Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

The head of Aeroflot has warned that the airline will not increase its orders for the Ilyushin II-96T freighter because the aircraft will not offer competitive operating economics.

Speaking at a special gathering of Russia's Federal Aviation Service to review air cargo operations, Valery Okulov, Aeroflot general director, said that the Il-96T will have "very low profitability - close to zero - even on the most profitable routes". He added that the airline is very satisfied with its single McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 freighter, which it operates between Moscow and Tokyo and which has allowed it to boost its cargo revenues. This DC-10-30F alone carried 2% of the total cargo flown last year in Russia by the fleet of about 800 freighters.

The airline has an order for three Il-96Ts as part of a 20-strong purchase of the widebody, powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW2000s, which includes 17 Il-96M passenger versions. Delivery of the first Il-96T was expected late in 1997, but this date has slipped because of delays in the certification process.

Meanwhile, Okulov believes that it would be better to allocate limited finances from the Government to the development of the Russian/ Ukrainian Antonov An-70 propfan powered cargo aircraft, rather than use the support to modernise the Antonov An-124 and Ilyushin Il-76 cargo transports. The An-70 is capable of carrying 50t of cargo over 7,000km (3,800nm).

A twin engined commercial version, with better economical efficiency but lacking the short-field performance of the military transport, is now being proposed by Antonov.

The An-70 programme was expected to be discussed at the summit of the French, German and Russian heads of state in Moscow in late March. The aircraft has been promoted by the German Government as a contender to meet the requirement for the European Future Large Aircraft, although this has been resisted by partners in the project, such as France, Italy and the UK.

Source: Flight International