Me, Robin, one of the travel correspondents of Travel Radar, undertook a road trip in July from Ghent, a city in Belgium, to Yekaterinburg, a city in Asian Russia. On this road trip the focus was mainly on aviation. We have spotted at more than 20 airports. In Kiev we were able to take a look inside the maintenance facilities of Antonov Airlines.
Antonov Airlines will be 30 years old this year. The company is part of the Antonov Aviation Company, the company that develops and produces the aircraft itself. Antonov Airlines has a fleet of 13 aircraft:
|Antonov An-22A Antei||1|
|Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan||3|
|Antonov An-124-100M Ruslan||4|
The Antonov An-22 is perhaps one of the rarest aircraft of Antonov. Unfortunately we were not able to photograph it during our tour. Antonov let us know that this flying work of art can transport up to 60 tons of cargo. Moreover, this aircraft is also the first wide-body freighter aircraft in the world and the largest propeller-driven aircraft ever built.
Especially the Antonov An-74T-100 is known for its engines on the wings. Antonov only has one of these in his fleet. This is a very flexible aircraft as it is equipped with 45 seats to carry passengers, but it can be converted in no time to a cargo aircraft and carry 5.5 tons of cargo.
In addition to the An-74, the company has another aircraft that can be converted from a passenger aircraft to a cargo aircraft: the Antonov An-26. It is used for both military and commercial transport. The maximum payload is 5.5 tons.
About the Antonov An-28 there is not much to tell. The aircraft can carry a maximum of 15 passengers and is used by Antonov himself for training flights.
Antonov’s second best known aircraft must be the An-124. Like the An-22, it was developed as a military cargo aircraft (An-124-100), but is nowadays used for commercial purposes (An-124-100 RUSLAN). There are also some modernisations carried out. The An-124-100 has a payload of 120 tons and the An-124-100M-150 has a payload of 150 tons! Other modifications were made, such as the extension of the flying range.
Last but not least, the An-225 or also called ‘Mriya’, literally ‘dream’ in Ukrainian. This one doesn’t need an introduction anymore. The An-225 is the world’s largest aircraft, based on the An-124, was developed to transport the Energiya carrier-rocket and Buran space shuttle. Unfortunately this is no longer done, but this gigantic aircraft carries oversized cargo (up to 250 tons) to various destinations for Antonov himself, but also for third parties just like the An-124. Unfortunately only one piece has been built. There is a second one of which the fuselage is complete, but the wings and tail are not mounted on it. If someone would be interested in this and Antonov would get money for it, they would like to finish or sell it. China may be interested in it, but they are very careful with the copy-paste behavior of the Chinese.
If you want to know more about the details of all these aircraft, we recommend you to visit the official site of Antonov Airlines: https://www.antonov-airlines.com
First and foremost, we need to separate two airports. Our tour started at Antonov Company itself. The company is located next to an airport within the ring road around Kiev. This is where the actual production takes place. At the other airport, Gostomel Airport, a little more north-west of Kiev, the maintenance of the Antonov Airlines’ planes takes place and here, Antonov Company also carries out various tests. When all tests with a certain plane are good, production starts. At this last airport our tour took place.
Our tour started in the largest maintenance hangar of Antonov Airlines. The An-225 stood and still stands there without engines and wheels. He gets a so-called C-check. This is the second largest check done on an airplane. Everything wil be checked, from wheels to engines to cockpit. This check takes several weeks and is carried out on any aircraft every X number of flying hours or every 20 to 24 months. Only the D-check is even more intensive. Even the painting is removed. This takes place every 6 to 10 years and takes up to 2 months.
In between the works we could also take a look in the cockpit. There we see that a lot of cabling is exposed to be checked. The whole plane was constructed by Soviet people in 1988. Over the years, however, several modifications have been made to comply with the guidelines in different countries and in Europe. However, we can still find some old instruments such as the radar. In the cockpit there is room for 6 crew members. In addition, there is also a support team of about 20 members. These have seats at the back of the plane: ‘in the tail’. The cockpit and the space where the support team is seated are completely separate from each other.
(Read further under the images)
After the visit to the cockpit, we were allowed to walk freely in the hangar for a few minutes to take detailed pictures. There were also 3 other Antonovs: an An-148, an An-158 and an An-178. The Antonov An-148 is a small regional jet with room for 60 to 85 passengers. The An-158 is the same as an An-148, but the capacity was increased to 100 persons and the internal system was renewed. The An-178 is the cargo version of the An-158 and is meant to replace older freighter aircraft like the An-12, An-26 and An-32. All three you see in these pictures are prototypes.
(Read further under the images)
Our tour continued outside on the tarmac. Opposite the hangar we see an open cover which they call the ‘ELINC’. Underneath are the airplanes placed so that they are protected against rain and snow. In the meantime we are also working on the equipment.
After that, we walked to another apron where a lot of planes were parked (pictures of these were shown above). We were not allowed to take pictures of the prototypes outside such as the An-22. Below you see a picture of an An-132D. This one was developed in collaboration with Saudi Arabia. By 2035, more than 260 aircraft of this type should have been produced.
Finally, I asked what else Antonov has in store for the future. They let us know that there are things on the agenda like the An-132D and other military aircraft, but that is ‘top secret’.