Chasing Uzbekistan Airways’ Ilyushin Il-114

As I wrote about yesterday, I’m shortly headed to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with Matthew from Live and Let’s fly. I can’t wait to try Uzbekistan Airways’ 787 from New York to Tashkent, which should be an… interesting experience.


Photo courtesy Anna Zvereva, Wikimedia Commons

In the comments section I asked for tips about what we should do in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and reading these comments has made both of us more excited about the trip.

As aviation geeks, there’s something especially intriguing, though. Several of you mentioned how Uzbekistan Airways operates the Ilyushin Il-114. This is a Russian built plane, and only 20 of them were ever produced. Uzbekistan Airways has six of these planes in their fleet. Give that we have several days in Tashkent, how could we not fly one of these?

The Il-114 is a small prop plane with just 52 seats, in an all economy configuration.

Anyway, since there are an impressive number of Uzbekistan experts reading the blog, any thoughts on which destination in Uzbekistan we should visit for a day trip on the Il-114? We’d of course love to fly the plane and visit a cool city. It looks like Uzbekistan operates these planes primarily on domestic routes.

In looking at Uzbekistan Airways’ timetable, it seems they fly the Il-114 to Bukhara, Karshi, Navoi, Nukus, Termez, and Urgench.

Based on some initial research, Bukhara looks especially interesting, though you guys are the experts.

So, are we crazy for wanting to fly the Il-114? Which city should we fly to for the day?

(Featured image courtesy Andrew Dyubin, Wikimedia Commons)

Comments

  1. I am not an Uzbekibekibekistan expert 🙂 but this sounds like fun! Can’t wait for the trip report

  2. I flew this from Urgench to Tashkent 2 years ago. Urgench is about 20 minutes from Khiva which was an amazing walled city. Cant go wrong with Bukhara as well. Samarkand is the classic “must visit” city. Tashkent wasn’t that exciting but definitely stay in the Uzbekistan

  3. Of the 4 cities in Uzbekistan I’ve visited (Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva) I found Bukhara the most charming. Registan in Samatkand might be grander, but Bukhara had better vibe to it IMO.

  4. Lucky you guys should definitely check out Bukhara or Samarkand. Bukhara in particular has the feel of a real ancient Silk Road oasis town with loads to see (in addition to shopping for the famous local carpets).

    Samarkand, as the capital of Tamerlane’s empire (effectively Persia) in the 14th century has some amazing sights and the Registan (the main square) is one of the world’s great examples of medieval Persian architecture. The city itself though is larger and more modern overall (so less atmospheric) than Bukhara.

    Try and spend more time in Samarkand or Bukhara than Tashkent, which is huge and largely modern. An amazing country to visit!

  5. I visited the same cities as Henrik, and I agree re Bukhara. One thing about Uz is that it seemed to us that the tourism culture expects tourists to be in guided groups; there just isnt much geared to independent tourists. Nor is there much to do in the evenings. We found ourselves two nights in a row at the one late evening coffee shop / diner in Samarkand, a city of 700,000.

  6. Flew a 45 year old AN24 in Ukraine a couple weeks ago and that was the most scary flight I’ve ever been on. I think I’m gonna avoid ex-soviet planes from now on.

  7. @Jason

    Pfft. In the 1980s I flew domestic in Venezuela on a 1940s prop-driven Martin, with no pressurisation (hellish ear pain). The noise was horrific. Flames were visible out of the back of the engine exhausts (this was apparently normal). In-flight service consisted of a hostess wandering up and down the aisle with a large bottle of whisky.

    Ah, happy days.

  8. Definitely termez as there is a cross border market that exists between uzbekistan and afghanistan and you can visit this market freely.
    As for staying in tashkent for a few days seriously you need to live alittle and visit nukus khiva bukkhara and samarkand

  9. I’ll join the chorus here. Bukhara will be the easiest to make a day trip, Samarkand the most interesting. Timur, or Tamerlane, is buried there.

  10. Flew the crap Russian plane from Tashkent to Nukus, and drove back to Tashkent stopping in Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand. Khiva is really pretty and historic, Bukhara is pretty, Samarkand has the biggest palaces. Get a tour guide. Those planes are held together by duct tape and bailing wire.

  11. @Lucky- BUKHARA!!! Most people dont know this about me but my ancestors founded this city. They were also in the line of the throne!

    P.S. My last name is Bokhari (One of my ancestors changed it from Bokhara). So please do visit this city and tell us all about it!

  12. @Lucky – Bukhara. My wife and I few on the IL-114 from Tashkent to Bukhara. We enjoyed the journey with the locals 🙂

  13. Nuhara sanmarkand and termez inthe border with afghanistan! There you can see some buda places. You can take the 7:00am fly to termez and return in the 19:00 fly! I strong recomend you to fly in this airplane!

  14. Ben – when are you heading to Uzbekistan? I’m arriving on Saturday 8/12 and spending a few days at the Hyatt in TAS before heading out on tour of the rest of the country. Long time reader – would love to connect if you’re around then.

  15. I flew the plane from Nukus to Tashkent in 2013. At check in, a man was checking a full sheep carcus wrapped in clear plastic at the Nukus airport. They had him put additional wrap aroundit, and checked it! Loved each of the cities mentioned above especially Bukhara and Khiva. Samarkand loaded with the splendor of the Registan.

  16. Lucky,
    Worked and lived in Central Asia for 18 years and probably spent over a year of my life in Uzbekistan. Not much to see in Tashkent as the city was pretty much destroyed by the earthquake in the 60’s – several old structures and lots of modern government buildings – half day sightseeing max. Stay at Hyatt or the Intercontinental.

