Il-114-300 on the way to becoming Russia’s local hero | In depth
Resurrecting a three-decade-old aircraft design whose original production barely slipped to double digits takes some confidence and self-confidence.
But Russian company United Aircraft (UAC) believes there is a market for a modernized version of the Ilyushin Il-114, designated the -300, to provide a domestically-built alternative to foreign types such as the ATR 72. and the De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400.
The Il-114-300 owes its rebirth in part to the Dash 8-400, formerly known as the Bombardier Q400 – a final assembly line for which has been the subject of discussions between the Canadian aircraft manufacturer and the company Russian state-owned technology company Rostec, as part of a preliminary agreement in 2013 to sell the turboprop to Russian carriers.
Negotiations to finalize an agreement establishing a Q400 production plant, possibly in Ulyanovsk, failed, the effort certainly not helped by the international political friction that followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea. in early 2014.
With potential customers still interested in turboprop engines, the Russian government turned to modernizing the Il-114 and setting up a new assembly line.
The result of this decision, the Il-114-300 program, is part of a Russian import substitution strategy whereby the government is trying to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers and revive its own aerospace industry – an industry that suffered in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union when Russian airlines chose to introduce popular Western planes.
“We have updated our technologies in the small regional aircraft segment in order to develop regional transport within the country,” United Aircraft first deputy chief Sergei Yarkovoy, head of Ilyushin, told FlightGlobal. .
Just a day after the maiden flight of Irkut’s MC-21-310, with its home-made engines, the Il-114-300 prototype also took off for the first time, taking off from Zhukovsky airfield for initial tests. stability and controllability on December 16 last year.
“Its flight test program is ongoing,” Yarkovoy says. “By introducing new technologies, with a high level of process automation, we are assembling the second aircraft and are ready to go into series production. “
The original Il-114 from Ilyushin, with its Klimov TV7-117 engines, appeared at a critical moment in Soviet history, flying for the first time since the airfield of the Gromov Institute in Zhukovsky in March 1990 – just four months after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The break-up of the Soviet Union complicated development, as the manufacture of the Il-114 was entrusted to the Tashkent Aircraft Production Organization located in the newly independent Uzbekistan. The aircraft’s test program also suffered a setback with the fatal loss, attributed to an engine problem, of prototype 54001 during takeoff from Zhukovsky in July 1993.
Foreign participation enabled the creation of a modified variant, the Il-114-100, certified in December 1999 with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127H engines and avionics from Collins and Honeywell.
Il-114s made a number of appearances at MAKS Moscow airshows, and a cargo version was developed.
But outside of Uzbekistan Airways and Russian regional carrier Vyborg Airlines, which have each introduced a handful of planes, the type has gained little in popularity. One of the original Il-114s then served as a radar system test bed with the Russian company Radar MMS.
Dozens of Antonov An-24 and An-26 that the Il-114 was developed to replace remain in service, and the Russian government still believes the turboprop has great potential – not only as a successor to the types of the Soviet era, but as a means of meeting the demand for better domestic connections. Russian government regulations on subsidized routes give preference to operators using nationally-built aircraft.
The modernized -300 is Russian-built this time, with the serial production line located at the RAC MiG facility in Lukhovitsy, near Moscow.
“We are trying to combine two principles in this plane,” Yarkovoy explains. “On the one hand, to make the aircraft unpretentious to maintain, easy to maintain, including a low level of demand for airport infrastructure – the aircraft has an integrated ramp, for example, [and] it does not require special equipment for maintenance and pre-flight preparation.
“On the other hand, there is a need to offer passengers a modern level of comfort and convenience in the cabin,” he says.
“We understand the demand for a large amount of hand baggage, and such baggage that passengers can independently place in the cabin. The design of the aircraft includes three options for the conversion of the cockpit and luggage compartments.
The update to the old Il-114 airframe involved the development of a digital flight and navigation suite from KRET, comprising five LCD screens, with avionics allowing the aircraft to perform landings in Category II conditions.
It is equipped with TV7-117ST engines delivering 3100 shp (2310 kW), benefiting from parallel work to develop the Il-112V light military transport. The powertrain, which also features a new automatic control system and a propeller, underwent four stages of testing installed in the left interior position on an Il-76 airborne test stand.
United Engine expanded its ground test facility in Omsk last year by opening a fully automated bench for the TV7-117ST, with monitors displaying graphical engine operating parameters. Klimov chief designer Stanislav Konashkov said it would allow the company to perform all of the required powertrain testing to “get it certified on time,” and provide a platform to support development work. long-term.
