Cubana takes first VIP Ilyushin Il-96

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Cuban flag carrier Cubana has received its first VIP-configured Ilyushin Il-96-300 around two months later than scheduled due to financing issues.

Russia’s decision to ground its Il-96 fleet for two months during 2005 because of problems with a hydraulic brake controller on the type also contributed to the delay.

The Il-96-300 features a quick-conversion cabin allowing it to be used for VIP- or revenue-passenger duties. A second aircraft is due to be handed over later this month and Cubana is also expected to firm up options on two more Il-96-300s.

The $110 million deal marks the first export contract for the four-engined airliner. The VASO-built Il-96s are being imported by Cuban state agency Aviaimport, with Ilyushin-Finance acting as lessor backed by a syndicate of Russian banks.

The Il-96-300VIP is equipped with an English-language cockpit specially developed by Ilyushin for Cubana.

VLADIMIR KARNOZOV/MOSCOW