Outsized air cargo specialist Volga-Dnepr Airlines said Tuesday it has restarted commercial flights with one of its An-124 heavy loaders one month after grounding the fleet as a safety precaution in response to an accident.
The Moscow-based carrier pulled its eight An-124-100s from service following an engine failure that forced one aircraft to make an emergency landing in Russia. The suspension put a big dent in the supply of ultra-large aircraft for project cargo, such as oil and gas drilling equipment, turbines, generators, machinery and trucks.
Large industrial customers include The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), GE (NYSE: GE), Spirit Aero Systems (NYSE: SPR), Space Systems Loral, Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), Shlumberger (NYSE: SLB), Baker Hughes (NYSE: BKR), and Siemens (CXE: SIE).
Volga-Dnepr, which also operates five Ilyushin IL-76TD freighters, said the first An-124 was cleared for operation after completing a series of technical checks and service directives from aircraft maker Antonov. It said the rest of the fleet will gradually return to service in phases as service directives are met, but has not issued any results from its investigation into the cause of the recent accident.
“Volga-Dnepr has taken a thorough approach towards re-launch of An-124 commercial operations to secure the utmost flight safety in line with existing industry and internal standards,” the company said in a statement, adding that customers are being individually informed of the situation and aircraft availability.
The company owns four other An-124 aircraft that are currently sidelined for major equipment overhauls. Volga-Dnepr Group subsidiaries also operate Boeing 737 and 747 freighters.
Rival Antonov Airlines said there was no need to ground its An-124 fleet because the company follows a rigorous maintenance and safety compliance program.
Earlier this month, the Ukraine-based airline deployed the world’s only An-225, which dwarfs the supersized An-124, in response to the heavy-lift capacity shortage.