The Ukrainian aircraft producer presented plans at the Paris Aérosalon to completely modernize their An-124 freighter dubbed “Ruslan”. This announcement was made by Dmitry Kiva, the former Antonov Director General recently downgraded to Chief Designer.
According to Kiva the Ruslans operated by Antonov will be equipped with an up-to-date ‘glass cockpit’, replacing mechanical flight deck devices by installing electronic instruments. “We decided
to develop and improve the performance of our Ruslans,” stated the manager. This also includes plans for enhancing the engines to reduce fuel burn and enable the aircraft to fly over longer
distances. Kiva didn’t go into detail concerning this last point.
The side effects of the intended push to modernize the An-124 are, upping the aircraft’s maximum take-off weight and increasing the payload, enhancing the capacity of the freighter.
At the Le Bourget Air Show, Kiva also pointed out that the technical upgrades will lengthen the lifespan of the giant freighter, the first of which was built in 1985 for the main purpose of transporting Soviet armed forces and military equipment with the last one being built in 2005.
No new An-124 production
Particularly the lifespan clue must be interpreted as a quiet swan song by Antonov to begin constructing a brand new successor to the An-124, which was brought into play by Volga-Dnepr representatives last summer at Berlin’s Air Show ILA. This huge and costly project could only be achieved if both enterprises join forces. Given the constantly deepening political rift between the Ukraine and Russia over the Crimea annexation executed by Putin and Russia’s ongoing military support of the Donbas insurgents in eastern Ukraine; this seems to be a totally unrealistic scenario.
In his Le Bourget announcement, Kiva did not reveal when the modernization of Antonov Airlines’ fleet of seven An-124s will start nor how long the project might take and what the costs would be.
An-178 enters the market
Furthermore, the new transporter An-178, presented in Paris to the general public for the first time, piqued great interest. Kiva thinks that the freighter could fill a niche in the market.
Assessing the portfolio of potential orders for the AN-178, the chief designer said that "we are talking about dozens of aircraft." We are continuing negotiations which have already begun. There are a lot of potential customers, be it in China, India or Saudi Arabia, he said. In Le Bourget he also had meetings with representatives from Germany and Poland.
The An-178, which first took to the air on 7th of May this year, can carry up to 18 tons per flight.
Boeing and Volga-Dnepr sign MOU
At the Aérosalon, Boeing and the Volga-Dnepr Group signed a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) indicating the delivery of 20 additional 747-8 freighters to V-D and AirBridgeCargo (its line-haul arm), valued at $7.4 billion list price.
In their announcement both companies emphasized that the agreement also adds the Antonov-124-100 to the long-term logistical support of Boeing and its partners.
For Volga Dnepr Group, adding more 747-8 freighters will allow development of the scheduled business, AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) as well as keep the airline's growth rate high. Volga-Dnepr Group was the first to order the Boeing 747-8 freighter in Russia and took delivery of its first one in 2012. The additional 20 units will be acquired through a combination of direct purchases and leasing over the next seven years.
Heiner Siegmund / Michael Taweel