MUNICH — Antonov Airlines could be the “Cindy Crawford” of the freight forwarding business. Much like your uncle proudly displays a poster of the 1990s supermodel across the mantle of his man-cave, forwarders around the world decorate their offices with pictures of their cargo aboard the maindecks of An-124s; if it’s on the An-225, it’s probably in a nice frame.
But since Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014, the Kiev-based carrier/manufacturer has undertaken a massive reorientation of its entire supply chain away from Russia. Here, at the Air Cargo Europe show, Antonov continued this process by partnering with U.S.-based Dunlop Tires to supply a number of its airframes, including the An-124 and An-225.
In addition, Antonov is also working with U.S. Honeywell for its avionics, Pratt & Whitney, Dowty Propellers, Zodiac Aerospace and many other Western suppliers that are eager to work with the iconic Ukrainian.
“There is no other airline that is designing, manufacturing, and operating its own airplanes in the commercial cargo world,” said Graham Witton, managing director of Antonov Airlines U.K. “We walk into customer’s offices, and they are proud to have a picture, or certificates … proudly above his desk in his office.”
During the conference, Antonov also said it will establish a presence in the United States and Hong Kong. Oleg Orlov, vice president of Antonov, said the move came soon after an open skies agreement was signed with the U.S., granted Antonov the freedom to operate to and from the U.S. without the need to obtain U.S. Department of Transportation authorization.
Recently, the carrier also established a new office at London Stansted Airport in the U.K., and appointed a general sales agent in Japan and Australia.
Orlov noted that the transition has been “very challenging,” but that the pivot toward the West is in the company’s long-term strategic interest. “Antonov is the first former-Soviet aircraft designer that has manufactured an aircraft solely with Western components.” He also underscored that support from the Ukrainian government was key to the success of this latest endeavor.