- 13 February 2006
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Russian outsize freight carrier Volga-Dnepr has detailed its proposed modified version of the Antonov An-124, which would have a taller fuselage to accommodate a greater range of industrial payloads.
The aircraft, designated the An-124-102, would be developed effectively by slicing a baseline An-124 lengthwise, from nose to tail, on a horizontal plane just below the level of the cockpit.
Additional fuselage structure would then be inserted that would jack the upper section by around 2m (6.5ft), increasing the tail height of the freighter from 20.8m to 23.1m. This would raise the interior cargo bay height from 4.4m to 6.7m, although the fuselage width would remain unchanged.
Volga-Dnepr said last year that it was studying a modified An-124, and group commercial director Dennis Gliznoutsa says the company is exploring whether there is sufficient commercial interest from a pool of customers who might use such an aircraft if it became available.
He admits the modification would be a "very expensive exercise", but claims that other outsize types - such as the Airbus A300-600ST and Boeing's 747 Large Cargo Freighter - are unavailable for ad hoc charter because of commitments to their respective airframers.
Current limitations mean certain payloads, such as helicopters and empennage assemblies, have to be dismantled to fit the An-124. The An-124-102's taller hold would enable it to handle the overwhelming majority of aerospace cargo, he adds, with the exception of certain Airbus A380 components.
Aerospace clients would be the "prime target" for the jet, but Volga-Dnepr is also approaching industrial firms that manufacture large-scale equipment for the energy sector.
Gliznoutsa points out that the An-124's lower floor would allow "drive on, drive off" loading and unloading. It would not require the specialised elevating platforms needed to load the A300-600ST and the 747LCF, whose deck heights are around 5m from the ground.
Volga-Dnepr has developed computer-based models of the proposed aircraft and released projected performance data that indicates the overall payload capacity would be reduced to 135t against the 150t of the most modern version of the An-124. The range with this payload would also shorten from 4,000km (2,160nm) to 2,500km.
Fuel consumption would increase by about 10%, says Gliznoutsa, and the aircraft would be about 25kt (45km/h) slower in cruise. Modification could be completed in about 18-25 months. The company estimates the cost of the aircraft at $195 million.
If it secures enough interest in the An-124-102, Volga-Dnepr has two options for a candidate airframe. Its preference is to obtain, subject to Russian government approval, an unused military example. Alternatively it could modify one of its own An-124s, although Gliznoutsa says this is the "less desirable situation".