Volga-Dnepr Flies IL-76s Successfully To Antarctica

Volga-Dnepr Airlines recently announced that it has successfully flown five IL-76 flights to Antarctica as part of the DROMLAN International Antarctic project. The flights were operated from Cape Town (South Africa) to Novolazarevskaya runway in Antarctica and delivered a total of 200 tons of general cargo to the research stations on the continent.

Volga-Dnepr Flies IL-76s Successfully To Antarctica
The recent operation saw five IL-76TD-90VD charter flights deliver supplies to research stations. Photo: Volga-Dnepr Airlines

In an official statement, the airline said the following:

“With Volga-Dnepr’s expertise, experience, aligned procedures and capable fleet of five IL-76TD-90VD freighters, the company was able to accomplish landing and take-off on a glacial blue ice runway which supposes great skill and competence from the crew members.” – Volga-Dnepr

The mission

For the sixth year in a row, Volga-Dnepr Airlines was tasked with operating charter flights as part of the DROMLAN international Antarctic project in cooperation with Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI). Delivering general cargo, the IL-76 flights covered a distance of over 4,200 kilometers.

Volga-Dnepr Flies IL-76s Successfully To Antarctica
The airline has completed a total of 150 charter flights to Antarctica. Photo: Volga-Dnepr Airlines

Volga-Dnepr has been participating in these missions since 2015 and reports that it has accomplished over 150 charter flights to/from Antarctica. To date, it has delivered over 1,700 tons of general and special cargo.

The airline uses a modernized IL-76TD-90VD aircraft and says that these jets provide a series of advantages in terms of its flying distance capability and payload weight capacity. The jets also offer a hermetical cargo hold. “This enables Volga-Dnepr to complete cargo missions to any remote regions under severe weather conditions,” the airline states.

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The airline also notes that it has been working to ramp up its capabilities and introduce new routes and delivery options. The number of certified crew members has increased to guarantee smooth operations, and Volga-Dnepr says more members will be added for the following season. One delivery solution offered is an ‘airlift-and-drop’ possibility which it says is “more preferable for some types of cargo and operating flights to other stations in Antarctica.” It adds that In 2020, Volga-Dnepr’s specialists “masterminded its first-ever IL-76TD-90VD fights which crossed the Antarctica on its way from South Africa to Chile.”

Volga-Dnepr Flies IL-76s Successfully To Antarctica
The IL-76 has been modernized to handle these extreme missions. Photo: Volga-Dnepr Airlines

Other Antarctic missions

Simple Flying recently covered another Antarctic mission involving a big jet. In this other case, an Icelandair Boeing 767-300ER operated by Loftleidir was chartered to rotate Norwegian researchers in and out of the Troll Research Station.

Troll Research Station, close to where Icelandair’s 767 landed, is approximately 360km away from Novolazarevskaya Station, where Volga-Dnepr’s IL-76 touched down.

Volga-Dnepr Flies IL-76s Successfully To Antarctica
Both the Troll Research Station and Novolazarevskaya Station are located within Queen Maud Land. Photo: Google Earth

Research stations in Queen Maud Land (which include Troll and Novolazarevskaya) are connected by DROMLAN, or the Dronning Maud Land Air Network Project. This project is a cooperative agreement for transportation between eleven nations that have research stations in East Antarctica.

The International Polar Foundation notes that regardless of where researchers come from, all team members fly into Cape Town, South Africa. It is here that they gather for the latest briefings and fine-tunings before heading off to Antarctica.

Have you ever spotted an IL-76? Let us know in the comments.