On the first day of the Farnborough Air Show 2016, the Russian leasing company Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC) penned an agreement with Azerbaijani freight carrier Silk Way Airlines regarding the leasing of an An-124-100. The two sides agreed on the basic conditions of delivery of the aircraft, and a firm contract is expected to be signed within the next thirty days.
Talks about the aircraft delivery have been carried on for the past six months, including the details of financial leasing. The deadline for the aircraft’s delivery has been set at Q1 2017, according to Silk Way Airlines. “The aircraft will be operated on charter routes. Such are in demand for carrying special goods for programs in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said the Azerbaijani carrier’s president, Zaur Akhundov. Additionally, the aircraft is suitable for use in the interests of oil and gas projects.
When asked about Silk Way’s intentions for further acquisition of An-124 aircraft, Akhundov emphasized that “there should be a minimum of two of each type of aircraft in our fleet. Of course, we are aware of the difficulties experienced by the OEMin regards of production of this type. This will be a good push to relaunch the production.”
The An-124 in question was built in 2004, and was previously operated by Polet Airlines. It was created in a double-decker layout: the space upstairs is for the cabin and relief crew and cabin attendants, and the lower deck is a sealed cargo compartment. The aircraft has the ability to transport cargo to a distance of 5,000 km.
Responding to a question about where the An-124 will be serviced, Akhundov answered: “In Ulyanovsk today there is an excellent place for maintenance. Routine procedures before delivery will be carried out there.”
Until recently, Silk Way Airlines exploited seven of the less spacious cargo aircraft Il-76. The development of a new fleet will allow the operator to “build competitive advantage and strengthen its position in the global shipping market.” In particular, Akhundov noted that the carrier has been receiving orders for goods that the Il-76 is unable to handle. “This acquisition, of the largest charter aircraft in the world, begins a new chapter not only for this airline, but also for Azerbaijani commercial aviation. We have a lot of experience in operating Il-76 in charter programs. Today we have a lot of orders from Europe and Southeast Asia, with 80% of these being commercial goods.”
In the future, the airline would like to expand its fleet of Il-76s. However, according to Akhundov, “there is another problem; the number of this type of aircraft being produced today does not satisfy even the needs of the Russian authorities.”
Akhundov also announced that the carrier has suspended the operation of the An-12 freighters. Operation of this aircraft is unprofitable due to the aircraft’s requirement of complex maintenance. However, the carrier signed a contract for new An-178 light transport aircraft, becoming the type’s launch customer. Deliveries are scheduled for the beginning of 2018, and two of such aircraft are promised by the firm contract.
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