RUSSIA's Volga-Dnepr Group's Ruslan International An-124-100 joint venture with Antonov Airlines is to be terminated at the end of 2016, ten years after their partnership was set up to create the world's largest commercial fleet of An-124 'heavy-lift' freighter aircraft.
The two companies established the joint venture to jointly market their combined An-124-100 fleets, the two largest in the world, with the aim of improving availability of the unique ramp loading cargo aircraft for customers all over the world, reported Lloyd's Loading List.
When the partnership was formed some customers had concerns about their dominant position in the market, with Volga-Dnepr and Antonov collectively controlling 80 per cent of the world's commercially available An-124 aircraft. However, the two successfully argued that the efficiency benefits of joint management of the fleets of this aging aircraft type outweighed the risks.
Volga-Dnepr gave no reasons for ending the partnership, although reports suggest that it was Antonov that terminated the relationship. In August, Antonov released a statement that it would press international aviation regulation authorities to bar all Russian An-124 operators from international operations if they used other maintenance suppliers to carry out maintenance and certification services on the aircraft.
As the aircraft type's designer and certificate holder, Antonov said use of other maintenance suppliers on the aircraft was illegal, because only Antonov could sign off on any technical documents and inspection certificates.
That move by Antonov was reportedly in retaliation against the Russian Air Force and Volga-Dnepr's efforts to use an Ilyushin Design Bureau facility to carry out MRO services on locally-based An-124s, according to the website ch-aviation.com. Ukraine had then announced its withdrawal from the Ukraine-Russia-NATO Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS), a major Ruslan customer, ch-aviation.com said.
However, Volga-Dnepr stressed that the group's "business collaboration with Antonov will continue for the technical aspects of airworthiness and flight safety support of its An-124-100 fleet".
Commenting on the implications of the separation, Volga-Dnepr said: "As the major shareholder in Ruslan International and as the operator of the world's largest An-124 fleet, Volga-Dnepr has the full capability to continue to support all existing customer contractual obligations."
Vice president for development and special projects at Volga-Dnepr, Dennis Gliznoutsa, said: "We are free to take commercial decisions that are in the best interests of our group and our customers, and this represents a new and exciting chapter for Volga-Dnepr Group as we continue to build upon the reputation we have earned for service quality and reliability over more than 26 years."
He continued: "We now have an even more diverse and capable product offering for our customers under our 'Cargo Supermarket' concept, which combines our growing An-124, IL-76TD-90VD, Boeing 747 and 737 freighter fleet and logistics services."
Source : HKSG.