a man standing in front of a plane

Trip Report: Flying The Soviet Transporter IL-76 to Iraq

The Ilyushin Il-76 is a multi-purpose, fixed-wing, four-engine turbofan strategic airlifter designed by the Soviet Union's Ilyushin design bureau. It was first planned as a commercial freighter in 1967.

Recently, I flew on SilkWay Ilyushin IL-76TD-90 transporter from Baku, Azerbaijan to Erbil, Iraq. It was a mission of a lifetime!


About IL-76TD-90

a large airplane on a tarmac

Before the flight, I took a photo with all the airmen. It took a strong team of 5 men including 2 pilots, a flight engineer, a radio controller, and a navigator to operate the aircraft. The flight also carried a loadmaster and 2 technicians.

This particular IL-76TD-90 has new stage 4 noise compliant engines (Perm PS90 engines) instead of the older and noisier Soloviev D-30 engines. It can fly to any airport unrestricted (noise abatement) with better performance.

the engine of a plane

The cockpit looked different from the Western conventional airplane. Some parts of the cockpit has been modified and digitized.

the cockpit of an airplane
the cockpit of a plane

One of the highlights before departure is to climb up to the top of the IL-76 through its escape hatch door. The wingspan was massive!

a man smiling at the camera
the wing of a plane

Before takeoff, the captain and loadmaster briefly introduced the cockpit and the cargo cabin.

Inside the cabin, it has a crane system and ramp system able to load without any existing infrastructure in remote airfield.

a man standing in a cargo van
Loadmaster Jeyhun is ready for the cargo mission. We carried just 20 tons of cargo on pallets. The capacity of IL-76 is about 50 tons.
a sign with instructions on it

The Flight to Erbil, Iraq

The cockpit of IL-76 split into the upper deck where 2 pilots and flight engineer and a radio controller sit.

a group of people in a plane

A navigator sits on the lower deck, with a view of the glass nose.

a man in a pilot's cockpit

Loadmaster has its own station too in the pressurized cabin.

a man sitting in a chair with a microphone

My flight to Erbil took 2.5 hours. The IL-76TD-90 flies at about 700-750 km/h.

Our cruise was around 30,000 ft. The fuel burn at cruise was about 1.6 tons per engine. It is interesting to see 2 iPad holders on top as pilots don't use paper charts anymore.

a group of men in a plane
a man in a pilot's seat

Watch the takeoff of IL-76 on my video:

a map of a flight route

View of the Perm PS90 engines overwing.

The view is absolutely the best from the navigator's office.

inside a cockpit of a plane
a man in a cockpit

We crossed the Caspian Sea, entering Iran and later made a right turn towards Iraq. The landscape gradually became desert.

a jet engine in the air

We were number 3 on approach and was put on hold in a DME ARC. The air was pretty rough with thermals and clouds over Erbil. There were other military planes such as C-17 and A400M landing before us.

a group of men in a plane

Watching the landing on my video:

Erbil to Baku

We didn't spend long on the ground at Erbil. The cargo took just 15 minutes to offload through the rear ramp and a high loader. After dropping off the cargo, we flew back to Baku empty.

a plane on the ground
the engine of a plane

The IL-76 took about 8 mins to start the engines, one by one after push back. The 2 technicians will be responsible for communicating with the cockpit on engine start and push back. Once all engines had started, they get inside the aircraft and close the door to depart.

a man standing next to a large airplane

Unlike An-124, IL-76TD-90 do not require engine warm-up on the runway, it is ready to depart immediately.

a man in a cockpit of a plane
inside a cockpit of a plane
a view from inside of a plane

We took off from Rwy36 of Erbil quickly, with the long runway end in sight from the glass nose of IL-76.

I settle down and have my late lunch in the cabin with a big smile. I think it was the internal satisfaction from flying the IL-76.

an airplane wing with a blue and white engine

To be able to experience a flight on the IL-76 put a huge smile on my face and my heart. I am glad to be able to showcase the unique operation of this great transporter. The unique capability of the IL-76 has supported many air missions in the world.

a group of men in uniform standing in front of a plane


Watch the video for landing in Baku. The views are beautiful across the Caspian Sea.