LE BOURGET — Russian cargo airline group Volga-Dnepr intends to buy 20 more Boeing 747-8F freighter aircraft, under a memorandum of understanding signed this morning at the Paris Air Show. It’s an impressive undertaking for Volga-Dnepr, and with few airlines opting for the 747-8I, the agreement must be a relief in Seattle, where the lull in the world cargo market has meant the 747-8F hasn’t been flying off the proverbial shelves. Monthly output of the iconic jumbo will drop to 1.3 from 1.5 airframes per month in September due to slowing demand. Until this order, fewer then 100 747-8s remained in the backlog.
“Our partnership with Volga-Dnepr Group is one of a kind,” Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division President and CEO Ray Conner said. “Volga-Dnepr Group is a world-class cargo carrier and an outstanding service provider. We appreciate their confidence in the 747-8 Freighter.”
The deal is worth $7.4 billion at list prices, although Volga-Dnepr will likely have received a significant discount thanks to being an early customer of the 747-8F (it received its first three years ago), for signing its memorandum of understanding for a large order in front of the world’s assembled media at Le Bourget — and because the memorandum includes an expansion of the support contract between Volga-Dnepr and Boeing for airfreight logistical support, including for Boeing production suppliers. Volga-Dnepr’s Boeing existing 747-8F fleet is operated by its AirBridge Cargo division, and the new aircraft will be added via a mix of purchase and leases, through leasing companies yet to be announced.
“The agreement also adds the Antonov-124-100 aircraft to the long-term logistics support for Boeing and its partners,” said the planemaker in Paris today. Volga-Dnepr already operates three Boeing 747-8F freighers, three 747-400 freighters, and five of the extended-range 747-400ERF version, but its signature aircraft is the Antonov’s An-124-100 Ruslan. The An-124 is the large, high-winged, four-engined cargo aircraft that is a darling of aviation photographers and aircraft enthusiasts, and is likely to be a more frequent visitor to the runways supporting Boeing’s and its suppliers’ production.
“Together with Boeing, we will keep the unique technology of air logistics, offering both the Antonov-124-100 and our expanded Boeing 747 fleet for the benefits of global customers,” said Alexey Isaikin, president of Volga-Dnepr Group.
AirwaysNews understands that Boeing foresees few political or sanctions-related issues given the frosty relations between the United States and Russian Federation, and expects to develop this memorandum of understanding into a firm, signed order in the usual way and to the usual time scales.
The memorandum of understanding signed this morning is the first for the 747-8F at the Paris Air Show, with earlier freighter orders at the show for a total of nine 777F freighters from Qatar Airways and Taipei-based EVA Air.