Russian outsize freight carrier Volga-Dnepr is conducting an in-depth feasibility study centred on a shortened version of the Antonov An-124, featuring a taller cargo hold, to broaden the type's potential freight portfolio, writes David Kaminski-Morrow.
Tentatively known as the An-124-102, the aircraft would incorporate a modified fuselage to accept loads, particularly heavy industrial assemblies, which Volga-Dnepr has previously been unable to accommodate owing to their physical dimensions.
Vice-president of its US division in Houston, Konstantin Vekchine, says the company hopes to have a clearer vision of the required design by next year's Farnborough air show in the UK.
"With existing customers and retroactively, we've been looking at all loads and cargo we were unable to move for size-related reasons - all the missed opportunities," he says. "We're even going back to customers from five or seven years ago, so it's very deep."
Closely linked to the project is Volga-Dnepr's technical director, Victor Tolmachev, who was the chief designer of the An-124 at Antonov Design Bureau.
Vekchine says that the An-124-102 would principally require an increase in cross-section. "The cargo hold will be larger," he says. "The aircraft will have a different height - the height of the cargo bay will be the major modification to the fuselage."
Specific dimensions have yet to be drawn up, but he says that the aircraft will be "a little shorter", and adds: "We would need to harmonise the shrinkage with the increase in height so that the overall capacity does not suffer." Vekchine says the hold floor would be strengthened.