennas. (photo: Dmitriy Pichugin/WikiMedia)

Engine nacelles of Il-96-300.

Ilyushin Il-96M & Il-96T

The second version of Il-96 was the stretched Il-96M, which is almost 10 metres longer than the Il-96-300, and even 4 metres longer than the Il-86. The aircraft is equipped with four Pratt & Whiney PW2337 engines, with separate fan exhausts. This make is easy to distinguish from the other versions but at the same time externally most similar tot the A340-500/600. The Il-96T is the cargo version of the Il-96M, having no cabin windows and a large cargo door in the left front fuselage.

The Ilyushin Il-96M was an attempt to make the Il-96 more attractive for western airlines.

The Il-96T is a long Il-96 with western engines and no cabin windows. (photo: Peter Vercruijsse)

The Pratt & Whitney engines of the Il-96M, with separate fan and core exhausts.

Ilyushin Il-96-400M, 400T & 400VPU

The Pratt & Whitney powered version never came in production and Ilyushin converted the Il-96M/T to the Il-96-400 variants, featuring Russian avionics and engines. The latter are the same as on the Il-96-300, so having a single exhaust. There are three subtypes:

  • Il-96-400M, the passenger version, of which the construction started in late 2018
  • Il-96-400T, the cargo version, having no cabin windows and a large cargo door in the left front fuselage
  • Il-96-400VPU, an airborne command post like the Il-86VKP, with a bulb on the rear top fuselage

Ilyushin Il-96-400M

Ilyushin Il-96-400T

Ilyushin Il-96-400VPU - photo Wikimedia (Dmitry Terekhov)

Confusion possible with

Airbus A340

a340 500

It is no surprise if you mistake an Airbus A340 for an Ilyushin Il-86 or Il-96. The differences are quite small. Look first at the last cockpit window and the winglets to distinguish them. When looking further you will also notice more subtle differences in tail cone, vertical stabiliser and landing gear.