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Taking a Flight on a Ilyushin IL-76TD – It’s Awesome

Discussion in 'Trip Experiences' started by vegli, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. vegli

    vegli Hangar Gold Member I

    Oct 12, 2012
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    RubyStar Airlines operates numerous IL-76TDs, but I only got to fly on EW-78836 – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    What’s better than flying on an IL-76MD like I did in North Korea? Flying on an IL-76TD somewhere outside of the most restrictive, hostile-to-photographers country on Earth, obviously.

    Inside the Navigator’s station of an IL-76TD (in flight) – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    So, you probably want to know what an MD does differently than a TD. Letters and a lack of observer’s post/tail gunner in the rear area under the tail. For a civilian IL-76TD, it is faired over. Sometimes, this fairing is done crudely – indicating MD-to-TD conversion most likely sometime after the collapse of the USSR. That’s really it. They’re the same in every other way. Same Soloviev engines, same flight deck, same lavatory nook.

    The lavatory of an IL-76TD – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

    This time on the IL-76, they let us take photographs. Lots and lots of precious photographs! So, because of this, it’s time for a history lesson.

    The IL-76 was built as an inter-theatre cargo hauler for the military. On top of that, it was useful for pretty much anything. Hauling and delivering VDV (Soviet Airborne) troops, AWA&C duties, airborne laser experiments, anything America has ever done with the C-141, C-17, or C-135 platform, the Russians have tried with the IL-76. Sometimes with hilariously terrible results.

    The IL-76 itself originated from a requirement to meet the Soviet dream of complete strategic airlift capability. In other words, they wanted the ability to move men, machine, and material across the world at a moment’s notice. Power projection. In the 1970′s, the Soviets used to practice moving entire divisions across the country, an act entirely possible because of the Ilyushin.

    The first Ilyushin 76, the static test aircraft, was assembled entirely at Ilyushin’s facility in Frunze. The rest were produced all around the Soviet Union’s index of aircraft assemblers, with many of the major subsystems originating from TAPOiCh in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (and the vast majority of frames).

    The IL-76 excelled at strategic airlift – it was used to move Cuban troops to bolster the puppet state within Angola – but the big combat test came in 1980 after the GRU and KGB could not hold Afghanistan on their own any longer. The IL-76 did a fantastic job in hauling the Soviet Army’s equipment in and out. Ironically, some of the same IL-76s ended up bringing contractors and smaller armies into Afghanistan to fight the same enemy once more after the events of 9/11.

    Today, the Russians use the IL-76 for the same reason they always have, but it is seen more as a “tramp steamer” of cargo aircraft. Servicing darkened airports to drop off pallets of ammunition of questionable legality. Last resort hauls of sea food. Things ACMI, freight forwarders, and everyone else can’t do.

    That’s actually a very profitable niche, especially when maintenance costs often consist of picking a donor part off an adjacent aircraft. 960 frames were built, with roughly 1/4 of that still in flight, so parts are readily available.

    Biggles likes this.

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