Air International 2008-02
W.Mellberg - Antonov An-124. A russian giant /Commercial/
Antonov's An-124 Ruslan first took to the air at the height of the Cold War on December 26, 1982. Designed for the Soviet military, in the post Cold War world it has proved to be a money-spinner for a number of cargo airlines, including Volga-Dnepr Airlines.
An-124s can be loaded or unloaded through the nose or rear cargo doors, as illustrated by this MiG-21, which is about to be manoeuvred into the hold.
Another Russian operator of the An-124 is Polet, which operates eight of the type. Illustrating how times have changed since the end of the Cold War, this aircraft is pictured at the US Navy air base at Oceana in Virginia about to uplift US Marine Corps equipment. At one time it would have been unthinkable for the US military to charter a Russian aircraft, however it is now commonplace.
An-124s have been used to carry all sorts of large loads. This aircraft is preparing to accept three Super Lynx 300s, which were being delivered to the Royal Air Force of Oman from AgustaWestland.
One of the more unusual operators of the An-124 is Libyan Air Cargo, which is the commercial air cargo division of the Libyan Arab Republic Air Force and operates two of the type.
An-124s are also regularly chartered by the British military as illustrated here by a Volga-Dnepr Airlines aircraft, pictured at Basrah in Iraq.
Abu Dhabi-based Maximus Air Cargo has operated this An-124-100, UR-ZYD, for the last three years. A large number of the hours it flies are in support of its contract to the UAE Ministry of Defence.
To operate this massive aircraft the An-124 is crewed by a pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers, a navigator and a communications specialist.