Antonov’s AN-124 Drafted In To Fly Mining Equipment To Brazil

Ukrainian cargo carrier Antonov Airlines has successfully moved 370 tonnes of new mining equipment from Australia to Brazil on three flights. Global air charter specialist Chapman Freeborn chartered the An-124s used for the airlift on behalf of Vale S.A.

Antonov Airlines AN-124
The aircraft had to make multiple stops because of the weight. Photo: Getty Images

Vale S.A. is a Brazilian multinational mining corporation and one of the largest logistics operators in Brazil. Previously called Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (Sweet River Valley Company), it is the world’s largest nickel and iron ore producer.

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Frames for the load were tailor-made

Antonov Airlines’ specialist load engineers designed tailor-made frames to carry massive drill bits and automotive parts for Carajas iron ore mine. Due to the cargo’s weight and COVID-19 restrictions, the An-124s had to make several technical stops on the long journey from Australia. Rapid COVID-19 tests were given to all crew members during each 14-hour rest layover before the aircraft were cleared for the next leg of the trip.

The Carajás Mine is the largest iron ore mine in the world. Photo Antonov Airlines

The three An-124 flights took place on the 20th February, 26th February and 1st March departing from Melbourne, Australia, where the parts were manufactured to Belém in Brazil. Along the way, the planes stopped for fuel and rest in Honolulu, Cancun, Paramaribo, Orlando, Bangor, Reykjavík, Leipzig, Baku, New Delhi, Johor Bahru, and Darwin.

Antonov’s AN-124 Drafted In To Fly Mining Equipment To Brazil
An-124 routes. Image GCmaps

The parts needed to arrive on time

It was important for the Brazilian mining giant to have the parts delivered on time to keep non-stop operations running. When the aircraft eventually landed at Belém/Val-de-Cans International Airport (BEL), they were guided by Follow Me vehicles to a special unloading area. From there, the drill bits and automotive parts were loaded on trucks and delivered to the mine. Everything went like clockwork, with all parties happy with the operation.

When speaking about the massive airlift in a statement from Antanov Airlines Chapman Freeborn Cargo Broker, Ana Bocchini said:

“The timeline was challenging – initially, our flight plan was six days in total; however, we needed to change this to nine days after assessing the load.

“In the end, it came together with some meticulous planning and by changing some legs of the journey to avoid delays and closed runways.”

Everything needed to arrive on time. Photo: Antonov Airlines

Antonov Airlines Commercial Executive Volodymyr Goncharov also mentioned in the statement the complexity of the move saying:

“This was a challenging project, which we had to complete to a tight deadline. Using three AN-124 aircraft to airlift these special project cargoes allowed us to perform the program of round-the-world flights successfully.

“The flights were a success thanks to well-coordinated efforts and good communication between the teams at Antonov Airlines and Chapman Freeborn.”

About the An-124

Designed by Antonov design bureau in Ukrainian when the country was a part of the Soviet Union, the An-124 is a four-engined strategic heavy-lift aircraft built for the Soviet Air Force.

Manufactured between1982 and 2014, the An-124 was the largest cargo aircraft globally but is now second to the AN-225 Myria, the world’s largest commercial airplane. Flown by a crew consisting of two pilots, two flight engineers, a navigator, and a communications operator, the An-124 has room for 88 passengers on its upper deck and can carry bulky and oversized cargo. Two of Antonov Airlines’ An124s have been modified to carry 150,000kg (330,693lbs) and were used for the Brazil flights.

What do you think about Antonov Airlines’ amazing An-124s and their long trip from Australia to Brazil? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.