MIAMI – Volga-Dnepr Airlines (VI) has returned its first Antonov An-124 Ruslan to service following the type’s grounding just over a month ago.

On November 13, VI An-124 registered RA-82040 suffered a runway excursion at Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport (OVB) upon making an emergency landing with an uncontained engine failure. The accident prompted VI to immediately ground its entire An-124 fleet over safety concerns.

“We want to be proactive and pre-emptive and demonstrate that we are a responsible airline where safety comes first,” comments Konstantin Vekshin, VI’s Chief Commercial Officer. Despite this time of the year being extremely busy for air cargo operations, he says VI does not care about missing any revenue. “It’s not even relevant right now. Safety is more important than any potential benefits from the peak season”, he adds.

However, the An-124 has been cleared to fly once more. “We are in the process of [the] diligent execution of the service directives, the technical checks are on the right track. As expected, our first An-124-100 is back in the air again. The ultimate return will be incremental and we will still take our time to follow the guidelines reflected in the service directives,” says Vekshin.

Volga Dnepr Airlines Antonov An-124 Ruslan. Photo: Björn Strey via Wikimedia

An-124 Statistics

Currently, Volga-Dnepr operates a fleet of twelve An-124. The airline calls it the “air cargo heavyweight champion”, highlighting its success in the air cargo market. The aircraft was designed as strategic airlifters, capable of carrying oversized and super-heavy shipments. A total of 55 of them were built.

A single An-124 can hold a payload of up to 264,555 lbs (120,000kg) at maximum range. It has a pressurized cabin that guarantees “unprecedented opportunities” for many different types of cargo to be transported. It has two large cargo doors, one at the nose and one at the tail, with ramps and electric hoists, to assist with loading.

Featured image: Volga Dnepr Airlines Antonov An-124 Ruslan. Photo: Steven Lynes via Wikimedia