Last Year’s AN124 Crash Means The World’s Largest Plane Needs Checks

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Following last year’s uncontained engine failure of a Volga-Dnepr An-124, the Ukrainian Aviation Authority now requires an inspection of Ivchenko Progress D-18T engines. They power not only the Antonov An-124 Ruslans but also the world’s largest, six-engined aircraft, the An-225 Mriya. This is the second directive in a year requiring inspections of the D-18T.

An-225
The An-225 Mriya is powered by the same engine type as the An-124, only it has two more than its smaller relative. Photo: Getty Images

Mid-November last year, a Volga-Dnepr Antonov An-124 suffered an uncontained engine failure shortly after take-off from Novosibirsk in Russia. Following an emergency landing, it struggled to slow down sufficiently and overshot the runway.

The aircraft’s nosegear broke off, causing the front of the plane to hit the ground, with severe damage to both the fuselage and wing. Flight data shows that the plane, with registration RA-82042, has not flown since.

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Ukraine requires fan disk inspections

As a result of the incident, Volga-Dnepr voluntarily grounded all of its An-124s. However, the airline has brought back all but three (including the one in Novosibirsk) since December.

On March 16th, the Ukrainian Aviation Authority issued an airworthiness directive (AD) as a result of the incident. This stated that the preliminarily determined cause of the engine damage was the failure of a fan disk, to which the fan blades are attached.

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The AD requires every civilian operator of aircraft with Ivchenko Progress D-18T Series 3 engines to perform inspections. If defects of the disks are found, these have to be replaced. The results of the inspections must be shared with the design and manufacturing organizations.

Antonov An-124 Uncontained Engine Failure Getty
The Ukrainian authorities’ airworthiness directive is a result of the uncontained engine failure suffered by a Volga-Dnepr An-124 in November last year. Photo: Getty Images

Operators must inspect all engines within six months, or when they reach 250 hours of flight time, Air Cargo News reports. The D-18T powers not only the An-124 but also its massive relative, the An-225 Mriya. Of course, the world’s largest aircraft has six engines instead of the mere four of the An-124.

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The Mriya currently in Kyiv

Registered as UR-82060, the Mriya is operated by Antonov Airlines (Antonov Design Bureau). While there were plans to reactivate the giant jet when the grounding of Volga-Dnepr’s An-124s left a hole in the cargo capacity market, this does not seem to have come to pass.

Flight data has the 32-year-old aircraft parked at Kyiv Gostomel since August 3rd, 2020. However, Antonov has stated that its unique plane is scheduled to remain in service until 2033.

An 225
The Mriya is scheduled to remain in service for another decade. Photo: Getty Images

Second AD for the D-18T in a year

The Ivchenko Progress D-18T exclusively powers the An-124 and An-225. It was developed in the second half of the 1970s by the then Soviet Ivchenko Progress Design Bureau and made its first run in 1980.

Meanwhile, this is the second time in a year that Ukrainian authorities have ordered inspections of the type. Another AD from March 2020 required all operators to perform an eddy-current inspection of disk dovetails within six months.

Other than the An-225, Antonov Airlines also operates a fleet of seven An-124s. Volga-Dnepr has 12, and UAE-based Maximus Air Cargo has one. The Russian Air Force has a total of 26, but the AD only refers to civilian aircraft. That leaves Volga-Dnepr with 48 engines to inspect, Antonov with 34, and Maximus with a mere four.

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