May 11 - Antonov Airlines has confirmed that it will establish a presence in the USA and Hong Kong as part of its ambitious international expansion plans.

"We are excited to be growing our presence globally in some of the world's most dynamic economies," said Oleg Orlov, vice president of Antonov Company.

HLPFI reported in November that the joint venture between Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr, which jointly marketed AN-124 freighter, Ruslan International, would be dissolved at the end of 2016. Since then, the Ukraine-headquartered carrier has established a new office at London Stansted Airport in the UK, and has appointed a general sales agent (GSA) in Japan and Australia.

The USA is a key target market for Antonov, Orlov added: "Ukraine has developed excellent links with the USA as a result of an open skies agreement, that has granted Antonov freedom to operate to and from the USA without the need to obtain US Department of Transport (DoT) statements of authorisation."

Antonov Airlines operates a fleet of seven AN-124 freighters, with a payload of up to 150 tonnes, as well as the biggest aircraft in the world, the AN-225, with a payload of 250 tonnes. It is currently working with Ukrainian and western suppliers for its fleet modernisation programme.

As a part of this programme it has introduced Dunlop tyres to a number of its airframes, including its AN-124 and AN-225 fleet. The new tyres enable the AN-124-100M-150 to operate at its designed maximum payload of 150 tonnes, and have a much improved lifespan, leading to lower tyre cost per landing.

"Our AN-124s will be flying for the next quarter of a century and we are making sure they are at the cutting edge of aviation technology and design," said Graham Witton, managing director, Antonov Airlines (UK). The company is also working with US Honeywell for its avionics, Pratt & Whitney, Dowty Propellers, and Zodiac Aerospace in addition to other western suppliers.

As the design bureau, Antonov Company is the only company that can make amendments to the AN aircraft fleet.