Illusion

The Aircraft
The Ilyushin Il-76 is a first Soviet four-jet heavy transport designed to fly strategic military cargos.

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The Ilyushin II-76 is a landmark Soviet-era design. Russia’s first four-jet heavy transport, it was conceived and used to fly strategic military cargo into front-line air bases in the most extreme operational conditions.

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The II-76 prototype made its first flight in 1971. It was intended as a replacement for the An-12. Production commenced in 1974. The basic II-76 (NATO reporting name Candid-A) transport was built purely for military service. It saw extensive service during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Over 800 of these cargo aircraft were built, as well as a number of specialized versions. The Il-76 is currently in service with Russia, Algeria, Belarus, China, Cuba, India, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine.

This aircraft was designed to deliver heavy vehicles and machinery to remote, poorly-serviced airfields. It can operate from short and unpaved runways. The Il-76 can cope with the worst weather conditions experienced in Siberia and Arctic regions.

A bewildering array of other specialised variants have been developed for roles including mobile hospital, cosmonaut training and airborne command post, airborne laser platform and firefighter.

The Visit
The Captain was waiting near the top end of the ladder that felt as tall as a two-storey villa. Another ladder up led to the a small landing and a few more steps up to the flight deck. First question that came to my mind was whether anyone can ever fly this massive beast. A380s seemed like toys next to an II-76. Communicated with the Captain in Russian and English fluently; me in English, he in Russian. Signs came to our rescue and language never seemed to be a barrier any more.

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A simple mirror that projected out from the top of the flight deck clearly showed the tail end. Why install complicated gadgets or sensors when a mirror would do the job? One less sophistication to get concerned about.

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A complete tour was not possible within the allocated time to cover the entire aircraft, said “Do svidaniya!” to the courteous host. There will always be a next time…

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