Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Biggest Freight Aircraft in the World is Coming Back Into Commercial Service

Crisis in Rival Heavy Lift Cargo Fleet Leads to Decision
Shipping News Feature

UKRAINE – A surge in requirement for heavy airlift capacity has led Antonov Airlines to put its titanic AN-225 Mriya into commercial operation. With a 250-tonne freight capacity, the AN-225 is the largest flying aircraft in the world.

The unique Mriya, which means ‘dream’, is generally found doing specialist heavy lifts to remote areas where it’s rough field abilities and internal cranes allow it handle its own cargoes. Built to carry the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the Space Shuttle and to support oil fields in remotest Siberia, this year it has been primarily involved in the movement of in gauge emergency supplies for tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

However, a crisis at rival heavy airlift specialist Volga-Dnepr has meant that the market is stretched beyond capacity. On November 13 one of the Russian airline’s AN-124s suffered a serious engine malfunction. The aircraft made a successful emergency landing with no casualties, but Volga-Dnepr has grounded its fleet while it investigates.

The two companies had an amicable joint service until the political situation between Russia and Ukraine forced them to split in 2016. Andriy Blagovisniy, Commercial Director at Antonov Airlines said that:

“There is a surge in demand for AN-124 aircraft at the present time and therefore Antonov Airlines is doing its best to help customers in this difficult situation and support them worldwide, providing the required airlift capability.

“Taking into consideration the current very limited availability of AN-124 aircraft on the market, we are giving priority to time-critical cargo and to give additional lifting capacity, we will enter our AN-225 aircraft into commercial operation after running routine maintenance.”

The AN-124 has a cargo capacity of 150-tonnes and makes up the key aircraft type servicing the heavy cargo market. Volga-Dnepr is the largest operator, with twelve of the type in their fleet. With them all grounded Antonov has found their own fleet of seven AN-124s overstretched.

With the air freight market hitting its busiest time, plus demands for extra capacity due to anti-pandemic measures as medicines an vaccines are in critical demand, the addition of the AN-225 will be very welcome.