By the early 1960s, Soviet international and internal trunk routes were served by Aeroflot, the state airline, using jet or turboprop powered airliners, but their local services, many of which operated from grass airfields, were served by obsolete piston-engine aircraft such as the Ilyushin Il-12, Il-14 and Lisunov Li-2. Aeroflot wanted to replace these elderly airliners with a turbine-powered aircraft, with the Yakovlev design bureau being assigned to design it. High speed was not required, but it would have to be able to operate safely and reliably out of poorly equipped airports with short (less than 700 m or 2,300 ft) unpaved runways in poor weather.
Yakovlev studied both turboprop and jet-powered designs to meet the requirement, including Vertical Take-Off and Landing designs with lift jets in the fuselage or in wing-mounted pods, but eventually they settled on a straight-winged tri-jet carrying 20 to 25 passengers. The engines were to be the new AI-25turbofan being developed by Ivchenko at Zaporozhye in Ukraine.
The Yak-40 is a low-winged cantilevermonoplane with unswept wings, a large T-tail and a retractable tricycle landing gear. The passenger cabin is ahead of the wing, with the short rear fuselage carrying the three turbofan engines, with two engines mounted on short pylons on the side of the fuselage and a third engine in the rear fuselage, with air fed from a dorsal air-intake by an "S-duct", as is an auxiliary power unit, fitted to allow engine start-up without ground support on primitive airfields. The three AI-25 engines are two-shaft engines rated at 14.7 kN (3,300 lbf). The engines have no jetpipes, and initially no thrust reversers.
The pressurized fuselage has a diameter of 2.4 metres (94 in). Pilot and co-pilot sit side-by-side in the aircraft's flight deck, while the passenger cabin has a standard layout seating 24 to 27 passengers three-abreast, although 32 passengers can be carried by switching to four-abreast seating. Passengers enter the aircraft via a set of ventral airstairs in the rear fuselage.
The wing is fitted with large trailing-edge slotted flaps, but has no other high-lift devices, relying on the aircraft's low wing loading to give the required short-field take-off and landing performance. The wings join at the aircraft centerline, with the main spar running from wingtip to wingtip The wings house integral fuel tanks with a capacity of 3,800 litres (1,000 US gal; 840 imp gal). The aircraft has a large fin, which is swept back at an angle of 50 degrees to move the tailplane rearwards to compensate for the short rear fuselage. The horizontal tailplane itself is unswept.
The first of five prototypes made its maiden flight on 21 October 1966, with production being launched at the Saratov Aviation Plant in 1967 and Soviet type certification granted in 1968. The type carried out its first passenger service for Aeroflot on 30 September 1968. In the 1972 version, a tailspin was removed. In 1974, new version was introduced, with non-stop flight distance increased. Also, the forward door on the right side of the fuselage changed its place it was located together with the sixth window.
In 1975, the last upgrade of Yak-40 took place the number of cabin windows on the right side changed from nine to eight.
By the time production ended in November 1981, the factory at Saratov had produced 1,011 or 1,013 aircraft. By 1993 Yak-40s operated by Aeroflot had carried 354 million passengers. As well as being the backbone of Aeroflot's local operations, flying to 276 domestic destinations in 1980, the Yak-40 was also an export success. More than this, Yak-40 became the first Russian/Soviet aircraft to get flying certificates from Italy and West Germany. It was demonstrated in 75 countries of the world, including the USA, where orders on Yak-40 were made.
STR-40DT A proposed fully composite derivative along the line of TVS-2DTS, also being developed by SibNIA. Endorsed, but not supported by Yakovlev.
As of July 2018, a total of 22 out of 1011 Yakovlev Yak-40 aircraft remain in service. The airworthiness of several Yak-40 of smaller Russian and Central Asian charter airlines is uncertain, as is the whereabouts of one Air Libya Tibesti aircraft after the civil war. Most aircraft in service today have been reconfigured for VIP-charter services, with fewer than ten remaining in scheduled passenger service. Known operators are:
On May 4, 1972, Aeroflot Flight 608, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87778), crashed while on approach to Bratsk Airport after a loss of control caused by windshear, killing all 18 on board.
