Antonov attempts to freeze Russian An-124 operations

Old is the new new. Not a replacement for the An-124, but see below for more on the An-22
Old is the new new. Not a replacement for the An-124, but see below for more on the An-22. Photo: Oleg Belyakov/Wikimedia.

Antonov is attempting to freeze Russian An-124 operations, while at the same time thawing out an old freighter that has been in the freezer for the last eight years.

Yesterday we looked at the way Ukraine’s Antonov Group might market its outsize and heavylift capacity after announcing the breakup of its Ruslan International joint venture with Volga-Dnepr Group. That strange story involves six former Chapman Freeborn execs joining little-known Maltese passenger charter operator AirX, and you can read it here.

But there is much more to the story for Antonov. The big news is that not only has Oleksandr Kotsuba, President of the Antonov Group, been quoted as saying his company would cut all ties with Russian firms by the end of this year, but also threatening a flight ban on all Russian-registered An-124s for operation outside of Russia. He said that international aviation law required technical checks and maintenance on An-124s be performed by Antonov, and that since such work had been performed by unauthorized Russian companies, he would call on national aviation regulators, as well as IATA and ICAO, to forbid operation of the aircraft outside of Russia.

If such a ban could be enforced, it would hit the project cargo market hard, as the ten An-124s operated by Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Airlines provide a significant percentage of the world’s outsize/heavyweight lift.

We will follow that story as it develops, but in the meantime we continue our effort to provide video and photo entertainment for your weekends. Today’s menu features Antonov: specifically, the return to commercial service of the world’s biggest turboprop freighter, the An-22.

Originally developed for the Russian Air Force, the An-22 is a four-engine turboprop aircraft with a maximum payload of 53 tonnes. The engines feature contra-rotating propellers, generating exceptional thrust, and this, combined with ruggedized landing gear, gave the An-22 the ability to take off from unpaved and short airstrips. Sixty-eight were produced in a 12-year span from 1963 to 1975, with most going to the Russian Air Force.

Antonov Airlines also operated one An-22, but parked it eight years ago. However, after refurbishment, that freighter returned to commercial service on 30 June of this year. We’ll start with a photo of the first prototype — in Aeroflot livery — then move on to a short video of one of the first flights following its return to service this year, several photos, and conclude with a very well-shot video of an earlier flight.

First, the Aeroflot freighter that never flew commercially – notice the contra-rotating propellers.

And a short video of the return to commercial service.

Antonov Airlines An-22 landing:

Antonov Airlines An-22 landing. Photo: Dmitry Mottl/Wikimedia

The military version:

Tail view of a Russian Air Force An-22. Photo: Dmitry Petrov/Wikimedia

And, finally, a very interesting video with both action and interior shots.

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