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 which would jack the upper section by around 2m, which would raise the interior cargo bay height from 4.4m to 6.7m, although the fuselage width would remain unchanged.
Volga-Dnepr Group commercial director Dennis Gliznoutsa says the company is exploring whether there is sufficient commercial interest from a pool of customers that might use such an aircraft.
He admits the modification would be a “very expensive exercise” but claims 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 airframers.
Current limitations mean certain payloads, such as helicopters and empennage assemblies, have to be dismantled to fit the An-124. Aerospace clients would be the “prime target” for the jet but Volga-Dnepr is also approaching industrial firms who 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 (16.4ft) from the ground.
Volga-Dnepr says 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 to from 4,000km to 2,500km.
Fuel consumption would increase by about 10%, says Gliznoutsa, and the aircraft would be about 25kt slower in cruise. Modification could be completed in about 18-25 months.
Volga-Dnepr has two options for a candidate airframe. Its preference is to obtain an unused military example. Alternatively it could modify one of its own An-124s, although Gliznoutsa says this is the “less desirable situation”.
Source: Flight International