I am no longer under deadline pressure, which means it’s time for more arbitrary jetliner rankings (Boeing, Airbus, Other Western European)! Today’s journey takes us to the former Soviet Bloc for all of your unsafe, unreliable, and/or inefficient favorites. This is the largest set in my series, so please enjoy (or not, based on last week’s comments, I’m going to guess people will want the Il-62 higher).
1. Tupolev Tu-144
The Concordski! It actually flew before the Concorde but budget limitations and a high profile crash at the Paris Airshow delayed its entry into service until over a year after the Concorde. A second crash after only a few months of service ended its time as a passenger aircraft with just 55 commercial flights. Still, it was an amazing technical achievement (and looks damn cool).
2. Ilyushin Il-96
Developed from the Il-86, The Il-96 was an advanced and modern widebody when it first flew in late 1980s. Unfortunately for Iluishin, the increased cost and maintenance requirements of a quad-jet (especially one running less efficient Russian engines) made it economically uncompetitive with the 767, 777, and A330, to say nothing of the 787 or A350.
3. Ilyushin Il-86
The Il-96's older brother, the Il-86 was a significantly more primitive aircraft. Never competitive with the 747 or A300, production was abruptly halted following to collapse of the Soviet Union.
4. Sukhoi Superjet
Russia’s premier fighter manufacturer teamed with Boeing to produce a modern regional jet to compete with the best from Embraer and Bombardier.
5. Tupolev Tu-104
For a time, during the Comet’s grounding, the twin-engine Tu-104 was the world’s only operational jetliner. High landing speeds combined with pre-jet-age runways necessitated the use of drag chute for landings, not a common feature on passenger airliners. An unsuccessful quad engine version, the Tu-110 flew, but does not appear to ever have been used in commercial service, while a shrunk down version, the Tu-124 will be discussed later.
6. Ilyushin Il-62
One of the more successful Soviet airliners, the Il-62 shared the British VC10's unusual design, fueling unsubstantiated, but entirely plausible reports of industrial espionage.
7. Antonov An-148/An-158
A modern regional jet entering service at the end of the last decade, this Ukrainian jet has failed to obtain much interest outside of Ukraine, Russia, and Cuba.
8. Yakovlev Yak-40
This small Soviet trijet is notable for its straight wing, allowing it to operate from shorter runways.
9. Tupolev Tu-154
Extremely successful with over 1000 aircraft produced, and a small number still in service nearly half a century after it first flew (it was produced until 2013).
10. Tupolev Tu-204/Tu-214
Conceived as a replacement for the Tu-154, the Tu-204 has struggled to compete against Western competitors, despite the fact it is available with quiet and efficient Rolls-Royce engines.
11. Irkut MC-21
Intended to compete with the 737 and A320 families the MC-21 is a new airliner preparing it’s first test flight. It currently has nearly 200 firm orders.
12. Yakovlev Yak-42
Developed from the Yak-40, the Yak-42 ditches the straight wing for a more conventional sweep, while increasing cabin size.
13. Tupolev Tu-134
Over 850 of the short-haul jets were built from the mid ‘60s to the later ‘80s. A small number remain in service. Early models featured a glass nose. The cancelled Tu-334 was intended as possible replacement.
14. Tupolev Tu-124
Recognizing the need for a smaller jet, the Tu-124 was a shrunk down version of the Tu-104 with other minor changes. It was quickly replaced by the Tu-134.
The amphibious Be-200 is available in a passenger configuration, but as of yet has only been sold for firefighting purposes. If it were operated by any passenger airlines, it would rank very high on this list because flying boat. While the FAA would obviously not be keen on the idea, imagine how useful it would be to be able to fly commuter flights directly to and from the city center in cities on large bodies of water.
While not actually available in a (non-military) passenger configuration, North Korea’s Air Koryo does use the Il-76 cargo aircraft to transport passengers to and from the country.