On February 28, 1973, Aeroflot Flight X-167, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87602), fell back onto the runway at Semipalatinsk Airport during takeoff due to crew error, killing all 32 on board.
On August 8, 1973, Aeroflot Flight A-547, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87790), ran off the runway on takeoff from Arkhangelsk Airport after the elevators locked up due to an electrical problem, killing the co-pilot.
On November 2, 1973, an Aeroflot Yak-40 was hijacked by four people who demanded money and to be taken to Sweden; the plane was stormed on the ground at Moscow and the hijackers arrested. Two people died.
On May 2, 1974, Aeroflot Flight 1255, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87398), ran off the runway at Rostov Airport following an aborted takeoff, killing one of 38 on board.
On May 23, 1974, Aeroflot Flight N-166, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87579), crashed near Kiev due to possible crew incapacitation, killing all 29 on board.
On December 14, 1974, Aeroflot Flight 124, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87630), overran the runway at Bukhara Airport following an aborted takeoff due to a locked elevator, killing seven of 19 on board.
On July 15, 1975, Aeroflot Flight E-15, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87415) struck Mount Mtirala, Caucasus Mountains, during a go-around at Chorokh Airport in poor weather, killing all 41 on board.
On August 15, 1975, Aeroflot Flight A-53, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87323), entered a downdraft and nearly stalled and subsequently crashed on approach to Krasnovodsk Airport due to pilot error and unfavourable weather conditions, killing 23 of 28 on board in Turkmenistan's worst-ever accident.
On October 22, 1975, Aeroflot Flight L-98, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87458), crashed near Novgorod Airport. Visibility was poor at Novgorod due to fog, but this was not forecast to the crew. A straight-in approach was attempted, but the aircraft went off course after passing the outer marker. The descent continued until the landing gear and wing struck a building and later crashed into an apartment building and a car, killing all six on board and five on the ground.
On March 19, 1976, a Syrian Arab Airlines Yak-40S2 (YK-AQC) was hit by a RPG during boarding at Beirut International Airport; Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karam had just boarded the aircraft, but he survived the attack.
On September 9, 1976, Aeroflot Flight 31, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87772) from Rostov Airport to Kerch Airport, collided in mid-air with Aeroflot Flight 7957, an Antonov An-24 (CCCP-46518), over the Black Sea 37 km (23 mi) off Anapa due to violation of separation rules, the error of both aircraft crews and probably ground ATC. All 18 occupants of the Yak-40 and 46 people on board the An-24 died.
On December 17, 1976, an Aeroflot Yak-40 (CCCP-88208) crashed shortly after takeoff from Ust-Kut Airport due to crew errors, killing all seven on board.
On March 30, 1977, Aeroflot Flight N-925, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87738), crashed on approach to Zhdanov Airport in poor visibility after descending too low, killing eight of 28 on board.
On November 16, 1979, an Aeroflot Yak-40 (CCCP-87454) was being ferried from Velikiy Ustlug to Vologda as Flight 564 when it crashed at Vologda Airport after descending too low, killing three of the five crew.
On February 3, 1980, a Cubana Yak-40 (CU-T1219) crashed on landing at Baracoa Airport, killing one of 37 on board.
On June 12, 1980, Aeroflot Flight W-88, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87689), struck the slope of a mountain 44 km (27 mi) northwest of Dushanbe Airport due to navigational errors by the crew while attempting to avoid bad weather, killing all 29 on board.
On August 29, 1981, Aeroflot Flight 674, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87346), crashed at Zeya, Russia while on approach after descending too low, killing three of 34 on board.
On September 18, 1981, Aeroflot Flight V-652, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87455) from Irkutsk Airport to Ilimskiy Airport, collided in mid-air with an Aeroflot Mi-8 helicopter (CCCP-22268) on a training flight while approaching its destination airport. The supposed site of the collision occurred in the clouds. All 33 on board the Yak-40 and seven occupants of the Mi-8 were killed, making it the third deadliest Yak-40 incident at the time.
