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Ilyushin Il-18 Coot

There were two IL-18s, the first one of them was a 66-seat passenger liner of the same class as Tu-70 powered by four radials. The first prototype flew on 17 August 1946. The original Il-18 was also a four-engined propeller aircraft (Nato ASCC reporting name Clam), also called SPD, was 97ft 11in (29.855m) long with a wing span of 134ft 10in (41.1m). This earlier piston-engined airliner of the same name turned out to be ahead of its time and was destined never to enter production.

According to one story, it was effectively cancelled at a stroke by Stalin when he saw it and asked the designer, Sergei Ilyushin, how many passengers it could carry? He replied, '66 Comrade Stalin, and a planned assault version will carry 90 troops'. Stalin retorted, 'Think what would happen if it crashed. You had better forget about this aircraft'.It was abandoned in favor of Li-2, IL-12 and IL-14 already in production. The designation IL-18 was used again ten years later.

Wikipedia suggested that "First developed as a piston engine powered aircraft, which was based on a Russian copy of the B-29, it later became one of the most prolific turboprop aircrafts in the world. After the piston-powered version was canceled because the competing design used more common parts of the bomber version, it was resurrected in 1965 in its current form." So much for the wisdom of crowds.

The Ilyushin Il-18 is a large turboprop airliner resembling the Lockheed Electra and the Vickers Vanguard. As one of the best known Russian aircraft, it is also one of the most popular and long lasting. The Ilyushin Il-18 is a four-engine medium-range transport aircraft for up to 5 crew and up to 110 passengers [Il-18D]. Ilyushin's Il-18 turboprop airliner played a significant role in developing the USSR's air services in the 1960s and 1970s, and has also been adopted for a variety of military roles, ranging from transport, to command post, Elint and maritime patrol.

The Il-18 was originally developed against a mid-1950s Aeroflot requirement for an economical 75 to 100 seat airliner. It was planned to join the fleet of Aeroflot Antonov An-10s that served both as domestic and international airliners. The Il-18 Moskva (Moscow) was flown for the first time on July 4th 1957, powered by four Kuznetsov NK-4 engines. Four other prototypes and an unprecedented 20 pre-production aircraft followed, some powered by Ivchenko AI-20 engines. The AI-20 proved superior and powered the first production model.

A series of route proving flights established the type's reliabilty and testing was completed in Marcb 1958. Production began in 1957 and carried on until 1968. The Il-18 entered airline service with Aeroflot in 1959, when a 75-seat Il-18 entered service on April 20th 1959 on a domestic Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Adler. The first international service was flown to London in October 1959.

One of the best planes ever built in the Soviet Union was the Ilyushin IL-18. It provided excellent performance - combining speed with range and reliability. In 1960, the Hungarian Malev was the first airline of the time's Communist countries to introduce the IL-18 to its fleet. The IL-18's success story, in fact, began with the original of this model, carrying the registration HA-MOA. Today, the plane is exhibited in the open-air museum near Budapest's airport Ferihegy. The Polish airline Lot also had a number of these bestsellers in its fleet.

Further developments of the model resulted in a number of improvements and growing capacity. The early services were flown by IL-18s and IL18Bs, which had a longer range and room for 84 passengers, but problems with the engines led to a series of crashes and a redesign, into the IL-18V, from 1961. The V model had seating for 111 passengers and was distinguished by smoother nose contours. This configuration for 111 people had an interior that took account of Russia's harsh winters with ample space set aside, in line with the props, to store passengers winter coats. In later versions these fittings could be removed and extra seats added.

Next came the long-range IL-18I, with extra fuel tanks in the wings and an increased payload enabling 125 passengers to be carried. The I did not go into production but design features were incorporated into the IL18D, which entered service in 1966. In the mid 1960's, the Il-18's engines were again upgraded and the seating capacity was again increased, this time to 122. This last civil production version, the Il-18D built from 1965-69, was utilised with the 4250 hp AE-20K engine could carry 110 or max 122 passengers. The final civil model was the IL-18E, or IL-18Ye, which mated the fuselage of the IL-18D to the lower capacity wings of the IL18V.

When production ended in 1969, over 600 [many sources range as high as 800] Il-18 airliners of all versions were built - mainly for USSR and Soviet client state airlines - in the GAZ-30 Znamya Truda (Banner of Labor) plant at Khodinka in Moscow in the former USSR. By the mid 1970's, almost all Il-18s had been removed from regular civil and military use and were converted into Il-38 May patrol aircraft and Il-20 Coot-A electronic intelligence aircraft. Only a small fleet of original Il-18s still fly today in their original roles. The turboprop-powered ll-18s have largely been retired from Aeroflot use and replaced by turbofan-powered airliners. Today the type has all but disappeared from passenger service but lives on in Russia and the United Arab Emirates as a freighter.

Despite some initial difficulties, this Soviet equivalent of the Lockheed Electra eventually proved to be extremely successful, offering high comfort and good operating economics, for its day. The IL-18 was supplied to many 'friendly nations' in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Its uses included passenger and cargo carriage, VIP transportation, support of Soviet research stations in Antarctica, electronic espionage and various research and development programs, both civil and military. A smaller number delivered for military service as VIP and general transports. Given the NATO reporting name 'Coot', a small number remained in military service at the end of the 20th Century.

On paper, Phoenix Aviation has its headquarters in Kyrgyzstan, but its operational seat is Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The airline operates up to ten Ilyushin IL-18s for its passenger, cargo, and combined flights. To the joy of many aircraft fans, Cuban airlines often have to rely on Soviet "vintage planes" for financial reasons. That also goes for Aerocaribbean, founded in 1982. Although it can boast three modern ATR turboprops of its own, its Ilyushin IL-18s remain the flagships.

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