In the “good old days” pre-2020, the world had passenger planes and freighters. These days, the aviation world is a lot more complex and has become a paradox of movement versus stagnation, and even more recently, destruction and confiscation. Wherever you look, there is something going on.
For some, the activity is positive. Such as MNG Airlines, for example, which is getting the second of two A330-300 aircraft it purchased in DEC20, converted at Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW) in
Dresden, Germany, thus bolstering its existing fleet of 9 widebody aircraft with an additional 61 tons of payload capacity per P2F. As the first Turkish airline to take delivery of an A330-300P2F
(passenger to freighter, registration TC-MCM) plane on 17NOV21, after seven months of conversion, it can now soon look forward to TC-MCN joining the fleet in the next 5 months, having sent this
to Dresden in FEB22.
Strong Turkish cargo performer with plans
Sedat Özkazanç, General Manager of MNG Airlines, said, “I am delighted to send our second A330-300 aircraft to Dresden, Germany for conversion. As MNG Airlines, we increase our loading capacity on a ‘kg’ basis every year with a focus on customer satisfaction and flight safety. I am proud on behalf of our country to be the first company in Turkey to invest in conversion project which will reduce our carbon footprint. I believe this number will increase every year with the expansion of our flight network and new aircraft joining our fleet. We are working on transformation plans for 2024 and beyond with our expanding flight network and growing cargo capacity.”
No more cargo-in-cabin
As regards the other “passenger-cargo” flights – so-called “preighters” - their days are now also numbered in Europe, since the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) declared that the permission for cabin cargo will expire on 31JUL22. In doing this, it joins the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) which already stopped their exemptions on 31DEC21. EASA states the reason for its move as “The logistical challenges that arose in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, no longer exist to the same extent.”
EASA was one of the first civil aviation authorities to allow the carriage of light cargo on the seats, overhead bins, and in the storage areas of passenger aircraft, at the start of the pandemic when most passenger flights were grounded and cargo capacity plummeted.
Cargo capacity is still not back to 2019-levels with experts estimating that a gap of 14% still remains due to not all passenger operations having returned yet, particularly on international routes. The impact of the Russian/Ukraine war is not included. Cargo capacity restraints will continue to remain, however the EASA press release points to “Several airlines [are] seeking EASA approval for permanent design changes to fly passenger aircraft in dedicated cargo operations with the seats removed. Those modifications are more involved and meet standard safety requirements, unlike the temporary exemptions,” as MNG is doing, for example. More permanent fixtures are more economical to run than “preighters”, too.
Shortly after our CFG article on the destroyed AN-225 was published, videos and images emerged of Hostomel Airport and the destroyed Antonov office building, looted of what was left after the bomb fires, from pilfered safes all the way through to historical aircraft images that had graced the wall. The walk through the airport shows a devastating aircraft graveyard. Aside from the severely damaged AN-225, there are remains of damaged or completely destroyed AN-132, AN-124, AN-74, AN-28, AN-26, AN-22, and an historical AN-12 aircraft. (youtube.com) Thankfully, five of Antonov’s seven AN-124 are safely outside the country, and still operational, parked in Leipzig, Germany. On 29MAR22, for example, Kuehne+Nagel chartered a Ukrainian AN-124 to transport 111 tons of UNICEF relief goods from Sharjah, UAE, to Poland, to be taken to Ukraine by truck.
Confiscated in retribution
At the start of the war, there were speculations that the Russians would attempt to seize Antonov’s aircraft and use them for themselves. Since so many have been destroyed, this was either never the plan, or it severely backfired. What has happened since, however, is that Antonov has seized Russian Antonovs, following a Kyiv court ruling on 21MAR22, in response to criminal proceedings applied for by Antonov, that 12 An-124-100 Ruslan planes belonging to the Russian airline, Volga-Dnepr, may be confiscated. Thus far, three have been stopped in Leipzig, Germany, and one in Toronto, Canada. They are subject to transfer to the Ukrainian Asset Recovery and Management Agency, as compensation for damages.
Volga-Dnepr still flying
According to Russian media earlier this week, Volga-Dnepr has signed agreements with China, India, Turkey, and Azerbaijan, amongst others, to carry cargo. Maxim Liksutov, Head of the Department of Transport and Development of Road Transport of Moscow is reported to have said: “The Government of Moscow and Russia's largest cargo airline, Volga-Dnepr Group, have signed an agreement to organize the air cargo carriage between the Russian capital and a number of cities in major countries. Russia carries out heavy air freight and delivers spare parts for the pharmaceutical industry, as well as children's products through these countries. The contract has been signed until the end of 2022, and the total cargo volume is 20,000 tons. The first aircraft has already flown on the Moscow-India-Bangladesh route. Metal products for India are delivered from Moscow, and the plane will return with medical products, fabrics, children's toys.” He apparently also stated that Moscow would furnish the Volga-Dnepr Group with orders worth almost 9.7 billion rubles (c. USD 129.6 million) until the end of this year. Aside from the 12 AN-124, Volga-Dnepr also has five Boeing 747-8F and five IL-76TD-90VD.
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