The Story of Antonov Airlines

1946

DESIGN BUREAU NO.153 ESTABLISHED

Antonov Airlines can trace its lineage back to May 31, 1946, when Design Bureau No. 153 was established in the city of Novosibirsk. Ultimately taking the name of the eminent aircraft designer, Oleg Antonov, Antonov Company has been responsible for designing some of the world’s most unique aircraft for almost 75 years. Antonov Airlines was founded in 1989, becoming Antonov Company’s international air transportation division and Ukraine’s national cargo airline.

1946 -1959

AWARD-WINNING AN-2 ANNUSHKA & AN-12 MILITARY AIRCRAFTS CREATED

After the Second World War, Oleg Antonov moved to Novosibirsk to head a glider design office, a subsidiary of Yakovlev. A year later, it became a design bureau in its own right and Antonov was named head designer. It was with the Oleg Konstantinovich Antonov Design Bureau No. 153 (OKB-153) that Antonov continued his focus on powered flight, designing the An-2 Annushka – a unique biplane that won Antonov and his team the State Award of the USSR and 100,000 Soviet rubles. Five years later, OKB-153 moved from Novosibirsk to Kyiv, a city with a rich aviation history. It was here, that the highly-respected An-12 military turboprop-powered transport aircraft was born in 1957. It would win Antonov and his team the USSR’s Lenin Award five years later.

1959 - 1971

WORLD’S FIRST WIDE-BODY AIRCRAFT DEVELOPED

In 1959, OKB-153 began constructing a separate flight testing and improvement facility in the Kyiv suburb of Gostomel – a facility that would eventually become known as ‘Antonov Airport’. The following year, Antonov began the development of the world’s first wide-body aircraft – the An-22 Antei. The aircraft debuted at the Paris Air Show in 1965 before entering production. Sixty-four airframes were eventually constructed, although only one remains in commercial use today.

1971 - 1983

WORLD’S LARGEST PRODUCTION AIRCRAFT CREATED

In 1971, the creation of the world’s largest production aircraft began. Designed by OKB-153, the An-124 Ruslan prototypes were constructed at manufacturing plants in Kyiv, Tashkent and Ulyanovsk. Eleven years later, on December 26, 1982, the strategic airlifter made its maiden flight. Some 56 airframes were eventually constructed, several of which were designated An-124-100 and used for the transportation of commercial cargo. The An-124 went on to become the largest aircraft ever mass-produced.

1984

FOUNDER, OLEG ANTONOV DIES SHORTLY AFTER RECEIVING HIGHEST AWARD IN SOVIET AEROSPACE CONSTRUCTION

On April 4, 1984, Oleg Antonov died at the age of 78. A month before his death, he had received the gold Tupolev Medal, the highest award in Soviet aerospace construction. He was also officially recognised as a Doctor of Science, Academician of the Academy of Science of the Ukrainian SSR (1968), Hero of Socialist Labour (1966), and elected member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the 5th, 6th and 7th convocations. During his lifetime he had been decorated with three Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and the Medal ‘Partisan of the Patriotic War’ 1st class. On November 19, 1984, the OKB-153 was formerly renamed Antonov Design Bureau in his honour.

1984 - 1989

NEW DESIGNER APPOINTED AND WORLD’S HEAVIEST AIRCRAFT, AN-225 MRIYA, CREATED

Piotr Vasilyevich Balabuev was appointed General Designer in the weeks after Oleg Antonov’s death. One of his first tasks was to design an aircraft capable of carrying the Soviet Buran spacecraft. Within four years, having used the An-124 as the basis for his design, Balabuev and his team created the An-225 Mriya (‘Dream’) – the heaviest aircraft built to date and still the only one of its type in the world. It made its maiden flight on December 21, 1988, before going on to perform a series of flights carrying the Buran. It subsequently made its international debut at the Paris Air Show in June 1989.

1989 - 1996

ANOTONOV AIRLINES FORMED AND BREAKS GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS

Antonov Design Bureau formed its international air transportation division, Antonov Airlines, in 1989 and received its Air Operator’s Certificate the following year. Early charter flights using the airline’s only An-124-100 were first arranged directly through Antonov, before a UK-based general sales agent, Air Foyle Ltd, was employed to sell charter flights in Europe, North America and the Persian Gulf. In January 1991, Air Foyle and Antonov Airlines wrote themselves into the record books when a flight carrying three 42-ton transformers from Spain to New Caledonia was accepted by the Guinness World Records. Two years later, the companies broke another world record by carrying the heaviest single piece ever airlifted (to the time) – a 135,200kg generator from Germany to India.

1996 - 2001

OLEG ANTONOV MAKES IT INTO THE INTERNATIONAL AIR & SPACE HALL OF FAME

By April 1996, Antonov Airlines had acquired a fleet of seven An-124-100s with a life cycle set at 15 years. Four years later, the fleet had received life extension work extending their life-cycles by a further decade. By now, Oleg Antonov’s immense contribution to international aviation had also been recognised. In 1999, he was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

2001 - 2006

AN-225 MRIYA MAKES FIRST COMMERCIAL CHARTER FLIGHT IN ENORMOUS HUMANITARIAN MISSION

In 2001, Antonov Design Bureau joined forces with several other ex-Soviet aerospace manufacturers to bring the An-225 Mriya out of retirement. After refurbishment, the An-225 performed its first commercial charter flight on January 2, 2002, carrying 216,000 ration packs for US military personnel serving in the Persian Gulf. It was also chartered as part of ‘Operation Christmas Child’ in December 2002 to fly from New York’s John F. Kennedy airport to Entebbe, Uganda, carrying 80,000 shoeboxes packed with gifts for underprivileged children. The lead singer of Irish rock band, U2 – Bono – inspected the aircraft, declaring it ‘bigger than a rock star’s ego’.

2006 - 2016

ANTONOV AIRLINES ENTERS JOINT-VENTURE WITH RUSSIA’S VOLGA-DNEPR AIRLINES

In June 2006, Antonov Airlines’ relationship with Air Foyle ceased and the company entered into a joint-venture agreement with Volga-Dnepr Airlines of Russia. Operating under the name, Ruslan International Ltd, the airlines’ joint fleet of An-124-100s were marketed for worldwide charter operations by an office consisting of both carriers’ staff at London Stansted Airport. During this time, Antonov Airlines was awarded another Guinness World Record for carrying the heaviest item ever airlifted – a 187,600kg power plant generator from Germany to Armenia. Another record was broken the following year, when the An-225 carried the world’s longest piece of air cargo – two 42.1m test wind turbine blades from Tianjin, China, to Skrydstrup, Denmark.

2016 - present

DREAMLIFTS LTD APPOINTED AS WORLDWIDE SALES AGENT FOR ANTONOV AIRLINES

In December 2016, the joint-venture agreement between Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr Airlines was terminated. Shortly afterwards, another British company – Dreamlifts Ltd – was selected to become the worldwide general sales agent for Antonov Airlines. Based at London Stansted Airport’s Diamond Hangar, Dreamlifts subsequently opened a second office in Houston, Texas, in 2017, to coordinate Antonov Airlines’ charter activities in the United States.