The long-awaited maiden flight of the Ilyushin Il-112V, the light transport plane slated to replace the ageing Antonov An-26 and An-24 airlifters in the Russian military, was successfully conducted on Saturday.
The modern aircraft took off from a runway at a test range in Voronezh, shadowed by an Il-114LL flying lab, the producer, Ilyushin, said in a statement. The 24-meter-long plane spent some 45 minutes in the air, flying at a speed of around 250 km/h and circling over the area several times before landing. The maiden flight was filmed by numerous plane spotters on the ground.
Russian defense officials hailed the maiden flight as a major milestone for the nation’s aviation industry. The Il-112V is the first military transport designed in Russia from scratch after the fall of the USSR disrupted cooperation of various defense labs and plants scattered across its former members. The model uses only domestically-produced parts, can carry up to 5 tons of cargo and is said to be much more efficient than the Soviet-designed Antonov transport plane it is meant to retire.
The project began in the mid-1990s, but saw a long pause before the model was chosen as the next light transport by the defense ministry in 2003. Another bump on the road came in 2010, when the ministry suspended its funding and opted for another variant, the An-140. The competitor however failed to meet expectations, so the Il-112V received a second life in 2013.