The Antonov An-124 made an interesting journey this week, flying from Accra, Ghana, to Mumbai, India, and back again. The specialized freighter was carrying an oversized power generator which required urgent repairs. As demand for air cargo soars, planes like the An-124 have seen themselves flying missions globally.
According to Stat Trade Times, the An-124 was chartered from Antonov Airlines for a special ferry mission by Rhenus Project Logistics USA. The logistics company needed the aircraft to carry a massive power generator with a unique shape, requiring more cabin space to accommodate it.
This was no problem for the An-124, which has a payload capacity of 150 tonnes, more than enough to carry the 54-tonne generator. However, fitting the 10.5m long, 3.89m wide, and 4.13m high item required experts to be on hand for loading and unloading. The flight flew from Accra to Mumbai and then back once the repairs were complete.
The flight was chartered on short notice as the generation required urgent repairs. Considering the demand for An-124s right now, it is impressive that the airline could provide the plane for this mission. However, Antonov and Rhenus Project Logistics have a decades-long relationship, explaining the priority status.
Speaking about the mission, 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 minimise any disruption that could have been faced.”
An-124 back in the sky
At the same time Ukrainian Antonov Airlines stated that operation of their AN-124 is safe as maintenance and extension of 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.
Nevertheless the grounding of the An-124 from Volga-Dnepr’s fleet impacted availability of such aircraft on the market in the end of year.
To satisfy the demand it required Antonov Airlines to bring the giant An-225 into service in addition to their AN-124 fleet.
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A Volga-Dnepr Antonov An-124 suffered a crash landing due to engine failure and landing gear issues. Photo Getty Images
Cargo demand surging
If 2020 proved to be endlessly challenging for passenger airlines, it had the opposite effect on cargo ones. Demand for international freight has surged with passenger flights grounded since almost 50% of all cargo is carried in the belly of passenger flights. This means cargo airlines have seen revenues shoot up and allowed them to expand their fleets in the last year.
The usage of the An-124 signals this rise in demand, with dozens of the type flying globally. Airlines expect this demand to last through 2021, further boosting cargo airlines’ bottom line.