Airplane GEEK

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The Best Selling Soviet And Russian Aircraft

Russia is a fascinating country when it comes to aircraft production. Over the years, interesting designs for commercial and military aircraft have come out of the country, both in its current form and historically as the Soviet Union. We recently looked at how some of these compare to their Airbus and Boeing equivalents. Today, we shall examine which Russian and Soviet aircraft have garnered the most sales.

Antonov An-12 Aeroflot
The An-12 is one of multiple Antonov planes to sell 1,000+ units. Some examples remain active today.    Photo: Felix Goetting via Wikimedia Commons


We’ll kick things off alphabetically by exploring some of the best-selling aircraft from the legendary Soviet (and now Ukrainian) manufacturer Antonov. One of this manufacturer’s best-selling designs has been the An-12, which first flew in December 1957.

Although it was primarily intended as a military version of the An-10, numerous airlines have also operated it. As seen in the picture above, one of these was Russian flag carrier Aeroflot. Overall, Antonov produced 1,248 An-12s between 1957 and 1973.

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Antonov An-24
The An-24 outsold the An-12 by more than 100 units. This was despite entering service after the An-12. Photo: Dmitriy Pichugin via Wikimedia Commons

As it happens, the late 1950s also saw the first flight of what would become Antonov’s second aircraft to sell more than 1,000 units. This came in the form of the 44-seat An-24, which first took to the skies in October 1959. It entered service three years later.

Like the An-12, the An-24 found use both the military and commercially. Another parallel is that both remain in limited service in certain parts of the world. Overall, 1,367s were produced, including examples of the Chinese reverse-engineered Xian Y7.

Antonov An-74
The An-74 is a civilian version of the military An-72. Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to jet-powered aircraft, Antonov hasn’t been able to hit the heights achieved by its aforementioned, four-figure-selling turboprop designs. However, in the form of the An-72 and -74, it is approaching the 200 units mark. These curious-looking twinjets serve both military and commercial roles, with 195 having been produced since 1977.


Moving onto Ilyushin, this is also a manufacturer that successfully produced more than 1,000 units of a certain aircraft. This came in the form of the Il-14. Alongside its military roles, it flew for airlines such as East German flag carriers Deutsche Lufthansa (not to be confused with Germany’s present-day national airline) and Interflug.

Ilyushin Il-14
An Aeroflot Il-14 in Stockholm in 1970. Photo: Lars Söderström via Wikimedia Commons

Overall, Ilyushin produced 1,348 Il-14s. The aircraft was a development of the Il-12, which itself had proven very popular. Ilyushin managed to sell 663 units of the Il-12. This was despite the aircraft only being in production between 1946 and 1949.

Another Ilyushin design that cleared the 600 mark in terms of sales was the Il-18, which first flew in 1957. The company produced 678 of these four-engine turboprops between 1957 and 1985, with its principal operators being Aeroflot, Air Koryo, and Rossiya.

Ilyushin Il-18
Romanian flag carrier TAROM was one of the airlines to fly the Il-18. Photo: kitmasterbloke via Flickr

In terms of jet-powered aircraft, Ilyushin’s best-seller has been the Il-62. It designated this aircraft as the successor to the aforementioned Il-18, and produced 292 examples of it between 1963 and 1995. Its four rear-mounted engines bore similarities to the Vickers VC10. At the time of its first flight, the Il-62 even held the honor of being the world’s largest jetliner.

Ilyushin Il-62
LOT flew its IL-62s to the likes of London Heathrow Airport. Photo: Tim Rees via Wikimedia Commons


Next on the list is Sukhoi, a manufacturer with traditionally more of a military focus. However, the 21st century has also seen it dip its feet into the world of commercial aircraft. Indeed, May 2008 saw the five-abreast Sukhoi Superjet 100 take its first flight.

The type entered service three years later with former Armenian flag carrier Armavia. The Superjet has since gone on to sell 172 examples, and it remains in production.

Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet
Russian flag carrier Aeroflot presently has 30 Superjets in its fleet. Photo: Getty Images


Unlike Antonov and Ilyushin, Moscow-based Tupolev is a manufacturer that has succeeded in producing a jetliner that has sold more than 1,000 units. The aircraft in question is the Tu-154, whose three rear-mounted engines draw comparisons to British and US aircraft such as the Hawker Siddeley HS-121 ‘Trident’ and the Boeing 727 family.

Tupolev Tu-154
Production of the Tu-154 only ceased in 2013. Photo: Dean Morley via Flickr

Overall, Tupolev produced 1,026 examples of the Tu-154 between 1986 and 2013. It was a particularly handy aircraft when it came to wintery conditions at the unpaved or gravel landing strips in Russia’s more remote regions in the north and east of the country.

The Tu-134 was this aircraft’s predecessor. It also sold relatively well, totaling 854 units between 1966 and 1989. However, in contrast to the Tu-154, this design only featured two rear-mounted engines. Soviet/Russian flag carrier Aeroflot was the type’s largest operator.

Tupolev Tu-134
Tupolev produced more than 850 Tu-134s. Photo: kitmasterbloke via Flickr

Tupolev’s earlier jetliners didn’t quite hit such high sales numbers as the aforementioned Tu-134 and Tu-154, but are still worth a quick mention. The company produced 201 Tu-104s between 1956 and 1960. It then developed this aircraft into the Tu-124, of which it sold 164 examples. The Tu-104 was the world’s second-ever jetliner, after the de Havilland Comet.

Tupolev Tu-104
The Tu-104 was the world’s only commercially active jetliner between 1956 and 1958, when the de Havilland Comet was grounded for safety reasons. Photo: Lars Söderström via Wikimedia Commons


Finally, we come to Yakovlev, which has one example of an aircraft that exceeded 1,000 sales. This came in the form of the Yak-40, with sources putting the number produced at either 1,011 or 1,013 examples – a tremendous achievement either way. The Yak-40 first flew in October 1966, and entered service with Aeroflot in October 1968.

Yakovlev Yak-40
The three-engine Yak-40 typically seated around 32 passengers. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

More recently, Yakovlev has also produced a larger three-engine narrowbody, known as the Yak-42. This has a capacity in the 100 to 120-seat range, and 185 were produced between 1979 and 2003. Unsurprisingly, it was a direct development of the aforementioned Yak-40.

Have you ever been on any of these best-selling Soviet and Russian aircraft? If so, which one(s)? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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