Passing almost unnoticed at the Farnborough Air Show last week was an agreement signed by Silk Way Airlines and Ilyushin Finance Company (IFC), concerning the lease of an An-124-100. This was not a firm order, but the companies said they expected to firm the deal within a month.
Azerbaijan-based charter specialist Silk Way Airlines (parent of scheduled service carrier Silk Way West) operates a fleet of seven Il-76TD freighters, but the carrier’s President Zaur Akhundov was recently quoted in Russian Aviation Insider as saying Silk Way is turning down charter requests from customers with shipments too large for the Il-76s.
Akhundov said Silk Way has been negotiating with IFC for six months, and expects the An-124 freighter (most recently operated by now-bankrupt Polet Flight) to join his fleet by the first quarter of next year. He also said “there should be a minimum of two of each type of aircraft in our fleet,” but acknowledged that An-124s were scarce. He said he hoped Silk Way’s desire for another might help spur a restart of serial production, something Cargo Facts views as unlikely unless there is a major order from the Russian Air Force.
In addition to the seven Il-76 freighters, Silk Way also has three An-12s, but Akhundov said these had been retired because high maintenance costs made their operation unprofitable. However, as we have reported, Silk Way last year placed a launch order for ten of Antonov’s newest commercial freighter, the twinjet An-178.
There are currently twenty-six An-124 freighters in commercial operation: eleven at Volga-Dnepr Airlines, seven each at Antonov Airlines and 224th Flight Unit, and one operated for Maximus Air by Ukraine Air Alliance.