Old An-124s to be Rejuvenated in LEJ – Updated Report 

The aging fleet of mighty Antonov-124 freighters will be modernized at Leipzig/Halle Airport, says Volga-Dnepr’s boss. Details of the project shall be revealed at Berlin’s Air Show ILA to be held from 20 to 25 May, 2014.

The capacity of the Volga-Dnepr/AirBridge Cargo hangar at Leipzig airport shall be doubled once the An-124 modernization program is kicked off  /  source: hs
The capacity of the Volga-Dnepr/AirBridge Cargo hangar at Leipzig airport shall be doubled once the An-124 modernization program is kicked off / source: hs

Volga-Dnepr’s influential President Alexey Isaikin waited until the parliamentary evening held in Berlin a couple of days ago had almost ended. Before the first participants left he drew the attention to the last point standing on his agenda – the outlook for future projects. “Our plan is to rejuvenate the An-124 fleet in Leipzig,” he told the stunned politicians and dignitaries that attended the rather exclusive get-together. 

Isaikin went on to say that Volga-Dnepr is pushing plans speedily forward in order to technically update the big freighters, with Airbus becoming a close partner, or better said, their East German subsidiary EADS Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EADS EFW).The motto of the Dresden-based passenger-to-freighter conversion specialist being: ‘We provide a second life to aircraft’.

But surprisingly enough, shortly after Isaikin’s announcement Elbe bluntly rebuffed his approach. “We definitively do not enter into a joint venture agreement with Volga-Dnepr,” Elbe speaker Christopher Profitlich told CargoForwarder Global. His enterprise is not willing to sign any commitment of capital tie-up, he emphasized. “However, if they’d knock at our doors asking for the service provisions offered by Elbe Flugzeugwerke we could discuss this issue.”

Those are comprehensive packages comprising the entire range of maintenance and overhaul services for both freighters and passenger aircraft. Apart from this, EADS EFW is executing structural modifications and repairs as well as cabin, cockpit and avionics modifications on behalf of Airbus but also provides third party engineering services.

This comprehensive range of skills makes the Airbus subsidiary almost a natural partner for Volga’s intended An-124 enhancement program, particularly since they are based in Dresden, which is just 120 kilometers away from Leipzig.

The answer to the question why Isaikin mentioned EADS EFW as his future partner is quite easy: because the flight decks of the AN’s need to be equipped with modern western technology, by predominantly exchanging outdated mechanical control systems and fitting in advanced electronic devices instead. This way, the lifespan of the giant freighters could be extended by some additional fifteen to twenty years. The spending wouldn’t be of any risk since demand for airlifting outsized and heavy items is constantly increasing.

An almost tailor made job for Elbe. And there is another aspect that should not be underestimated: The state of Saxony which both Dresden and Leipzig belong to is strongly supporting closer ties between the local aviation industry and Russian firms.

Meanwhile, a wide-ranging discussion resulting in CargoForwarder Global’s and follow-up reports published in other media about the fate of the An-124 project is taking place. It will be interesting to see what Mr. Isaikin will have to say on the project’s state of progress at the upcoming Berlin Air Show ILA held from 20 to 25 May at Berlin’s Expo Center adjacent to BER Airport.

Heiner Siegmund