The Soviet-era An-124 heavy strategic military transport airplane has been again deployed for global operations after the type was grounded by cargo giant Volga-Dnepr in November following an engine failure and broken landing gear.
One of the AN-124s had suffered uncontained engine failure before making an emergency landing in November 2020, following which Russian cargo airline Volga-Dnepr had grounded the entire fleet of AN-124s.
The demand for An-124 seems to be increasing again as it was recently chartered by Antonov Airlines for a special ferry mission by Rhenus Project Logistics USA on short notice.
The logistics company needed the aircraft to carry a massive power generator requiring more cabin space to accommodate it.
The An-124 flew from Accra, Ghana, to Mumbai, India, and back again with an oversized power generator that required urgent repairs. With a payload capacity of 150 tons, a 54-ton generator was not much trouble for the transport airplane.
Talking about the mission and concerns around the aircraft, Ukrainian Antonov Airlines stated that operation of their AN-124 is “safe as maintenance and extension of the lifetime of their aircraft are done in close cooperation with holders of type certificates of engine and aircraft and continued operation of its AN-124 fleet”.
Antonov Airlines Commercial Executive Vladyslav Ishchuk said, “This transport operation required well-coordinated preparation and actions from both partners to fly such outsized and heavy cargo safely”.
“Antonov Airlines showcased its flexibility by providing the AN-124 aircraft on the required dates during an extremely busy period for the customer to minimize any disruption that could have been faced.”
In the past, the Antonov AN-124 has set 30 world records, including an absolute payload-to-altitude record when a 171.219-ton payload was lifted to the altitude of 10750 meters. It has set another record in September 1993 when it transported a Siemens electric generator weighing 135.2 tons from Dusseldorf (Germany) to Delhi (India).
The AN-124 Ruslan aircraft development by the Antonov Design Bureau in the 1980s was a comprehensive goal-oriented program, elaborated and implemented for the first time in the erstwhile USSR.
As per the company website, it has aerodynamic performance, structural strength, and endurance figures, weight perfection, specific performances of the power plant, functional capabilities of the equipment systems, maintenance and repair man-hours, among others.
Its two cargo doors make it possible to arrange through the passage of vehicles thus considerably reducing the loading/unloading time.
While the passenger airlines witnessed a massive downfall in demand, there was a rise in demand for international freight, resulting in revenues shooting-up for cargo airlines. The demand was fuelled by disruptions in normal supply chains and a huge increase in e-commerce. Airlines are expecting the demand to last through 2021.