Both companies have founded Leipzig, Germany-based 'Antonov-Logistic-Salis GmbH' with Antonov holding 51% of the capital and Aircargonet the difference. Task of the new company is to operate cargo flights on behalf of EU states and a number of NATO members, this way replacing the former Ruslan Salis GmbH that ceases to exist on 31 December 2018, when its founding member Volga-Dnepr pulls out. In an exclusive interview, we spoke with Aircargonet GmbH owner Klaus Lederer about the challenges ahead.
CFG: What exactly motivated your company to join forces with Antonov Airlines, becoming a stakeholder in "Antonov-Logistics-Salis GmbH"? And how do you assess the commercial and financial
risks of the upcoming EU/NATO flights?
KL: Aircargonet International GmbH was, as yet, known as a classical General Sales and Service Agency, representing several airlines on the cargo market in Germany. In the past, we operated many charter flights utilizing IL76 aircraft of Uzbekistan Airways, this way supporting the German Army with transports of goods to Termez, Uzbekistan close to the Afghanistan border. From time to time there was a need for larger uplift capacity, provided for instance by the Antonov AN-124-100s, and slowly we established a new functionality and added the charter business to Aircargonet’s service portfolio.
Actually, it was Antonov Airlines respectively Antonov Design Bureau (ADB) knocking at our door earlier this year, asking for help in order to create a new platform at Leipzig/Halle airport. In various meetings with the Antonov Management following consultations with NSPA (NATO Support and Procurement Agency) in Luxembourg, we decided to jump on board by establishing the Leipzig/Halle Airport-based JV ‘Antonov-Logistics-Salis GmbH.’ Both shareholders appointed Mr. Alexander Gritsenko as Managing Director, with a second Managing Director to follow soon.
Operating under Ukraine AOC
‘Antonov-Logistic-Salis’ intends to be operational January 1, 2019. How about the legal requirements for operating the intended cargo flights, for instance an AOC?
Aircargonet International GmbH was appointed by Antonov Airlines in order to represent ADB among German administrative authorities and law-courts in connection with the sales and business activities in the Federal Republic of Germany - according to § 7 and § 15 of the bylaws of Braunschweig-based regulator Luftfahrt-Bundesamt - LBA. Due to this appointment, we applied for an extended permission allowing to continue flights for the NSPA, Luxembourg. The entire fleet of Antonov’s AN-124-100 freighters are under AOC of the State of Ukraine and can accordingly operate on behalf of NSPA.
Two AN-124Fs will be permanently based at LEJ
Your JV partner Antonov provides the uplift capacity needed for fulfilling the transport mission. How many AN-124 aircraft will be permanently based in LEJ and what exactly is Aircargonet's role under the agreement?
As mentioned, ‘Antonov Logistics Salis GmbH’ is going to serve the needs of the NSPA from 2019 onwards as an agency operating under the same rules and conditions as stipulated in the previous
contract – expiring December 31, 2018. This implies that two AN-124-100 aircraft will be permanently based at Leipzig Airport. Should additional cargo capacity and flights be required, the
contract will cover this under certain rules as well.
It is Aircargonet’s role to support the new management of ‘Antonov Logistics Salis GmbH’ in all aspects of logistical and administrative matters. Additionally, Antonov Airlines appointed Aircargonet as their Cargo Sales and Service Agent for Germany. Following some small announcements in this matter, we surprisingly realized a high demand for charter flights in/out of Germany. As a GSSA-IATA for other airlines we are in regular contact with most of the key people of the air cargo market in Germany.
In addition to carrying commercial goods 'Antonov-Logistics-Salis GmbH' will also be responsible for transporting military equipment, depending on NATO demand. What do you expect will be the ratio of military and civil consignments processed by your new Salis company?
To make it very clear, it is the only duty and function of Antonov Logistics Salis GmbH to serve the needs of NSPA and other EU states. Right now, it is much too early to comment on the expected ratio of military and/or civil consignments - ask me again in about a year.
Lederer: A400F is no alternative to the AN-124-100Fs
Originally, the Ruslan SALIS GmbH, built in 2006 by Antonov and Volga-Dnepr, was intended of being an interim solution for providing sufficient airlift capacity for military and civilian NATO and EU missions. It was thought to terminate once the Airbus A400 transporter is ready to operate, originally scheduled to happen about six years ago. This leads to the question if you expect the A400M to become an alternative to the huge Antonov freighters once operated by EU member states, making the AN-124 operation in the framework of your new 'Antonov-Logistic-Salis GmbH' obsolete?
No - I don’t see this coming. From my point of view the A400 cannot replace the AN-124. If you compare the parameters of both aircraft - in terms of payload, loadable cargo by dimensions, ACMI costs and availability of requested number of aircraft - the AN-124 is still the best possible choice for the next 5 - 10 years.
Thank you for delivering these insights.