Volga-Dnepr is considering re-engineing its seven Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan heavy freighters with Kuznetsov NK-93 ducted-propfan engines.

Volga-Dnepr president Alexei Isaikin says that company technical specialists have visited engine- maker Dvigateli NK of Samara to evaluate the status of NK-93 development and the feasibility of the re-engineing programme.

The carrier has been investing in a modernisation programme on the Progress Zaporozhye D-18T engine, which has resulted in the time between scheduled overhauls being raised to 4,000h.

Volga-Dnepr technical director Victor Tolmachev hopes that this figure will be increased to 6,000h this year. The unreliability of the D-18 has been behind numerous investigations by airframe builders and operators which have sought alternative Russian or Western powerplants for the heavy freighter.

In spite of improvements in D-18T performance, Isaikin says that there are additional difficulties because the engine, produced in Ukraine, has fallen foul of customs tariffs imposed by Russia. These are aimed primarily at blocking cheap imports of Ukrainian alcohol, but are also being applied to aircraft engines and spare parts.

In 1996, Volga-Dnepr estimated that it cornered 64.8% of the world's heavy and oversized air-cargo market, worth $170 million and flown by the An-124 Ruslan, the only aircraft type available for such missions.


Source: Flight International