Russian passenger and cargo operator Polet Airlines will shortly put its fourth Ilyushin Il-96-400T freighter into revenue service. The aircraft was build at the Voronezh VASO plant under contract with lessor Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC), which is now handing it over to Polet under financial lease.
The Il-96-400T is an all-cargo stretch on the Il-96-300 passenger airliner. The thrust of its modified PS-90A1 engines is augmented by 1,400 kg to 17,400 kg and a reduced-emissions combustion chamber. The Il-96-400Ts was certified in April 2008. Polet received its first two examples in October 2009, the third was delivered in February 2010. The airline is happy with the new aircraft, which have helped it break into the scheduled market for palletized freights both domestically and on Europe-Asia routes. Polet transported over 49,000 t of freight and mail 2010, becoming Russia’s fourth largest air freight operator for that year.
In terms of cargo cabin dimensions and payload capacity the Il-96-400T is close to the Boeing 777F freighter, but its four engines (against the 777’s two) worsen the aircraft’s economic performance. There was a discussion some time ago about the possibility of designing a twin-engined Pratt & Whitney-powered Il-96 freighter. Sources at Polet say such an aircraft would be 15% more fuel efficient, in addition to having better range and cargo capacity. These plans, however, are unlikely to be implemented. Furthermore, the future of Il-96-400T production itself remains uncertain because VASO has already completed all the unfinished airframes left over form the previous years and there are no customers for newly-built aircraft.