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Runway 24 for An-124

When it comes to laying down rubber on runway at Shannon Airport, it requires a brute and brutes don’t come with as much brawn as the Antonov An-124. No stranger to Shannon, examples of the Ukrainian Goliath have been visiting since it first entered service and long been a firm favourite with enthusiasts.

Image by Dayon W.

The second Volga-Dnepr Airlines aircraft to have Ireland as its destination in a week, saw An-124-100 RA-82077 arrive at Shannon on Sunday night May 2nd, touching down heavy at 21:57. The 1995-built heavy-lift freighter at just over 25 years, is a spring chicken of An-124’s within the Volga-Dnepr fleet. The fourth youngest from the fleet of a dozen, the eldest brother over 30 years now. RA-82077 began flying with Polet Flight, spending 22 years with the airline and is a relative new-comer to VD, arriving in 2017.

Difficult to pin-down the actual starting point of its current cargo mission. Wednesday 28th April it performed a 5hr flight from Yogyakarta, Indonesia to Hanoi, Vietnam. The following day it travelled on to Khabarovsk, Russia before arriving at Anchorage on Friday and on to Toronto the same day, a day seeing over 12 hours of flying time. A very short hop to Pittsburgh on Saturday lasting just 49min. From here it was Goose Bay on Sunday and onwards to Shannon that evening. A true globe-trotter. Akin to a submarine crew, roaming the world, pausing only when necessary.

Image by Dayon W.

Reports suggest the crew may have experienced difficulty at Shannon Airport involving the tow-bar. The An-124 like other Soviet era types are generally self-sufficient for all things operational. This minor set-back was nothing in comparison to a previous incident which occurred to RA-82077 almost a year ago. The aircraft while performing a flight from Shanghai, Pudong Intl. Airport to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia on 26th of May 2020, was struck by lightning during its decent into Krasnoyarsk.

What could have been a case of one million face masks being incinerated, was avoided, as the nose radome took the brunt of the electrical force. Captain Sergey Tkhostov & his crew landed the Antonov safely with the PPE cargo intact. A replacement An-124 was flown in from Ulyanovsk to continue the journey onwards to final destination, Portugal.

Image by Dayon W.

After its overnight at Shannon, not this aircraft's first experience at this airport, having visited in December 2017, RA-82077 was prepared for its flight to Athens on Monday. The flight crew of six, consisting of 2 pilots, navigator, chief flight engineer, electrical flight engineer & radio operator, plus a minimum of 2 loadmasters, had the An-124 airborne at 12:45, its four Progress D-18T turbofans able to produce 51,000 lbf each, launching it down RW24 spreading it’s wings over the Shannon estuary.

The route took the aircraft over southern UK, across France, down the west coast of Italy before its Athens arrival. The An-124 is capable of transporting up to 120 tonnes if required and has a maximum take-off weight of 402 tonnes, colossal figures indeed.

Images by The Siberian Times

In November 2020, Volga-Dnepr Airlines made the decision to ground the entire fleet of An-124’s for one month, after RA-82042 suffered an uncontained engine failure on take-off from Novosibirsk, resulting in an emergency landing and nose wheel collapse. This particular aircraft is the oldest An-124 in the VD fleet at over 30 years. Once safety checks were performed all were pleased when the aircraft were back operating once more.

Image by rssii

And so it’s said, good things happen in 3’s. Volga-Dnepr, Ireland is waiting patiently for a third visit by another much welcomed member of the Volga-Dnepr prized fleet of Soviet era designed aircraft. Recipient of the prestigious “Wings of Russia” national aviation award on several occasions, admired not just by the enthusiast community but also its customers.

Images by Dayon W, rssii & The Siberian Times


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