There have been rumors buzzing around and ongoing speculations about a German AOC that Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Group intends to apply for. CargoForwarder Global ends the guessing and presents the facts as they stand today.
Volga-Dnepr’s pulling out of the Salis contract, ending an era of cooperation with numerous NATO and European countries, seems to be only a tactical maneuver, as indicated exclusively in the
Monday (16 April) issue of CargoForwarder Global (CFG). “They close one door and open up another one,” an insider has told CargoForwarder Global.
Researches reveal that this step has long been prepared, starting as early as January 10, 2013. On that day a ‘Value Cargo Logistics’ named company was registered in Leipzig City’s trade register under the entry number HRB 28943.
Managing director became Denis Gliznoutsa, who assumed a dual function since he also acted as VP sales of VDA at that time.
AOC application has been filed
In August 2016, Gliznoutsa was replaced at the then still dormant Value Cargo Logistics by Dirk Naether. In addition to this role, the former chief of Leipzig Airport became head of Volga-Dnepr’s technical shop ‘Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Service GmbH’ (AMTES), which is based at Leipzig/Halle Airport as well.
Only some months later, Volga-Dnepr knocked at the doors of the German regulator Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA) applying for an Air Operator Certificate. This was confirmed to CFG by credible sources close to the case.
An inquiry sent to the LBA, asking them to shed light on this matter, was left without response.
It seems, that the LBA officials are still examining the submitted documents without having rendered a final decision in the case.
German aviation experts expect that the delay is at least partially caused by Lufthansa that is anything but happy with the prospect that a Russia-led new cargo carrier gets a German AOC.
Value Cargo Logistics owners are EU passport holders
However, this can hardly be prevented since the applicants are bearers of passports issued in Cyprus, an EU member state. Also, they are very rich according to Forbes, therefore able to pump sufficient funds into newcomer Value Cargo Logistics.
Their names: Alexey Isaikin and Vladimir Shcherbakov. While Russian national Isaikin holds 75 percent of the stakes of Volga-Dnepr Group, his Belarussian V-D partner Shcherbakov owns the remaining 25 percent.
As dual Russian/Belarussian and EU citizens, both managers fulfill all formal criteria asked for by the regulator, as documented on LBA’s website: “The (new) company must be owned, directly or through majority ownership, by EU Member States and / or by nationals of the Member States. It must be controlled at all times by these states or their nationals.”
Uli steps in
Since LBA seems to have put the AOC issue on the backburner, the V-D bosses decided to speed up the case by bringing Uli Ogiermann into play, who started his professional carreer with Lufthansa Cargo. His job: obtaining the German AOC for Value Cargo Logistics, if feasible before the end of this year. That coincides with Volga-Dnepr’s Salis exit on 31 December, ending their services provided to NATO and EU member states since 2006.
Technical update of AN-124 is precondition for AOC
Whether Volga’s Antonov 124 freighters can return to LEJ after January 1, 2019, operating on behalf of Value Cargo Logistics, is still uncertain at present. There are major political and legal hurdles that have to be overcome.
Firstly, relevant voices point out that it’s not V-D who can register the AN-124s on the German register. They state that it can only be applied for by the Antonov Design Bureau who are the only ones who can meet all necessary technical modifications necessary for a successful certification.
It is said that V-D was informed earlier by the British aviation authorities that a registration for the AN-124 in the UK under V-D is not possible, or would only be possible if Antonov went bankrupt, something alike the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker experienced, where another party could then take over the function of the company and to certify as well as provide maintenance and design certification.
The above is something which the Russian government has wanted to do since their split with the Ukraine. At the present stage, this is unlikely to happen.
In contrast, there is the opinion that the AN-124 is a joint product of Ukrainians and Russians, since the aircraft was also manufactured in production sites located within the Russian territory, such as in Ulyanovsk. Follower of this mindset further point out that the Russian Republic is the legal successor of the Soviet Union, which also includes all former satellite states. This confers Moscow comprehensive industrial and commercial rights, hold the supporters of this line of thought.
Indeed, a highly complicated political and legal terrain.
Despite the lasting quarrel between Kiev and Moscow over the AN-124, Leipzig-based V-D Group member AMTES emphasizes that the “modernization of AN-124” is integral part of their performance program. Above all, this includes equipping the 12 unit AN-124 fleet operated by V-D with state-of-the-art avionics.
However, experts point out that new engines would also be needed to enable the aging freighter aircraft a second life. But neither Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney nor General Electric are willing to develop new turbines since the unit numbers of AN-124 motors are limited, but costs might run out of control.
Given this situation, Singapore-based ST Aerospace, one of the world’s leading MRO providers, could be brought in as a white knight. During Stanislaw Tillich’s latest visit to Singapore, Saxony State’s former Prime Minister, there had been talks about this issue, local media confirmed.
New brand, old business
Provided, all legal and technical issues can be solved and Mr Ogiermann manages to speed up the faltering AOC process, the first technically retreaded AN-124 could take to Leipzig’s sky earliest in 2020, transporting equipment for NATO and EU member states as done for more than a decade.
It can be assumed that a return of Volga-Dnepr’s AN-124 fleet to LEJ operating for newcomer Value Cargo Logistics would be in line with the government program of the new Berlin coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats. In their paper both parties explicitly express their willingness to support initiatives that strengthen cargo activities at Leipzig/Halle Airport.
Heiner Siegmund / John Mc Donagh