The Main Profession

After the State tests had been completed the mastering of the AN-124 started. The airplanes came to the 12th Mginskaya military-transport aviation division (MTAD) of AF of the USSR, namely the 235th and the 566th military-transport aviation regiments (till present time both regiments has been disbanded). The first AN-124 landed on aviation base in Seshcha on February 10, 1987. 26 airplanes were in AF of the USSR before March 1991. After the USSR had been decayed Russia inherited all military AN-124s. Today there are 25 Ruslans in its Air Forces, 10 of which (the best ones) are a part of so called “224 flight detachment”. Three of them were developed into the AN-124-100.

In December 1990 the crew of pilots and specialists of the 235th MTAD (14 men) under the command of L.V.Kozlov, lieutenant-general performed a round-the-world flight on the AN-124 by rout Australia (Melbourne) – South Pole – North Pole – Australia with the intermediate stops in Brazil (Rio-de-Janeiro), Morocco (Casablanca)  and USSR (Vozdvizhenka). The flight with length of 50.005 km was performed for 72 h 16 min with medium range of 680 km/h. 7 world records for speed of flight were established during that flight.

The new heavy strategic military-transport should become a carrier of an oversized warlike equipment, cargo and personnel to the zones of combat operations or tactical training. For the first time Ruslan allowed transportation of almost 100% of technique and armament of Ground Forces, Air Forces, Air Defense and missile troops of strategic purpose by air.

Step-by-step it became clear that Ruslan was the airplane with the unique transport capabilities, which could be used for transportation of commercial cargoes.

By that time ANTONOV accumulated big experience of transportation of the different cargoes. When urgent transport tasks appeared especially in cases of necessity to deliver non-standard cargoes authorities applied to ANTONOV Design Bureau.

Especially many such tasks the firm received with the appearance of the AN-22 Anteus. At that time, in the middle of 1960-th mastering of oil and gas deposits began in Western Siberia, diamond mining developed in the region of Mirny and Yakutsk. In May 1965 the first borehole cavity was bored at Samotlor deposit and the next five-years plan was to yield 100 millions tons. To embody those colossal plans it was necessary to use aviation that played an important role in discovering Siberia.

Every winter during 10 years Antaeuses (the most load-lifting airplanes at that time) flew to Siberia to transport as much as possible cargoes to places of destination in time – before spring lack of roads began. The matter is that in those conditions, with lack of roads and airdromes aircraft could deliver cargoes only in winter using frozen lakes, beds of rivers, rolled snow for take-offs and landings.

Appearance of the AN-124 in ANTONOV design bureau led to increase in demand for transport services of the firm. The first unique transportation of the cargo performed by Ruslan in 1985 was delivery of Euclid 152-tons rock handler from Vladivostok to Poliarny (Yakutia). Due to its big size (wheels only had diameter 3.5 m) that machine did not seat in the aircraft. It was dismantled and transported to the point of destination in two flights.

In May 1986 Ruslan delivered a huge working wheel of hydraulic turbine with diameter of 6 meters and mass of 80 tons for Tash-Kumyr power station being built. In 20 days by the same route just the same wheel was delivered.

Than big disaster - an earthquake in Armenia happened in December 1988. To liquidate the aftermath it was necessary to deliver thousand tons of various cargoes including heavy construction technique, bulldozers to suffered regions. The heaviest and oversized cargoes, of course, were transported by the AN airplanes and crews. 120-tons mobile Liebherr crane from Germany was among cargoes.

When a passenger train suffered from a gas pipeline explosion near Cheliabinsk, many people were scalded. ANTONOV’s transport department was chosen for urgent delivery of an antiscald vaccine and especial medical equipment from France to a place of tragedy. The other transportations, for example, huge parabolic antenna from Moscow suburb to the Middle Asia were performed as well.

Thus, step-by-step a situation when a part of the airplanes and personnel of ANTONOV firm were permanently involved into carrying out the regular important government task at that time as financing of the firm activity from state budget became irregular. A leadership of the firm could estimate a situation in time and took a course to self-financing by organizing its own aviation transport activity on the commercial base. Nowadays it is known as ANTONOV Airlines. Here Ruslan has also transferred into a civil cargo aircraft, and this profession became the main one in its biography. Oleg Konstantinovich Antonov played a significant role in its development as believed Ruslan to be a perspective commercial aircraft. That is why the correspondence to all civil requirements on reliability and safety of flight operation, as well as life time of the glider and systems were pledged into the AN-124 layout.

