The Russian attack on Ukraine destroyed Antonov Airlines' home base, Kyiv Hostomel Airport, early on, along with five of the company's freighters, including the legendary AN-225 Mriya. However, five other AN-124 freighters were parked or operated outside the country at the time of the assault, and are fully operational. They have now found a new home base in Leipzig/Halle Airport - at least until Hostomel Airport is repaired following the end of Putin’s insane war.
Three main reasons prompted Antonov Airlines to select Leipzig/Halle as an alternative base to Hostomel for its ongoing operational activities. The aviation group has been operating a technical base there for some time, which is licensed to carry out all maintenance and repair work on site. Secondly, it is part of the Salis program, a NATO and EU initiative to secure transport capacity for heavy and bulky goods, but also to conduct humanitarian missions in the event of floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters requiring fast airlift ability.
Leipzig guarantees 24/7/365 ops
In order to respond in time to emergency situations, accessing the capacity of at least two AN-124s is paramount, says Salis. That is why two of the big aircraft have already been permanently based at the Saxonian airport for years. Thirdly, and last but not least, there is no ban on night flights at Leipzig, unlike in Frankfurt or Munich, for example. Antonov's large freighters can therefore be deployed around the clock, depending on current demand.
The AN-124s channel cash into Kyiv’s empty coffers
Meanwhile, mechanics, key staff, and engineers have moved from Kyiv to Leipzig to ensure the aircraft's operational capability. An airport spokesman confirmed to CargoForwarder Global that the AN-124s based at Leipzig are often in service. Most flights are operated primarily in support of the Ukrainian government, supplying urgently needed military equipment, but also serving commercial purposes. Many are performed in accordance with the Salis contract. However, the commercial flights, along with other charter missions, are a highly important source of revenue for Ukraine, which has immense expenses resulting from the war. In this specific situation it is extremely helpful that both aircraft manufacturer Antonov and Antonov Airlines are state-owned (100%).
Back to normal might take some time
How long the current situation will last, i.e. Antonov Airlines continues operating from Leipzig/Halle, will depend on the course of the war and the duration of the repair work at Hostomel Airport once a ceasefire has been agreed. Western military experts tend to believe that the initial war of movement will develop into a war of position in the areas occupied by the Russian army in the eastern part of the country. Then getting “back to normal” will take some time.
Keeping the UIA fleet afloat
The question of returning to normal operations also arises for home carrier, Ukraine International. “In times of martial law and the closure of Ukrainian airspace, UIA strives to maintain operations in order to ensure its contribution to the economic stability of Ukraine,” the carrier states on its website. All aircraft were flown out in time and are now offered to other airlines and partners for charter missions or wet lease agreements. Three weeks ago (03MAY22), Air Baltic signed a wet-lease deal with the Ukrainian carrier for a (passenger) Boeing 737-900 ER. Martin Gauss, CEO of the Latvian airline stated: “Ukraine International Airlines has been a reliable long-term partner of airBaltic. It is now a very challenging time for the Ukrainian people and their national airline. By temporarily wet leasing their aircraft, we are also providing short term work to the employees.”
UIA’s fleet consists of twelve B737-800, four B737-900 ER, four B767-300 ER, one B777-200 ER, five Embraer 190 and one E195. All are parked at airports outside Ukraine.
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