Ilyushin expects to wrap up flight-testing of the new Il-76MD-90A in the second half of 2014, after initiating the regime with a sortie to Moscow Zhukovsky on 28 January.

The upgraded transport got airborne from Ulyanovsk for a 4h 25min flight, during which it climbed to an altitude of 33,000ft (10,000m) en route.

The Ilyushin design bureau says the initial test programme covered powerplant checks, stability and control characteristics and missed approach operation.

Three more of the type are in various stages of assembly at the Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar production facility, and Ilyushin says a second batch of aircraft will enter production later this year.

Previous versions of the Il-76 were assembled in Uzbekistan, at Tashkent's Chkalov aircraft production plant.

Aviastar general director Sergei Dementiev says the maiden test flight is a "significant event" for the Russian facility, but adds: "We don't intend to stop here. There is still work ahead of us to produce the aircraft."

The modernised Perm PS-90A-76 engines are intended to cut fuel burn by 12% and improve the aircraft's range by 18%. The airlifter also incorporates glass cockpit avionics, with eight multifunction liquid-crystal displays.

Ilyushin general manager Viktor Livanov says a three-stage test programme will include 22 initial flights by the developers, followed by a longer phase of operational tests comprising 60 flights. The Il-76MD-90A will then undertake specialised testing for troop transport and parachute-assisted cargo drops, with the full test programme to be completed in the third quarter of 2014.

Russia's defence ministry signed a production order in October 2012 to acquire 39 of the new model, the first prototype of which made its flight debut the previous month.

Source: Flight International