Excellence Replaces Excellence
Taking to the air for the first time in October of 1950, the Ilyushin Il-14 transport, codenamed “Crate” by NATO, was the Soviet Union’s answer to the need of replacing the war weary Douglas DC-3 and Lisunov Li-2 aircraft which remained in military and civilian service in countries under the Soviet sphere of influence. Given the high degree of respect the Douglas aircraft and its license built Lisunov counterpart had earned for themselves throughout the Second World War, replacing them would be no easy task. It would take a very capable and durable aircraft to do that job and time would prove the Il-14 was indeed an aircraft up to the task.
The genesis of the Il-14 is to be found in another Ilyushin design, the Il-12 “Coach”. The Il-12 was a private venture by Ilyushin launched in Autumn of 1943 with the intent to replace the Li-2. The Il-12 first flew in August of 1945 and, despite several problems early in its developmental stages, enjoyed a production run of roughly 660 examples and use in nine countries. The general success of the Il-12 set the stage for the tremedous success that the Il-14 would become.
The Il-14 was an extensive reworking of the Il-12 design which resulted in an aircraft of much improved overall performance thanks to more powerful engines and a new wing of much more refined aerodynamic qualities.
The Il-14 was more efficient and safer to operate than the Il-12 had been. Most notably, the new engines and wing made the Il-14’s performance in single engine operations much better than the Il-12’s had been.
The Il-14 was built not only by Ilyushin themselves; 80 examples were built by FWD in East Germany and around 200 by Avia in Czechoslovakia. Though production totals do vary somewhat depending on source, most sources place the production total in the range of 1250-1300 airframes.
In a service career spanning roughly five decades, the Il-14 served the military and civil sectors of no less than 30 countries and was widely appreciated for reliability, serviceablity, efficiency, good flying characteristics and flexibility to operate in a wide range of climatic conditions, including regular use at both polar ice caps.
Parallels and Divergences
Generally speaking, the Il-14 had a close western counterpart in the early members of the Convair CV-240 family of aircraft. The various transport and airliner variants of the Il-14 were broadly comparable to the CV-240, 340 and 440 in that they were all powered by radial piston engines, were of comparable size and abilities and were made in both civil and military versions.
The paths of the two aircraft types diverged sharply when Convair developed the turboprop powered CV-540 and subsequent variations of the CV-240 line. Rather than pursue turboprop power on the Il-14, complete replacement aircraft were sought.
By the Crate Load
The Il-14 was built in a total of 14 different variants.
While most of those variants fell into the categories of commercial airliners or military transports, there are a few members of the family that fit other categories.
The Czechoslovak Avia Av-14FG was a specialised aerial survey, mapping and photography variant fitted with an additional crew station in a glass nose.
The Czechoslovak bulit Avia 14 Salon and Ilyushin bulit Il-14PS were specialised VIP transport versions with much more luxurious passenger cabins installed.
The Il-14TD “Crate-C” was a dedicated electronic inteligence (ELINT) variation for the Soviet air force.
Several one-off modifications of the Il-14 also existed for specialised aerial survey and research connected to a variety of scientific disciplines.
The Il-14 Today
Many Il-14s stopped flying in the 1980s and 1990s, having been replaced primarily by Antonov An-24 turboprop aircraft or Yakovlev Yak-40 jets.
While members of the Il-14 family can be found in several museums, only one or two are known to remain airworthy as of 2015.
Happily, the Il-14 does have its fans. A group of volunteers at the Aeropark museum in Budapest, Hungary restored an Il-14 to the point where the engines could be run. During a visit to the museum in October of 2015, a guide told me that only the left engine was runable and it was run rarely due to a lack of spare parts. Here’s a clip telling a bit about the plane and showing the starting of an engine:
Here is a link to the group’s website, there’s a lot of pictures and video clips showing the magnificent work this group has done so far with the aircraft. You don’t need to speak a single word of Hungarian to enjoy this:
This link will take you to the page of a group in Russia with two Il-14 aircraft restored to flying status: