By all accounts, Ilyushin was a "hot-shot" pilot. He was the son of the famous World War II-era hero and aircraft designer, Sergei Vladimirovich Ilyushin, Sr. The senior Ilyushin was a close Communist Party pal of Soviet Premiere Kruschev, so he could have gotten his son lined up to be the prime pilot for the Red's first manned spaceflight.
For Tsarinsky, Yuri Gagarin seems an odd choice to fly the historic "first" mission. Why? Well, he says, Gagarin was a complete unknown in the Soviet Air Force, at least until the Reds broke the story mere moments after the historic flight was successfully concluded.
A news story, filed by a British Communist Party journalist in Moscow dated April 8, 1961, reported that after three orbits, Ilyushin lost contact with mission control.
The British Red's report continued with an amazing story-
After reentry, and as his Vostok approached the ground, Ilyushin planned on ejecting from the capsule (just as Gagarin did a few days later). The plan was for the cosmonaut to parachute safely to the ground. But, the story goes, a fouled escape-hatch prevented Ilyushin from bailing out in time. He lost consciousness just as the spacecraft impacted the ground. Although still alive, the cosmonaut was severely injured. And one final matter complicated Ilyushin's rough return to terra firma: the Vostok had landed inside Red China; at that time, China was on rocky terms with its neighboring communist state, the USSR
The USSR's state-controlled news outlet, TASS, did not publicize a pre-Gagarin flight; however, TASS reported that a pilot named Ilyushin was injured in an automobile accident and was recuperating in a Moscow hospital-a clear sign that something was afoot. Conspiracy or confusion?
As far as Tsarinsky can tell, Ilyushin was badly injured upon impact; he remained in a Chinese hospital for more than a year.