Russia Working On AN-124 Replacement: Dubbed ‘Slon’ or ‘Elephant’

For a few years now, Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute has been working on an aircraft to fill the role…

Russia Working On AN-124 Replacement: Dubbed ‘Slon’ or ‘Elephant’

For a few years now, Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute has been working on an aircraft to fill the role of the Antonov An-124 heavy lifter. First unveiled as a model in 2019,  what can we expect from this aircraft named the ‘слон’ (slon) or ‘elephant’?

The An-124 has been one of the main go-to aircraft for transporting extra large and heavy equipment. Photo: Getty Images

Replacing the An-124

It was back in November 2019 that we first saw a clear vision of Russia’s plan to replace the An-124. The Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) showed off a model of their heavy-load transport aircraft named ‘Slon,’ Russian for ‘Elephant.’

Just like the An-124, Slon will be used to transport heavy and large-size cargo. Here’s what is planned for this new large aircraft:

  • Its range is targeted to be 7,000 km (4,350 miles)
  • The aircraft will have a speed of 850 km/h (528mph).
  • The maximum payload will be 50% more than the An-124, 180 tons compared to 120 tons.
  • Finally, the aircraft will require a runway of three kilometers.

“The work is carried out under a governmental contract with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation within the framework of Magistral-technologies (Highway-technologies) R&D program.” -TsAGI

Like the An-124, the Slon will also be powered by four engines and have a ‘high wing’ design- with the wings mounted on the upper fuselage. Slon’s engines, however, are set to be Russian Aviadvigatel PD-35 advanced ducted-fan engines.

An initial model of the Slon was released in 2019. Photo: TsAGI Press Service

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Aerodynamic testing during 2020

With the model made public in late 2019, TsAGI spent a good portion of 2020 conducting aerodynamic testing. In July 2020, the firm announced it was in the second stage of testing, where the scientists of the institute “analyzed the aerodynamic characteristics of the model at low flight speeds in the longitudinal and lateral channels in the wind tunnel T-102.”

“We were able to study the behavior of the aircraft model at different slip angles, determine the effectiveness of the elevators and rudders, and also evaluate the influence of the assembly elements on the lateral stability of the aircraft at low flight speeds. The results obtained have confirmed the stated design characteristics,” -Alexander Krutov, Junior Researcher, TsAGI

Wind tunnel testing of the Slon model has been ongoing. Photo: TsAGI Press Service

TsAGI noted at the time that this stage of tests would be completed in 2020, with work in 2021 focused on improving the aerodynamic layout based on the test results. Design, take-off and landing mechanization of the aircraft wing and further wind tunnel research would also take place in 2021.

Filling an important niche

Alexander Krutov, a Junior Researcher at TsAGI, also notes that after the gradual decommissioning of the An-124 Ruslan, “a niche will be formed that can be filled with a new aircraft built on the basis of promising technologies.” Krutov believes that civilian cargo companies will become the main customer of the new aircraft. However, it is also expected that the military will be able to transport their cargo with this aircraft, complementing the operations of An-124s still in service.

When do you think this mammoth aircraft will finally become a reality? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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Air Belgium Set To Take 2 Airbus A330-900neos

Air Belgium is set to lease two Airbus A330-900neos that were initially built for the now-defunct Air Berlin.…

Air Belgium Set To Take 2 Airbus A330-900neos

Air Belgium is set to lease two Airbus A330-900neos that were initially built for the now-defunct Air Berlin. The Belgian carrier is due to take the two aircraft this year and will likely enter them into service by the end of 2021.

Air Belgium will add two new A330neos to its fleet this year. Photo: Airbus

Two new A330-900neos for Air Belgium

Fledgling carrier Air Belgium has been flying for just over three years now, after commencing operations in June 2018. The airline will add two new A330-900neos to its small commercial fleet, which presently consists of three A340-300s.

The two jets (serial numbers 1844 and 1861) were originally destined for German carrier Air Berlin before it folded in 2017. Despite no official announcement thus far, pictures show one of the A330-900neos at Airbus’s facility in Toulouse decorated in the Air Belgium livery.

A330neo
The two A330neos will be acquired on lease from Air Lease Corp. Photo: Getty Images

According to ch-aviation, the two aircraft are owned by Air Lease Corp (ALC) and will be delivered to Air Belgium on lease. The rest of Air Belgium’s fleet is also on lease, which includes three A340-300s and four A330-200F cargo planes.

While there’s been no official word on when the new A330-900neos will enter service, they are likely to do so within the year. One of the jets has already been given its new registration (OO-ABF). Aviation website ch-aviation has filed delivery dates of August 2021 and December 2021 for the two planes.

The planes were offered to Rwandair

After Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy in 2017, the two A330-900neos were left without a home. ALC offered the planes to African airline Rwandair, which agreed to take them. A deal was struck and the planes were even painted in Rwandair’s livery.

However, the agreement fell through and the two jets were again left without an operator. Rwandair had originally planned to use its two new A330-900neos to fly to the United States but has since scrapped these plans.

Air Belgium’s fleet modernization

Air Belgium’s current commercial fleet consists of three A340-300s which are all on lease. The planes are approximately 14 years old and were acquired on lease directly from Airbus. Interestingly, the leases are set to expire in 2023 and would leave Air Belgium with just two A330-900neos in the fleet.

It’s unclear whether the new A330neos will add to the fleet or replace the A340s when their leases expire. The twin-engined A330neo is certainly a more efficient machine than the four-engined A340 and is suitable for Air Belgium’s existing network.

Air Belgium A340
Air Belgium is set to resume Caribbean flights next month. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Air Belgium primarily flies to destinations in the Caribbean out of its hub at Brussels South Charleroi Airport and has also flown to Hong Kong in the past. The airline suspended its Caribbean flights due to the COVID pandemic but is set to resume operations in July. Additionally, Air Belgium is set to operate out of Brussels Airport later this year, with a date of October penciled in.

The carrier has expressed interest in the A330-900neo in the past. Three years ago, CEO Niky Terzakis claimed the airline was in negotiations with Airbus about bringing in A330neos, although nothing materialized at the time.

Do you think this is a good decision by Air Belgium? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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