The Voronezh-based aircraft manufacturer VASO is responsible for several Il-114-300 structures, including wing and tail sections, as well as engine nacelles, while the Ulyanovsk Aviastar produces fuselage panels, doors and hatches. Other fuselage compartments are produced by the Sokol Aircraft Plant, associated with RAC MiG, in Nizhny Novgorod.
Final assembly of the aircraft is underway at the MiG factory in Lukhovitsy where a jig-less automated production platform – capable of aligning structures with an accuracy of 10 microns – has been put in place to reduce the complexity and costs while increasing flexibility.
MiG and Sukhoi have been operating under a unified management structure since early 2020, headed by Ilya Tarasenko.
Tarasenko says that the companies, which have mainly focused on military aircraft, have undergone changes – modernization of equipment and retraining of personnel – to diversify into the production of civilian airframes. The use of digital technologies, previously deployed mainly during the early stages of development, has been extended to facilitate production and support the product lifecycle.
The Lukhovitsy plant carried out the assembly of the fuselage sections of the second prototype -300 as well as the assembly of the wing and tail structures.
“Manufacturing technologies are being developed on this second prototype which will allow serial production of aircraft to be established as quickly as possible,” explains Rostec Executive Director Oleg Yevtushenko.
Yarkovoy says the -300 will use several new systems that have been specially developed for the aircraft and will go into production for the first time. Most of the components are supplied by various Rostec companies.
The aircraft will have an improved auxiliary power unit, an air conditioning system – with domestic composite materials – fire protection and pressurization systems, and a light power supply network.
Rostec says the cockpit takes into account “modern standards of ergonomics”.
“We are creating a safe, comfortable and easy to maintain regional aircraft suitable for Russian operating conditions,” Yarkovoy said. He expects the second prototype to enter the flight test program this year.
Yevtushenko says the plane will be able to serve unpaved runways in remote locations, while being “easy to use” and economical. He estimates the fuel consumption of the Il-114-300 to be approximately 500 kg / h (1,100 lb / h).
The aircraft has a length of 26.9 m (88 feet 3 inches) and a wingspan of 30 m and is designed to accommodate 68 seats. It will be able to carry a maximum payload of 6.8 t over a range of 755 nm (1,400 km), with a cruising speed of up to 270 kt (500 km / h).
The UAC says the plane will be able to provide air services to people in the northern, eastern and Siberian regions of Russia. It will be able to serve locations with “weak aerodrome infrastructures” and “difficult climatic conditions”, he adds.
“The modern passenger cabin will provide a comfortable flight through the entire range of altitudes,” the company says. He says the design of the Il-114-300 is designed to be rugged, with a lifespan of 30,000 hours.
Prototype aircraft 54114 completed its second test flight, lasting 2 h 47 min, on January 19, during which it operated at altitudes of up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Her crew of three tested navigation equipment, radio communications and power systems.
Ilyushin intends to increase the frequency of test flights to meet an ambitious schedule, with certification and initial deliveries scheduled for 2022. As part of the series production plan, the Lukhovitsy plant will increase production to 12 planes per year.
While the Il-114-300 retains much of the external design of the original Il-114, program director Maxim Kuzmenko points out that the project’s timelines have been “tight” and says the modernization of the aircraft on-board systems is very important.
UAC Director General Yuri Slyusar says the -300 “will open up new prospects for the Russian civil aviation industry.”
State lessor GTLK has announced plans to engage in the turboprop by signing an interim deal for up to 50 aircraft, while regional carriers KrasAvia and Polar Airlines have each expressed interest in becoming operators of it. -114-300.
UAC’s latest long-range forecast for commercial aircraft, covering the 20-year period from 2020 to 2039, puts total demand at 42,130 – of which turboprop engines will account for 1,960 units. The company estimates that turboprop engines with more than 60 seats will account for about three-quarters of that total, although it does not foresee a significant increase in the number of operators.
Evaporation of the potential deal to build the Q400 in Russia could give the Il-114 a second chance to achieve the success it failed to achieve the first time around. GTLK’s commitment alone, if fully exercised, would more than double the total production of its earlier variants.
The fact that MAKS 2021 is one of the few aerospace shows to take place this year illustrates the lingering uncertainty in the aviation industry. UAC hopes that the presence of the -300 will make a lasting impression.