It cannot be excluded that the Volga-Dnepr operated fleet of 12 Antonov 124-100s could be chained when landing in the EU, North America or elsewhere outside their Russian home turf. This is the explicit aim of the Ukrainian government, that launched an international campaign urging national authorities to seize Volga-Dnepr’s large freighters. Their drastic advance is based on a verdict of the District Court in Kiev.
The judges’ decision, made public on May 28, was preceded by a lawsuit filed by Ilyashev & Partners, a leading law firm in the Ukraine that protects the legal interests of state-owned aircraft manufacturer Antonov. Following the court ruling, Ilyashev’s senior partner Roman Marchenko raised heavy reproaches against the Moscow-based operator of AN-124s. Accusing them of flying the aircraft despite the fact that the operating licenses of five of the 12 big freighters belonging to Volga-Dnepr’s fleet had expired. This accounts for registration numbers RA-82045, RA-82046, RA-82068, RA-82077, and RA-82078, stated the lawyer with regard to the official list. These aircraft must be banned from international skies and be seized, because of technical violations causing safety risks, he demanded with reference to the ruling of the Kiev court.
Replica replace original parts
The judges’ decision is based on legal provisions and international standards, demanding successive checks of the aging big Antonov freighters after completing 4,000 flight hours.
That’s easier said than done. Since the Russian occupation of Crimea and the military conflict in the eastern parts of the Ukraine, aircraft manufacturer Antonov ceased to provide any technical assistance or deliver Ukraine licensed spare parts to the Russian operator when needed for airframe modifications, aircraft maintenance, repair or overhaul.
Being cut off from Antonov supplies as the worldwide only licensed provider, commercial operator Volga-Dnepr ran into a massive problem when some of their AN-124s came close to or even surpassed the 4,000-hour deadline for overhaul. This posed a problem to VD technicians, since they were unable to exchange old and outdated parts whose lifespan had expired with original parts licensed by the Ukraine manufacturer.
A fact that prompted Kiev-based lawyer Marchenko to issue a loud alert, warning the world of Volga-Dnepr’s AN-124s that might fall out of the sky somewhere because Antonov-licensed parts were taken off and replaced by incorrect or even faulty replica made in Russia, he stated.
Confronted with these charges, Russian Research Institute AviaPort pointed to the Federal Air Transport Agency Rosaviation that approved and authorized all parts installed in Volga-Dnepr’s AN-124-100s from 2014 until today, thus officially authorizing the airworthiness of the freighters.
ICAO remains silent
And turning to the Ukrainian court’s decision to seize five of the 12 AN-124s belonging to the V-D fleet when operating in Europe or elsewhere outside Russia, AviaPort speaks of a “nice try” by the judges. In order to be recognized and accepted by national aviation authorities around the world it suffices if spare parts and other replacements have been approved by the authorities of the country where an airline is officially registered, holds the Russian Institute.
Whether this view will get the consent of ICAO remains to be seen. So far, no arbitrament has been issued by the Montreal-based UN Aviation Agency.
V-D and AMTES repudiate claims that they acted unlawfully
It is interesting to note however that active fleet information shows three of the five aircraft mentioned by the Ukranian authorities as being in storage for some time. This shows that RA-82068 is stored in Ulyanovsk since November 2018, RA-82046 stored in Tunis since June 2018 and RA-82045 is said to be in storage at Leipzig Airport and was last seen doing only a few technical flights in the vicinity of the airport. The whole issue dates back to Antonov’s claim that Volga-Dnepr Airlines and their Leipzig-based subsidiary, AMTES had been performing unauthorized checks on the AN-124s. Both AMTES and Volga-Dnepr have always denied these claims.
It’s hard to believe that Volga-Dnepr would consider operating with aircraft which were not officially airworthy according to ICAO standards. This considering their long-standing airworthiness record over the past years.
Heiner Siegmund / John Mc Donagh