On April 19, 1983, Aeroflot Flight E-46, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87291), struck a mountain 26 mi from Leninakan Airport after the crew deviated from the flight route and later descended too low, killing all 21 on board.
On October 11, 1985, Aeroflot Flight G-7, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87803), struck a mountain side 29 mi west of Kutaisi in poor weather while climbing to 2,400 m (7,900 ft) from 300 m (980 ft), killing all 14 on board. The accident was attributed to ATC errors.
On May 17, 1986, an Aeroflot Yak-40 (CCCP-87928) crashed in the Ob River floodplain (11 mi from Khanty-Mansiysk Airport) after a wing separated during a test flight, killing all five on board. The aircraft was being test-flown following repairs from an incident on April 18, 1986.
On June 19, 1987, Aeroflot Flight N-528, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87826), overran the runway on landing at Berdyansk Airport following an aborted go-around in heavy rain and a tailwind, killing eight of 29 on board.
On January 24, 1988, Aeroflot Flight 29674, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87549), experienced failure of number 1 and 3 engines during take-off from Nizhnevartovsk Airport. Engine number 2 also experienced some problems, but recovered while engines one and three eventually failed. The plane stalled, crashed and broke up, killing 27 of 31 on board. Cause was possible crew error.
On August 2, 1988, at Sofia Airport, a Hemus Air Yak-40 LZ-DOK crashed on take-off. All civil traffic had been halted minutes before because of the departure of the Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov's Tupolev Tu-154. After the delay, air traffic control cleared LZ-DOK for take-off to Varna, asking the crew to expedite their departure. Trying to leave in a hurry, the crew did not set the trim correctly and began their take-off run from the middle of the 3000 m runway. The aircraft failed to become airborne, overran the runway into a ravine and caught fire, killing 29 of 37 on board. The "black box" of the airplane was never found.
On August 1, 1990, Aeroflot Flight E-35D, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87453) traveling from Zvartnots Airport, Armenian SSR to Stepanakert Airport struck a mountain 22 km (14 mi) away from its destination killing all 46 on board. The cause was probably pilot error (premature descent).
On November 7, 1991, Yugavia Flight S-519, a Yak-40 (CCCP-87526), struck Kukurtbash Mountain (14 mi north-northwest of Makhachkala Airport) in poor visibility, killing all 51 on board; the aircraft was overloaded and was designed to carry 32 passengers, not 47.
On March 27, 1992, another aircraft from Aeroflot Armenia (registration unknown) with 30 passengers and four crew, on an evacuation mission from Stepanakert to Yerevan, was hit after take-off by a MANPADS (reported by a source to be an SA-7) launched by Azeri forces. The missiles damaged one of the plane's engines and there are conflicting reports either forced the pilots to land at Sisian (on Armenian-controlled territory) or made it to Yerevan.
On May 9, 1992, a third Aeroflot Armenia aircraft (CCCP-87532) on evacuation mission from Stepanakert to Yerevan with 30 passengers (refugees and wounded) and three crew, was attacked above Kalbajar District (a now Armenian-occupied part of Azerbaijan) by gunfire from an Azeri Sukhoi Su-25 flown by Vagif (or Vaghit) Kurbanov, an Azeri pilot that had defected with his aircraft a month earlier from Russian forces stationed at Sitalchay. The crew managed to make a gear up land at Sisian airfield. Everyone survived but the plane was written off.
On August 28, 1993, a Tajik Air Yak-40 (87995) operating a non-scheduled flight that was grossly overloaded with 81 passengers and five crew members overran the runway on takeoff at Khorog Airport and crashed into the Panj River. The crew were killed and only four passengers survived. The crew may have been forced to overload the aircraft. This is the deadliest accident involving a Yak-40 as well as the deadliest accident in Tajikistan.