    Do spend a day and night in Bukhara – a charming desert oasis in the old town. Stay in a bed and breakfast instead of a hotel. You also should try to spend at least a day in Samarkand and if there for the night try to go to the sound and light show at night in Registan Square but latter is a must see in the daylight as well as the main market (you will feel like you are really on the old Silk Road).

    Re Tajikistan – not a lot to see in the city, it is was a remote Soviet outpost so you get a good sampling of Stalinist and post-Stalin architecture with a few local features thrown in. Hyatt is the best hotel but also several nice B&B’s.
    Nicest things to do is go into the mountains or better yet take a helicopter tour of the mountains.
    Have fun and will look forward to your comments after visit.
    Gorton

  17. Agree with one of the commenter, the real exotic ex soviet union aircraft is the Antonov AN-24 RV operated by motor sich airlines (same as the one who produce the engines + they have a must see museum in ukraine for aviation / engine geek). The aircraft is just too old school : they are even curtains… it’s really back to USSR.

    The Ilyushin Il-114 is a very modern aircraft compare to the AN-24 🙂

    As Motorsich is the last operator (and it’s really a mythic story for aviation geek) to operate regular schedule with AN-24, it’s really an experience and in my opinion, more interesting than the Ilyushin Il-114 wich is nothing really exotic.

    For Tajikistan i don’t know if they have received them already but they have ordered 2 Sukhoi Superjet 100, i love those aircrafts. Flown quite often with aeroflot and it’s an amazing mid-range aircraft. You can also try the business class with somon air, i had a quite decent flight with their 737-900ER.

  18. I’m regrettably late to this marvelous party.

    My two cents: Go to Bukhara.

    I personally would return to Nukus, which could be the set piece for a dystopian city in a science fiction novel. It’s fascinating! And Nukus is home to one of the world’s most incredible museums: the Savitsky Collection.

    However, Nukus is best enjoyed by geeks who are really into Soviet industrial architecture and propoganda art. Bukhara, on the other hand, is universally awesome.

    I am so looking forward to the IL-114 review! It could be the highlight of what already promises to be a classic OMAAT trip report. I got to fly on a Aeroflot IL-18 when I was in high school. I particularly remember three things:
    1) the deafening engine noise in the cabin
    2) the plane vibrated so badly that I was certain the engines were going to fall off
    3) the flight attendant having no hesitation in serving shots of vodka to this 16 year old kid.

    What an adventure!

  19. I flew the plane to Nukus. The town is not really worth seeing EXCEPT for the exceptional Savitsky Museum. But unless you’re into art, probably not worth. Although flying over the Kyzylkum desert is very impressive.
    Khiva is great but requires a short transfer from Urgench Airport. Bukhara is fantastic. But then it all depends where the Il-114 flies to nowadays. Be prepared for a brand new terminal in TAS without ANY amenities.

  20. Visited Uzbekistan myself in 2009 and would agree that Bukhara is the best for a day trip, while Samarkand is perhaps grander.

    However, if you’re up for an adventure of at least two days, I’d recommend flying to Nukus. This is the gateway to one of the largest man-made ecological disasters on the planet: the slowly disappearing Aral Sea. In Nukus you can rent a Soviet era UAZ-jeep with driver/guide to drive to what is left of the sea, a stunning drive of at least 6 hours. You camp at the ‘shore’ and drive back in the morning, stopping at Moynaq, which has fishing boats rusting away because the sea is 200 km away these days. Very impressive, saddening and inspiring at the same time. But perhaps not so much in the way of luxury travel 🙂

  21. Bukhara! You are indeed truly lucky, Lucky, if you get to fly on an IL-114. 20 years ago I had my only flight ever on a Tu-154, operated by China Xinjiang Airlines from Urumchi to Moscow via Novosibirsk. Because I wanted maximum seat time on that crazy old plane!

  22. Ben – I took a smooth 55-minute flight from UGC to TAS on a three-engine Tu-154B-2 back in 2008. The process of issuing the ticket at the Uzbekistan Airways office in Urgench involved a handwritten form with a half-dozen carbon copies, each of which needed to be hand-stamped by the clerk. Hopefully ticketing for domestic flights has been modernized in the past decade.

    The internet suggests that the particular plane I flew (UK-85600) is the former aircraft of both the president of Uzbekistan and the president of Afghanistan. The interior was dated but clean and well-maintained.

    Bukhara and Samarkand are must sees. Khiva is also worth a visit if you have the time. There’s a good English-speaking guide named Nodira in Bukhara.

  23. The IL 114 is not an ancient plane but an almost carbon copy of the Swedish Saab 340 and 2000 (first flights in 1983 and 1992), a living proof of how technological espionage perpetuates and fails. They wanted to make it wider, they made it unflyable. Only 17 were built (and for good reason), 2 were lost, 9 belong to various Russian agencies which may have lost them (they never publish these things) or recycled them as cafés. The remaining 6 planes are all operated in Uzbekistan, probably the “Soviet” way, i.e. they fly for two hours and remain in the shop for 2 days. Lucky, the odds of one crashing with you in it are weak but not VERY weak… There is neither Business Class nor First in them to review, so why take a chance? Especially as you can go anywhere of interest in the region flying B 737s or Sukhoi “Superjets”, really the only flyworthy Russian transport planes.

  24. Sukhoi “Superjets”, really the only flyworthy Russian transport planes.
    >>> 1000% agree, it’s an amazing aircraft. Love it.

  25. Please note, that all existing Il-114 were built in Uzbekistan, and not in Russia! Precisely at the TAPOiCh, Tashkent Aircraft Plant, named after (Russian pilot) Chkalov.
    The plant once was the largest plant in the USSR – or Soviet Union. Uzbekistan is one of the States, following its departure in 1991. The Russian Federation, which is the official name of Russia, is planning to continue the output if Il-114s soon from an aviation plant near Moscow.

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