From January 1990 till December 1992 a complex of certification tests on the compliance with the civil aircraft airworthiness standards AAS-3 was being passed at the aircraft №№ 01-01, 01-03, 05-07 and 02-08. On January 30, 1992, ANTONOV obtained the Type Certificate for the AN−124−100 as a civil transport aircraft that was given by the Aviation Register IAC.

Volga-Dnepr, Russian airline, became the second commercial transporter operating Ruslan. In 1990 the company received its first version (airborne designation - the USSR-82042) and today it has 10 Ruslans in its disposition.

Later such airlines as ANTONOV AirTrack, Ayaks, Polyot, Transcharter, Titan and civil transport company Russia also began operating AN-124s. However all those companies, besides the Polyot, had two endings: they either lost their Ruslans or stopped functioning at all. On the contrary, Polyot began extending its business by using Ruslans, leased at Russian ATA. Today this company operates its 4 aircraft. The first foreign operators of the AN-124 appeared: Lybian interstate company of transport and social works under the aegis of USAF that has 2 airplanes, and air company Maximus Air Cargo from the United Arab Emirates, having in arrangement 1 AN-124.

The variety of cargoes transported by the AN-124 is the widest in the aviation history. The AN−124 has been used to deliver 90 ton hydraulic turbines, the Liebherr large dimension mobile crane, the USA Euclid mine truck, the fuselage of the Tu−204 passenger aircraft, a 109 ton locomotive, a 135,2 tons electric generator made by Siemens Company, General Electric GE90 aircraft engines, various combat vehicles, Lynx antisubmarine helicopters, a spaceship in its container and other unique cargoes. Among the passengers of the AN-124-100 were even giraffes, dolphins and a huge New Year tree!

However, the aircraft received more popularity by transporting cargoes that were impossible to deliver by any other vehicle. Owing to Ruslan a sacred obelisk of 19-metres extruded of basalt was returned to Ethiopia from Italy. And after the delivery of the desalination plant with the weigh of 72 m to Marshall Islands, the government of this state made a decision to commemorate this transportation by outputting a collection postage-stamp. Almost all the time such well-known companies as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Loral, Volkswagen, Siemens and General Electric were using Ruslans’ services. Quickness and distance of the transportation of oversized cargoes were the main criteria for those companies.

During the first five years from the beginning of the AN-124-100 commercial operation the average annual stature of air trabsportation of unique cargoes reached 26% in the world. Every four years only a number of American companies using the AN-124-100 had been doubling. Although nowadays it takes more time for market’s capacities to develop, it still continues growing. According to the experts it will grow practically in 3 times by 2017, costing 1,4 billion dollars, and by 2013 – 2,3 billion dollars.

Ruslan International Ltd. was registered in Great Britain, in June 2006. The company had the following tasks: leading of coordinated commercial and technical politics, improvement of services’ quality, offered by ANTONOV airlines and Volga-Dnepr. Today the major part of transportations at Ruslans is being sold through this structure.

In June 2003 at the conference of NATO countries in Brussels participants of the SALIS project (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution – temporal decision for strategic air deliveries) came to a conclusion of an utility of Ruslans’ leasing as the main transport aircraft for performing strategic air transportations in interests of 18 governments (Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Canada, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, Czech Republic and Switzerland).

In October 2004 Ruslan SALIS GmbH company was established and joint the efforts of ANTONOV Airlines and Volga-Dnepr in the SALIS project. Later those 2 companies signed few contracts with Ruslan SALIS GmbH about the freight of the AN-124-100 aircraft, basing on the principle of equal participation in the works on application of NATO.

January, 2006 – the date when the contract between NATO and Ruslan SALIS GmbH entered into force. According to the document, two aircraft AN-124-100 (one Ukrainian, another one is Russian) had to be based in the Leipzig airport (FRG) and always be ready for takeoff on demand. Additionally 4 airplanes should have been given to partners in the case of necessity. Later a special base for online technical service of aircraft was organized in Leipzig.

This contract was prolonged for numerous times. The last time a joint Ukrainian-Russian company won in the tender on the accomplishment of strategic aviation transportations during the period of up to 2014 due to the interests of NATO in June 2012. “Ruslan SALIS is the unique company that completely correspond to our technical requirements” as noted in the letter of tender committee.