LONDON – According to an exclusive release by The Loadstar, Volga-Dnepr (VI) has taken the decision to ground its fleet of Antonov AN-124 aircraft indefinitely.

This comes following one of its AN-124s suffering a runway excursion whilst making an emergency landing at Novosibirsk-Tolmachevo Airport (OVB) earlier this month.

Reports state that the aircraft, registration RA-82042, had suffered an uncontained engine failure in engine 2 during takeoff. Engine parts punctured the fuselage, and parts were found even in a nearby hangar.

FlightRadar24 reports that the ADS-B signal loss is most likely due to damage from the failed engine. The engines on this specific aircraft are Lotarev D-18T engines. Photos from the scene show that the part which entered the warehouse was part of a fractured disk, likely from the fan.

Following the engine failure, the Flight Crew made an emergency landing back at OVB, where they then overran the runway. There were 14 persons on board the aircraft, and 84 tons of auto parts. The airline reports that there were no injuries.

The aircraft suffered damage to the engines, wings, fuselage, and landing gear. The nose landing gear failed once the aircraft exited the runway.

Photo: Nick Sheeder

Volga-Dnepr’s Comments

Commenting on the news was Konstantin Vekshin, the Chief Commercial Officer of VI who went into detail about the decision taken by the airline. “This is a well-thought-through decision. We want to be proactive and pre-emptive and demonstrate that we are a responsible airline where safety comes first.”

“We have not received any official notifications or service directives yet, and there are no preliminary conclusions, so we have to suspend the entire AN-124 fleet with immediate effect.”

“We strictly adhere to our safety policy, external regulations and public interest. We want to continue to remain the safest operator in the world; grounding the fleet is in the best interests of society.”

Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia

Investigations Still Taking Place, Safety The Priority

VI is still talking to Russian authorities about the incident, with an internal and independent investigation being launched also. The airline is also in conversations with customers about the re-arrangement of flights, as the AN-124s had full and busy itineraries ahead of them.

“It’s very painful for our customers right now, the market is booming. We want to cooperate and will work with them, but there may be some delays to their shipments”, Vekshin added.

“We don’t care how much revenue we will miss – it’s not even relevant right now. Safety is more important than any potential benefits from the peak season.”

Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia

Volga Suggesting Other Customers

Safety has been that much of a priority, that Volga-Dnepr is even telling customers to speak to the likes of Antonov Airlines (ADB), who may be able to operate the flights instead.

However, Vekshin also placed pressure on ADB to launch investigations into its own fleet of AN-124s as well. “I think Antonov Airlines needs to follow our example, under the circumstances. Ultimately, it is their call, of course.”

“Every step must be completed properly. We need to hear from the Russian aviation authority, and from the manufacturer of the engines which we think is now overdue. We need to see the directives and the results of the investigation. We hope that process will start any day now.”

“Once the directives are implemented, we can proceed, but it will take a significant time. We know what part failed, but there needs to be a very thorough investigation with special experts. Hopefully this will be a question of weeks, but it has to be as perfect as possible – so guesswork on timing is not good enough.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Long Work Ahead?

The work for VI now begins as the airline and the Russian authorities will now have to inspect all engines in the fleet, which totals around 60 individual engines.

It will be interesting to see what the authorities say in regards to official cause of the crash, with fingers already being pointed at Motor Sich, the company that develop the engines.

But for now, one of Eastern Europe’s greatest machines will be sat on the ground whilst this process continues before it can even fly again. And it is good to see that VI are taking safety very seriously, as the incident in Novosibirsk could have been a lot worse.

Featured Image: Volga-Dnepr Antonov AN-124. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons