ANTONOV State Enterprise has met with representatives of the Libyan Blue Bird Co., to discuss restoring the operation of an AN-124-100 Ruslan aircraft currently located at ANTONOV’s facilities in Kiev, Ukraine since 2011.
In June this year, Libyan Arab Air Cargo’s heavy cargo Antonov An-124-100, registered as 5A-DKN 'Sabrata', was completely destroyed during a conflict between the GNA (Government of National Accord) and the LNA (Libyan National Army). A 1994 model, the plane had been purchased in 2001 and had last flown in 2010. Since then, it had been grounded at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport in the Libyan capital, due to a lack of funding to restart Libyan Arab Air Cargo after the 2011 bombardments.
A second chance
A second Libyan Arab Air Cargo AN-124 (built in 1992), was also acquired in 2001 and active until it was flown to Kiev, Ukraine for repairs, where it has been stored on Antonov’s premises at Gostomel Airport since 2011.
It is this 5A-DKL 'Susa' that is now under discussion to be made airworthy once more, in order to act as a replacement for the destroyed 5A-DKN.
Delegates of the Libyan Blue Bird Co., which has been given the authority by the Government of Libya to handle the discussions to restore the AN-124-100 Ruslan aircraft, recently met with Antonov State Enterprise. Representatives from the Embassy of Libya in the Ukraine as well as from the Libyan Ministry of Foreign affairs were also present. The negotiations were centred around issues of cooperation regarding the already concluded contracts on airworthiness restoration and maintenance, as well as on modernizing and extending the aircraft’s service life. All relevant work will be conducted by Antonov experts.
Once the negotiations were completed, the Libyan delegates, together with the heads of Antonov, inspected that aircraft. Both parties confirmed their readiness to enter in positive cooperation to restore the Ruslan.
Going, going – not gone!
Libyan Arab Air Cargo, established in 1979, was the first airline outside of Russia and the Ukraine to employ the heavy cargo Antonov from 2002 onwards. Whilst the 5A-DKN remained grounded at Tripoli in 2010, the 5A-DKL was sent to Ukraine for maintenance and repairs that year, where it was subsequently confiscated when Libya failed to pay and collect the aircraft in 2012, due to its local military situation. In 2016, the Antonov State Enterprise filed a lawsuit in the International Commercial Arbitration Court, leading to a court decision in May 2017 to recover US$1.3 million from the Libyan government agency acting as a legal successor of the national Libyan Arab Air Cargo, for Antonov. This was the sum of accrued costs during 2010-2013 in maintenance and storage. Failing execution of the ruling, the 5A-DKL would face international auction, and according to Roman Marchenko, the Senior Partner of Ilyashev & Partners law firm dealing with the case, quoted in an Interfax article in 2018, Antonov State Enterprise would have to file a new lawsuit to the courts in order to recover at least the $4 million “so-called state parking fee” from Libya, for the aircraft's storage in Ukraine during 2013-2018.
The bill, please!
It would appear, therefore, that the 5A-DKL has been saved from being auctioned off. However, just as the prices negotiated for the two AN-124-100s in 2001 were never publicly disclosed, the question as to what happens with the outstanding payments and how much this will finally cost Libya also remains unanswered.