An Antonov Airlines An-124-100 flew an interesting mission this week. The massive aircraft flew from Poland to the Phillippines carrying five Black Hawk helicopters. While the helicopters themselves weren’t particularly heavy for the An-124, safe transportation was crucial.
In a statement today, Antonov Airlines announced a short-notice flight it conducted last week. Using one of its An-124s, the airline carried five Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters from Rzeszów, Poland, to Angeles, Philippines.
Each of these high-tech utility helicopters weighs 5.6 tonnes and is 19.75 meters long and over five meters in height. None of this is an issue for the massive An-124-100, which can carry 100 tonnes of payload over its 69-meter length. However, loading such expensive and technical military helicopters requires caution and special handling.
After making plans, the loading of the helicopters took five hours in total and used the An-124’s winch system. In a statement, Antonov’s North America Director for Aerospace, Government, and Defence Programs, Amnon Ehrlich, said,
“Although the total payload in terms of weight was quite light for our aircraft – loading five helicopters safely and transporting them without damage takes considerable collaboration. We have been working closely with Sikorsky as well as their logistics supplier Helicopter International Shipping Services (HISS) for several months to ensure that all current and future program requirements are met.”
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Antonov Airlines operates a fleet of eight aircraft, seven An-124s and one An-225, the world’s largest cargo aircraft. The airline also operates the An-22, the world’s largest turboprop and is capable of carrying up to 60 tonnes of cargo.
As one might guess, Antonov specialized in carrying oversized and overweight goods around the world. In the past, the Ukrainian carrier has flown cargo such as dismantled planes, tonnes of oxygen concentrators, and mining equipment.
The pandemic has meant that Antonov Airlines’ fleet has kept busy. The carrier has repeatedly brought out its An-225 “Mriya”, one of the world’s largest aircraft for unique missions. The six-engined behemoth has been spotted outside its home in Ukraine in cities like Bangor, Maine, and Anchorage, Alaska, recently as cargo demand soars globally.
While the An-124 and An-225 both remain important for unique missions, like moving helicopters, they are growing old. Indeed, Antonov Airlines’ five An-124-100Ms average an age of 33.3 years old, while the two An-124-100s average 29.5 years. Meanwhile, the An-225 clocks in at 32.5 years, according to ch-aviation.
With new planes produced since the 1990s, the fleet is in need of an upgrade in the near future. For now, Antonov Airlines remains busy flying critical cargo around the world for special clients.