Booming Polet faces fleet dilemma

Just as the AN-124 is being accepted as a key part of their supply chains by major customers, Polet's plans to expand its fl eet have been put into disarray, as Peter Conway reports.

These are frustrating times for Polet Air Cargo. Though its AN-124s are increasingly relied upon by all kinds of major customers – including Airbus, the UN and the US Air Mobility Command – its future fl eet plans are in turmoil. That is because in April the Russian government decided to focus for the moment on production of IL- 76 freighters, rather than re-startingproduction of the AN-124.

One reason for the decision might have been a desire to save an order for 34 IL-76 transports ordered in a $1.5 billion deal with China in 2005, which has been threatened by production delays. But evidence of demand from other carriers for the new re-engined chapter three noise compliant IL-76 must also have been a key factor in the decision. As well as Volga-Dnepr, which has ordered three, and at times talked of buying as many as 20, Silk Way of Azerbaijan surprised the market recently by ordering two re-engined IL-76s, and other orders are said to be in the pipeline.

By contrast, despite fi rm commitments and enthusiastic support from both Polet and Volga-Dnepr, the AN-124 is still short of the 40 or so orders that Polet founder and general director, Anatoly Karpov, admits would probably be needed to make a restart of production viable. “It is up to the manufacturer to decide if they have enough orders,” he says. “We have announced to the world that we are interested to purchase the AN-124-100 and we have signed a fi nance agreement with Vneshtorgbank for this matter. Now, the question is whether other companies will do the same.”