On February 25, 1994, a Yak-40 (OB-1559) operated by Expreso Aéreo, piloted by two Russians and one Peruvian, struck Mount Carpish six minutes after leaving Tingo María, Peru for Lima. The 31 occupants were killed.
On September 26, 1994, a Cheremshanka Airlines Yak-40 (RA-87468) from Krasnoyarsk Airport, Russia to Tura was unable to land at Tura because of bad weather so was diverted to Vanavara. It ran out of fuel due to crew and ATC errors and crashed while attempting an emergency landing on a river, 41 km (25 mi) from Vanavara. All 28 passengers and crew were killed.
On October 27, 1994, Rostov Air Enterprise (Donavia) Flight 156, a Yak-40 (RA-88254) was hijacked on October 25 while en route to Rostov from Ashgabad by one man claiming to have a bomb. After reporting the incident the pilot returned to Makhachkala. The hijacker demanded 2 million US dollars and to be flown to Iran. The aircraft landed and some passengers were released, but more hostages were not released until the next afternoon on October 26. By that evening all passengers were released, leaving the hijacker and some of the crew on board. Shortly after midnight on October 27, they too were released. Just before sunrise, as the aircraft was about to be stormed by security forces, the hijacker blew himself up with a homemade bomb. The blast damaged the plane, and it was written off.
On November 5, 1994, another Peruvian aircraft (OB-1569) belonging to Amazonic regional airline Servicios Aéreos Amazónicos, that was serving the Trujillo-Saposoa-Juanjuí-Tocache-Lima schedule, crashed into the Saposoa River after overrunning the airstrip during landing. The aircraft either crashed due to heavy rain reported at the time. From the 31 occupants (26 passengers and 5 crew) 5 passengers and 1 crewmen died.
In 1996, two Weasua Air Transport Yak-40s (RA-87290 and RA-87999) were destroyed on the ground at Sprigg Payne Airport after being struck by RPG-7 anti-tank rockets during the First Liberian Civil War.
On 19 February 1997, a Semeyavia Yakovlev Yak-40 overshot the runway on landing at Semey Airport, Kazakhstan following a scheduled domestic passenger flight. There were no fatalities among the 14 passengers and four crew members on board, but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
On May 15, 1997, an Azerbaijan Airlines Yak-40 (4K-87504) crashed near Gyandzha Airport during a training flight, killing all six on board. Stray small-arms fire from Azerbaijani soldiers on the ground struck an oxygen cylinder on the Yak-40, starting a fire. Control was lost and the aircraft crashed.
On May 25, 1998, a Lao Aviation Yak-40 (RDPL-34001) crashed in a jungle near Long Tieng, Xiangkhouang in heavy rain, killing all 26 on board.
On August 26, 1999, an Uzbekistan Airways Yak-40 (UK-87848) struck power lines during its second approach to Turtkul Airport; the aircraft landed wheels-up and slid for nearly 500 feet before it hit an embankment, killing two of 33 on board.
On March 9, 2000, Vologda Air Flight 9651, a Yak-40 (RA-88170), stalled and crashed shortly after takeoff from Sheremetyevo Airport due to wing icing and crew error, killing all nine on board. The aircraft was operating a charter flight to Kiev for Aeroteks.
In 2000, a Ecuato Gunieana de Aviacion Yak-40 (RA-87847) was written off after its tail was hit by a taxiing Swissair MD-11 at Santa Isabel Airport. The aircraft was leased from NovgorodAvia; the accident occurred sometime after July 2000.
On January 13, 2004, Uzbekistan Airways Flight 1154, a Yak-40 (UK-87985) from Termez Airport to Tashkent International Airport carrying 37 passengers and crew, crashed; the crew failed to descend for approach on time. Finding the runway too short to land, a go-around was attempted but failed. The plane touched down beyond the end of the runway and the left wing struck a concrete building, with the subsequent crash and fire killing all on board.
On March 17, 2011, two Air Libya Yak-40s (5A-DKG, 5A-DKM) along with an Air Libya Boeing 737 were written off following attacks at Benina International Airport during the First Libyan Civil War.