Updated: Sep 3
In this new series we take a look at airliners that don't get much attention. Some have seen service and some never got into production. These articles give a summary of the purpose, development and operational history. As a collector of scalemodel aircraft, I will also look at potential liveries that can be made. We start with two of the most succesful Soviet aircraft ever built: The Ilyushin IL-12 and IL-14.
The IL-12 was developed in 1943 as transport aircraft to replace the Lisunov Li-2, which was a Soviet license-produced version of the American Douglas DC-3 (which will be discussed in a seperate article). It featured a tricycle gear setup, which made it more comfortable for boarding and loading than the tailwheel configuration of the Li-2. Also it was more safe in case of overrotation on take-off or a tail-down landing. Originally it was planned to have a pressurized cabin, capacity of 29 seats and four M-88V engines, the same as on the IL-4 bomber. However, the design was changed considerably in 1944; the engines were changed to two Ach-31 V12 diesel engines, the presurized cabin was left out due to difficulty to get enough air from the diesel engines and the capacity was reduced to 27 seats. All of this resulted in a lower capacity, range and cruising speed. Finally the first flight was made in August 1945, but it didn't take long before more adjustments were made to the design; the engines were replaced with 14-cylinder aircooled engines as the diesel engines could not be brought up to the required standard for mass production in time. This change further reduced the range, but improved reliability. The aircraft took flight again in January 1946. The IL-12 measures 21.3 meters in length with a wingspan of 31.7m.
Testing and operational service
Testing did not go without trouble as the pilots experienced a lot of vibration and the aircraft could tip over when cargo was being loaded due to it's poor centre of gravity. Despite these issues, it was said that the IL-12 performed and handled better than the Li-2, which paid a major role in the decision to launch the production of the aircraft. The aircraft was superior to the Li-2 as its cruising speed was 100km/h faster and had a higher payload, resulting in a significantly lower cost per tonne/kilometer.
The IL-12 was revealed on the 1st of May 1947 during a flyby over the Red Square. After some final testing, Aeroflot was the first airline to take the aircraft in service in June 1947. They modified some of their IL-12's in order to land and take-off on icy runways during Antarctic expeditions. More orders followed by LOT Polish Airlines, who ordered the improved IL-12B in 1948, CSA Czech Airlines between 1949 and 1951, TAROM in 1949 and the Chinese CAAC. There were 663 produced in total, of which 56 crashed. Some are currently in static display, most of them being in China.
Some of the versions are:
IL-12-32: short haul airliner with a seating arrangement for 32 passengers and one toilet.
IL-12-16: instead of seats, there were 16 sleeper berths and two toilets.
IL-12 VIP: as the name suggest, these were fitted with a luxurious interior.
IL-12T: transport / cargo version with additional double door in the fuselage.
IL-12D: improved IL-12T with wider door, making it capable of paradropping troops in two rows.
IL-12B: improved IL-12 with new hot-air anti-icing system, dorsal fin and rudder with spring tab. This was the main export version.
In August 1953, flight mechanic and former Li-2 pilot Vladimir Polyakov stole an IL-12, registred CCCP-L1339, which was parked at Severny Airport. In the dark he attempted to fly the aircraft in the apartment of his wife after issues in their marriage, but couldn't exactly figure out which apartment it was and ended up circling above the city Novosibirsk for hours. Two fighter aircraft were sent out to force the IL-12 to land at Tolmachovo Airport. Vladimir declined, but after more than 3 hours in the air he landed safely at the same airport he took off from. At first he was sentenced to death, but a petition from Sergey Ilyushin himself reduced the punishment to only 3 years of prison, as Vladimir proved the aircraft's reliability in these conditions.
The Ilyushin IL-14 was developed from the IL-12 with the intention for both militairy and civil service. With the IL-12, pilots experienced severe problems with engine-out behavior and it only had a capacity of 18 passengers instead of the intended 32. To fix these issues, the IL-14 got new Shvetsov ASh-82T-7 radial piston engines, wings and a broader tailfin. The first flight was in October 1950, 3 years after the IL-12 went into service. Thanks to these improvements, a lot more IL-14's were build compared to the Il-12: 1348 in total, of which 80 in East Germany and 203 in Czechoslovakia. Those built in East Germany were assigned as VEB 14 and those built in Czechoslovakia as Avia 14. The factory where most IL-14's were build is still producing Ilyushin aircraft; the IL-76. Many variants existed, to name a few: the IL-14G was for cargo, IL-14P for passenger service, the IL-14M was a stretched version of the IL-14P, mainly to increase luggage capacity (one meter extra length) and IL-14T was for militairy transport. The IL-14M measures 22.3 meters in length and had a wingspan of 31,7 meters.
The first operator that took the IL-14 in service was Aeroflot in 1954. Many other airlines and airforces followed, most for states within the Soviet Union, but also southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Cuba. It can be considered one of the most succesfull Soviet built aircraft as it has seen a long operational history. The last one retired in Russia in 2005, which is 51 years after it started service with Aeroflot. Plenty can still be found at museums around the world. The easiest way to know if something is an IL-12 or IL-14 is by looking at the vertical stabilizer. The IL-14 has a flat part on top while the one on the IL-12 curves down immediately. Another difference is that the nosegeardoors on the IL-12 are noticably longer than on the IL-14.
stabilizer of Il-12 stabilizer of Il-14
Potential for scalemodels
Now let's look at what the possibilities are for scalemodels. The IL-12 and IL-14 (non-stretched variant) can have the same mould for the fuselage, gears and propellors, but the engines, nosegeardoors and vertical stablizer need seperate mouldings. The IL-14 has been made in 1/200 by Phoenix and Western Models, although there hasn't been a release since 2013.
The IL-12 mostly saw militairy service, not so much by civil airliners. Some possibilities are:
Aeroflot (at least two different liveries)
CSA Czech Airlines
LOT Polish Airlines
The Il-14 has a lot more options, here are some examples:
Aeroflot (at least two different liveries)
Malev Hungarian Airlines (at least two different liveries)
Tarom Romanian Airlines
Balkan / Bulgarian Air Transport (at least 3 different liveries)
Interflug (at least 3 different liveries)
CSA Czech Airlines (at least 3 different liveries)
Are there enough options that would sell well? I'm afraid not. The production numbers don't mean much when most of the aircraft were not used for civil services. The Convair 240 series have a lot more liveries and those are not particularly sought after in 400 scale. Many can be found for low prices years after being released. You may think that it should be possible when NG has a TU-204/214 mould, of which only 89 are build so far, but the major difference is that the TU-204 is still in service (and production) and thus attracts both modern and retro collectors.
The Ilyushin IL-12 and IL-14 were very succesful and versatile aircraft that saw service in many places all over the world for many decades. There were about as many of them build as the IL-18, IL-62, IL-76 and IL-86 combined. During development of the IL-12, Ilyushin was also looking at an aircraft with 4 engines, named the IL-18, but not the one you are thinking about right now. Stay tuned for part 2 of the Forgotten Airliner series as I will discuss it there!
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Last edit: 03-09-2023; information about the tricycle gear configuration changed.
OKB ILYUSHIN by Yefim Gordon, Dmitriy Komissarov, & Sergey Kommissarov, Midland Publishing, 2004.
Wikipedia: Ilyushin Il-12, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilyushin_Il-12
Wikipedia: Ilyushin Il-14, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilyushin_Il-14
Aircraft on thumbnail: Frank de Koster, https://oud16hoven.nl/gebeurtenissen/il-14s-op-rotterdam
Unfortunately I was unable to contact the publisher about permission to use pictures from the book. This article may be updated with more images in the future.