July 23 - Reports in the Russian media suggest that production of the Antonov An-124, the largest commercial aircraft to be mass-produced, could be about to recommence.

Rumours of a resumption in production first surfaced at the Berlin air show in 2008 but it has not been reported when exactly the aircraft maker is going to resume the production of the renowned aircraft. The Antonov An-124 was a notable absentee from Russian airliner production plans for 2009-2012, revealed earlier this year by Antonov's parent company, United Aircraft.

Antonov An-124s have been a workhorse of the heavy airfreight sector. The aircraft can carry up to 150 tonnes of cargo and it can also carry 88 passengers in an upper deck behind the wing section. Introduced into service in 1986, only 56 of the aircraft were made. The plane was originally produced in Ulyanovsk in Russia and Kiev in Ukraine. The media reports suggest that renewed production of these planes will create over 2,300 new jobs, and production is likely to be at the Avistar-SP factory in Russia's Volga region.

The news comes at the same time as Boeing's major steps towards completing the assembly of the first 747-8 Freighter plane, as mechanics at the factory in Everett, Washignton loaded the forward and aft fuselage sections to join with the wing and centre section.

The 747-8 Freighter is 76.3m long, which is 5.6m longer than its predecessor, the 747-400 Freighter. This stretch provides customers with 16 per cent more revenue cargo volume. It is claimed that the new 747-8 Freighter will give cargo operators the lowest operating costs and best economics of any freighter airplane. Boeing has already secured orders from many leading cargo operators such as Emirates Skycargo and Cathay Pacific.

For a full analysis of the current state of the heavy lift airfreight sector, don't forget to read the latest edition of HLPFI.