Ukraine-based Antonov Airlines will deploy its single An-225 freighter and offer its 250-tonne capacity to the commercial market as cargo capacity worldwide remains in short supply.
While the pandemic-induced capacity crunch has pulled most viable 747 freighters back into operation, the in-service fleet of Antonov freighters has actually declined in recent months due to tight supply chains for spare parts.
The situation was exacerbated by Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ grounding of its twelve-unit fleet of An-124 aircraft since late November, prompted by an uncontained engine failure incident in Novosibirsk (OVB) on Nov. 13.
Initial uncertainty as to whether Volga-Dnepr would repair the aircraft and seek to put the aircraft back into service has been reportedly resolved by engine manufacturer Motor Sich’s return to the table with parts support.
According to flight-tracking radar, one of Volga-Dnepr’s An-124s resumed flying on Dec. 3.
Antonov Airlines, Maximus Air Cargo and Volga-Dnepr Airlines are the only carriers operating the type commercially, with a combined fleet of twenty units, even though not all have recently been in active service. Of Antonov’s seven An-124s, one — the oldest — has not flown since September.
Fully loaded, the An-124 can accommodate up to 150 tonnes of cargo — slightly more than the 747-8F which can carry a maximum payload of 138 tonnes, according to Boeing.
Normally reserved for highly specialized missions involving outsize consignments such as heavy machinery or oil and gas equipment, Antonov’s An-225 is currently in Kyiv (GML), and does not appear to have flown since early August.
The An-225 will become available once it exits maintenance, according to Commercial Director Andriy Blagovisniy, who notes “a surge in demand” for — and “very limited availability” of — An-124 aircraft.
Apart from Antonov’s large freighter models, there are also just over forty of the design bureau’s twenty-tonne An-12 in active service across Russia and other CIS countries, according to a 2019 Boeing presentation at the Caspian Air Cargo Summit.