Antonov Airlines can trace its heritage back to May 31, 1946, when Design Bureau No. 153 was established. Today, as the international transportation division of the present-day aircraft manufacturer, Antonov Company, it holds legal status as the National Cargo Operator of Ukraine.

In March 1989, a decree from the Government of the USSR approved Antonov Design Bureau to perform international commercial cargo deliveries using one AN-124-100 – a derivative of the AN-124 military aircraft. Several months later, British-based Air Foyle Ltd was named general sales agent for Antonov’s AN-124-100 charters in Europe, North America and the Persian Gulf. The agreement was subsequently extended to cover the entire world and included an expanding fleet of AN-12 and AN-22 aircraft.

 

September 1993, World Record transportation of Siemens generator

Awarded an Air Operator’s certificate in 1990, Antonov Airlines soon began operating commercial flights in earnest, carrying out a large series of sub-charter flights from September 1990 to May 1991 on behalf of the Luxembourg carrier, Cargolux.

The company’s entry into the commercial cargo business also coincided with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In October 1990, an increasing number of flights were flown to the Gulf carrying gas masks, field hospitals and relief goods. After the invasion, multiple flights were then operated to Kuwait carrying fire-fighting equipment to quell the numerous oilfield fires left by retreating Iraqi forces.

 

June 1994, delivery of a 109 t General Motors locomotive

The following year, Antonov Airlines entered the record books after carrying three transformers from Spain to New Caledonia to save a nickel smelting plant from total shutdown. The 142,000 kg gross payload – the heaviest for an AN-124-100 – saw the flight enter the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s heaviest commercial airlift. This was followed a year later by a second world record for the heaviest single piece flown (120,000 kg), when a mobile crane was carried from Ukraine to Germany.

September 2012, AN-225 set another Guinness World Record. It was the highest altitude art exhibition ever organised on board the aircraft.

In 2001, after several years in storage, the AN-225 Mriya was returned to service as the world’s heaviest aircraft. The next year, it performed its first commercial flight, carrying ready-to-eat meals for American military personnel stationed in the Gulf.

 

Art exhibition organised on board of AN-225

Five years later, Antonov Airlines formed a joint-venture enterprise, Ruslan SALIS GmbH, to provide the strategic airlift of equipment for NATO countries. At the same time, a commercial joint-venture company was also instigated under the name, Ruslan International Ltd. The latter agreement was terminated in December 2016, while the former ceased in 2018.

Summer 2018 completed a series of 12 AN-225, carrying 12 modules of Heat Recovery Steam Generators, each weigh 160 t Chile to Bolivia.

Thirty years after its foundation, Antonov Airlines is now comprised of three commercial offices: a headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine, plus sales and operations offices in London, UK, and Houston, USA.

Transportation of 12 modules of Heat Recovery Steam Generators