When one thinks of Antonov, then immediately the much publicized Antonov AN-124 freighter comes to mind.
Much has been written about Antonov, the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer in the past months especially the fact that the massive AN-124 aircraft’s future production lies in the balance.
However, Antonov has made quite a breakthrough during the past days by making public that it has signed a contract with Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Airlines for the purchase of 10 Antonov-178
By no means not as big or as expensive as the AN-124 mother ship, but an attractive deal for Antonov with maybe the promise for more to come.
The AN-178 made its maiden flight on May 7th of this year after its roll out in April and Silk Way’s purchase is the first of its kind for the new aircraft.
The AN-178 is an interesting aircraft for short and medium haul flights
It has a maximum payload of 18 tons and can carry 10 tons over a longer 4,000 km stretch. The freighter is basically derived from the existing AN-148 passenger jet which is in use for regional services.
This new Antonov freighter is seen as the replacement aircraft for the older AN-12, AN-26 and AN-32 types which are no longer built.
It is interesting to note that the AN-178 has its own loading ramp as does the larger AN-124.
Replacing the AN-12
Silk Way Airlines presently operates four AN-12 short haul freighters which will be replaced with the newer type.
The carrier’s main fleet of Boeing freighters is the backbone of their long haul cargo operation and is presently supplemented also by some Ilyushin Il-76 freighters.
Zaur Akhundov, president of Silk Way on signing for the new aircraft commented that “this aircraft is universal. It is very attractive by technical characteristics and it is a very good replacement for the AN-12.”
AN’s dependence on the Russian market dwindles
In a further move, Antonov has made a deal with Beijing based A-Star Science & Technology Company to buy two of the AN-178 aircraft and eventually produce the aircraft in China.
Antonov also reports that it is going to partner with Saudia Arabia’s Taqnia Aeronautics to develop and manufacture the AN-132 which will be an updated version of the old AN-32 turboprop which has a payload of 7.5 tons.
Antonov seems to be slowly but surely taking away its independence on the Russian market.
John Mc Donagh