Volga-Dnepr: Four AN-124-100s are back in business

By Rachelle Harry

Volga-Dnepr Group has confirmed that four of its AN-124-100 aircraft are “back in business”.

Additionally, in total five of the aircraft are expected to be back up and running by the end of this month.

The company said it is focusing on safety while it gradually gets its fleet of AN-124-100s – which was grounded in November after one of the aircraft had to make an unexpected emergency landing – back in the skies.

No one was hurt in the incident, which happened on November 13.

Speaking exclusively to Air Cargo News, chief commercial officer Konstantin Vekshin said that the temporary suspension of the fleet around the end of November – “at the peak of the unprecedented demand last year” – was a blow.

“It was a mutual blow, for us and our customers,” said Vekshin. 

“For us it was not about the money, it was all about safety and we wanted to make a timely call and look into things. It was important for us to do what we had to do.”

He added that while some of the company’s customers were able to use the company’s Boeing 747 freighters as a substitute, in other cases, particularly for the aerospace market, “the An-124 was absolutely irreplaceable”.

Vekshin said the company is now shifting its focus to sensitive shipments.

“One of the first flights that we carried out [with the AN-124-100] was vaccine-related,” he said.

“We’re going to be very selective in regards to flying other types of cargo for the time being.

“Four aircraft is a good number for us to be able to deal with these shipments. And we will have more [up and running] towards the end of the month.

“We’ll also be focused on the industries and customers who are not able to get by without the AN-124s.”

Looking forward, Vekshin said: “We’re glad that we’re coming back. It’s very busy year already – we can feel that. The demand is there.

“We feel that 2021 is not going to be a ‘normal’ year. Covid is not going anywhere any time soon, so the market will not be as we initially thought it would.

“I think that in many ways, this year will be a replica of 2020, but we are prepared for that. More importantly, we are prepared to fly sensitive cargo. Sensitive cargo being anything relating to Covid-19 vaccine. 

“It looks like it’s going to be another interesting year and another test for all of us. Hopefully we’ll be able to satisfy all our existing and future needs of our customers.”

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