It is common for some to only think about aircraft manufactured in the United States and Europe, completely overlooking the Russian aviation industry. Russia has a long history in the business and some interesting aircraft also.

To date I have not had the pleasure of flying on board a Russian jet. It is something that is now within reach since Ireland’s CityJet operates the Superjet SSJ100. While I can do that easily, what are other Russian aircraft like?

A Russian Long Haul Aircraft

With a first flight in 1989, the Ilyushin Il-96 is a long range Russian aircraft with four engines. With a range of up to 11,500 kilometres it is still a workhorse for Cuba’s Cubana de Aviación. Cubana owns the last three in commercial service in the world.

One feature of the aircraft is the complete lack of overhead bins in the centre of the cabin. This means there is oodles of space which recalls the way the Lockheed Tristar cabin looked back in the early 1970s.

Business class is quite spacious and the seat coverings remind me of the old British Airways Club Europe seats. Air vents for all passengers on this Russian airliner are in the back of the seat in front of you, which is very different to western aircraft. No personal entertainment though, so pack your iPad!

A Russian Medium Haul Aircraft

First flying in 1990 and entering service in 1995 is the Russian Tupolev Tu-204. This aircraft is generally considered to be the equivalent of the Boeing 757.

There are a few of these aircraft in service today and one of the airlines using them is North Korea’s Air Koryo. They choose to have a striking red and white interior that looks really very nice.

A Tupolev TU-204 can fly up to 5,800 kilometres and is in fact the only aircraft Air Koryo are permitted to fly into Europe. Despite this, the airline only operates services to China and Russia, so you’ll need to go there to head on to North Korea.

Overall Thoughts

I’m an aviation geek from way back, but I’ve never made the time to fly on a Russian built aircraft. Considering how few of the old guard are left in the world, I really should get my skates on and do it.

Looking ahead, there is the Sukhoi Superjet which is already in service and the new Irkut MC-21 coming up. This aircraft made its maiden flight in May 2017 and is powered by the Pratt & Whitney 1400G which are engines in the same family as those powering the new Bombardier CSeries and the Airbus A320neo.

Have you ever flown in a Russian airliner before? I’d love to hear what it was like from a passenger perspective as I’d find it fascinating. Thank you for reading and please leave your comments and questions below.

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Featured image by Ole Simon via Wikimedia Commons.
Cubaba Economy Class photo by DomodedovoSpotters via Wikimedia Comons.
Cubana Business Class photo by Christian Waser via
Air Koryo Tupolev TU-204 by Hyeonwoo Noh via Wikimedia Commons.
Air Koryo Economy Class by Topolinochamp via Wikimedia Commons.