ILYUSHIN IS DUE to fly in December the first production-standard Il-96M, with a Western two-man cockpit and avionics suite from Rockwell's Collins Commercial Avionics.

The Russian bureau is also giving a fresh push to plans for a twin-engined version of the aircraft, now dubbed the Il-98, which could get the go-ahead by the end of this year.

The Collins two-man cockpit is to be standard, on all future Il-96M passenger and Il-96T cargo versions, of the four- jet wide body. The Il-96M proof-of-concept aircraft, which has been flying since 1993, has a three-man cockpit, as did the earlier Il-96-300.

The Collins systems are now under test in integration rigs in Moscow in preparation for the flight, which will be followed by a six-month flight-test programme before deliveries of aircraft to Aeroflot - Russian International Airlines (ARIA).

ARIA has ordered ten Il-96Ms, as well as ten Il-96Ts, to be delivered between 1996 and 1999, subject to the approval of a financing package for the US content of the aircraft - including its Pratt & Whitney PW2337 engines - from the US Exim Bank. The bank is awaiting further information on the programme before making a decision in September.

According to Ilyushin chief designer Igor Katyrev, the company is also proceeding with preliminary planning on the Il-98 twin-engine version of the aircraft, which could be produced in passenger and cargo versions "within two to three years" following a six-month design stage.

The two main potential power plants are Pratt & Whitney's PW4000 turbofan, and the Rolls-Royce Trent. Katyrev says, that General Electric's GE90 is also under consideration.

Source: Flight International