After having its operational base at Gostomel Airport, near Kiev, hit in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Antonov Airlines lost its flagship, the An-225 Mryia, the largest aircraft ever built. The attack by the invading Russian forces also damaged other aircraft, including an An-124, An-74T, An-26 and the An-22.
The airline focused on special cargo, however, is slowly resuming its service, now based in Leipzig, Germany. In recent weeks, the presence of its remaining An-124s has been noticed at various airports around the world.
According to Planespotters, the Ukrainian company has seven four-engine aircraft capable of transporting up to 120 tons of cargo. In addition to the registration jet UR-82009, which was hit in the attack, there is another An-124, the UR-82073, which is stationed at the same airport.
The five active An-124s have assumed a frequent flight routine, which intensified in September. One of them, for example, took a gas turbine from Abu Dhabi to the UK on the 24th.
The following day, the An-124 UR-82029 flew from Leipzig to Belfast, Northern Ireland, departing on the 26th for Canada.
On Tuesday, three other Antonovs of the company performed flights. The UR-82008 plane took off from Leipzig for what appears to be a test flight after being on the ground for a month.
The UR-82072 aircraft was at Orlando Airport, Florida, and from there it flew to Toulouse, France. Another An-124, UR-82027, also departed the German city towards Africa, but the destination remains unknown.
Despite the more frequent flights, routes operated by Antonov Airlines An-124s are not clearly shown on flight tracking websites. The reason is that the company and European laws have barred the disclosure of these activities, possibly in order to prevent any type of aggression against the jets and their crew. In FlightRadar24, for example, flights are tracked but without any information or history records.
Despite its discretion, Antonov Airlines has used its giants airplanes to deliver messages of support to the Ukrainian people. Messages such as “ВE BRAVE LIKE BUCHA” were painted on the side of the fuselage of the aircraft, in the case of the UR-82029 plane.
The war in Ukraine reduced the activity of Antonov jets, which played an important role in transporting special cargo around the world. Another company that operates the model, Volga-Dnepr, is banned from flying to several Western countries.
It is no wonder that the single An-124 of Maximus Air Cargo, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, has taken off almost daily on its cargo missions around the globe.