The IL-62 entered full passenger service on the Moscow to Khabarovsk route with Aeroflot on March 10, 1967 and the airline eventually operated over 180 of the type. The first flight of an IL-62 was as early as January 3, 1963 when it was the world’s largest jet aircraft but it required a lengthy development to design a suitable wing and acquire powerful enough engines. The first route proving flight was not until February 2, 1966 giving it a gestation period akin to the Bristol Britannia.
Aeroflot's long haul services had been operated entirely with the amazing Tupolev TU-114, which had visited New York as early as June 28, 1959 however though more than capable from a range perspective the turboprop behemoth never operated a scheduled service to its Western enemy. The TU-114 was however used to service Havana, Cuba nonstop from Moscow from February 7, 1963 albeit carrying only 60 passengers due to being routed via Murmansk for political / military reasons. As late as 1966 the TU-114 was opening service to Montreal and in April 1967 to Tokyo, in partnership with Japan Air Lines, however compared to jets the mighty TU-114 was obsolescent. In addition its incredible size and height made it incompatible with most airport equipment (especially airstairs) and it would be the IL-62 which would propel Aeroflot into a new age of international services.
Aeroflot introduced the IL-62 on a route proving flight to Montreal on July 11, 1967 followed by full service two months later. The journey took 9 hours 50 minutes compared to the TU-114's 12 hours 5 minutes. It was one year later on July 15, 1968 that Aeroflot took the momentous step of starting service to New York though due to the range shortcomings intermediate stops were required in both Shannon, Ireland and Gander, Newfoundland. Shannon would in fact become an important stopover base for Aeroflot and in time they opened their own fuel farm at the Irish airport.
Interestingly Aeroflot had no standard livery prior to 1975 with aircraft types usually having their own livery. Disappointingly no IL-62 has been made in the delivery scheme and only one has been made in the Soviet era colours. I wish Gemini jets would get itself into gear and produce more IL-62s.
The IL-62 was also used on some of the more prestigious European routes like Rome (October 9, 1967) and Paris (October 14, 1967). Though not particularly competitive with western jets Russia's geography made its services uniquely popular as flights to the Far East were substantially shorter when operating across Russia even after the stop in Moscow. Paris to Tokyo, via Moscow, for example was over 6 hours shorter than flying the Polar route across Greenland and Alaska. This sort of behaviour was generally frowned upon at IATA however Aeroflot managed to get away without much criticism. Gradually they started similar services from London, Copenhagen, Rome and Frankfurt.
The much improved IL-62M entered service in 1973 and remained a major component of the Soviet airline’s long haul fleet well into the 1990s. It had improved range which allowed one of the intermediate stops to be omitted when operating routes such as Moscow-Washington (begun on April 5, 1974). Aeroflot eventually operated over 180 aircraft. CCCP-8645 was built in 1978 and carried titles celebrating the 1980 Moscow Olympics. In 1992 she became RA-86485 and continued to serve until 1996 when she was scrapped.
Many other IL-62s joined new Russian start-ups like Interavia and Domodedovo Airlines. CCCP-86533 ‘Genrich Novozhilov’ first flew on January 31, 1983 and transitioned to Aeroflot’s Russian register in April 1993. Aeroflot finally retired its IL-62s and IL-86s from scheduled passenger services on November 1, 2001. By July 2003 this airframe was parked at Sheremetyevo. In June 2004 she joined VIM Airlines and by June 2005 was serving with their subsidiary Russian Sky Airlines. Her last operator was Interavia from October 2006 until late 2008. The frame was never repainted after Aeroflot service and instead merely received, usually inconspicuous, titles of its later operators. By August 2009 she was stored at Domodedovo.
Despite its shortcomings compared to Western types the IL-62 was a proud standard bearer of Soviet hospitality over more than 20 years and certainly added an exotic look to airports long after the similar VC10 had been retired from service.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: