Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Airlines end An-124 joint venture

Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Airlines will continue to provide An-124 charter services under SALIS project with individual contracts Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Airlines will continue to provide An-124 charter services under SALIS project with individual contracts (Photo by Antonov)

Russia’s Volga-Dnepr and Ukrainian Antonov Airlines will not extend their cooperation under a joint venture called Ruslan International, which expires on December 31 this year, the Russian carrier confirmed in a statement today. The main reason for separation was apparently deteriorating bilateral relations between Moscow and Kyiv due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and conflict in Eastern Ukraine. This joint venture operated combined fleet of Antonov An-124-100 freighters for charter flights under NATO’s Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) project. This project provides 12 NATO countries as well as Finland and Sweden with urgent access to An-124 airlift capabilities.

In the aftermath of the separation, SALIS consortium had to cancel and postpone new bidding several times. Finally, it granted separate contracts for the period between 2017 and 2019 to Volga-Dnepr’s Leipzig-based Ruslan Salis as well as to newly founded Schkeuditz-based Antonov SALIS.

The final contracts are to be signed in December. The volume of work under the project will be distributed in proportion of 60% for the Russian and 40% for the Ukrainian sides, which is proportional to their fleets. Volga-Dnepr now operates ten Ruslans, and Antonov Airlines – seven.

The two carriers joined forces in 2006 to market their combined fleets of An-124-100, the unique super heavy lifter with ramp loading. “The partnership has provided welcome benefits for both airlines over the past 10 years and, most importantly, ensured the level of An-124 services for customers in industry sectors across the globe,” Volga-Dnepr said. It nevertheless added that the group’s collaboration with Antonov will continue “for the technical aspects of airworthiness and flight safety support” of its An-124-100 fleet.

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