February 24 - Ruslan International, the joint venture company which markets and manages the combined fleet of 17 An-124 aircraft belonging to its parents Antonov Airlines and Volga Dnepr Airlines, has begun a programme of nine flights to Haiti carrying ur

The nine An-124 flights, using aircraft of both Volga Dnepr Airlines and Antonov Airlines, are taking place throughout February and early March. Each will carry 65 tonnes of earthmoving equipment and tents from Sendai, Japan, via Fairbanks and Edmonton, Canada. As Port au Prince is granting priority access to all aircraft carrying earthmoving equipment, the flights are permitted to operate direct into the airport.

At the same time, the Antonov An-225 has joined the Haiti relief effort by carrying heavy earthmoving equipment on behalf of the Japanese government. The aircraft, which belongs to Antonov Airlines, was positioned from its Kiev base to Tokyo Narita where it took on its cargo of 110 tonnes of earthmoving equipment and tents. Then, due to airport congestion at Port au Prince, it flew to neighbouring Santo Domingo via Fairbanks, Alaska and Miami.

The An-225's nose loading ramp and "kneeling" undercarriage make it particularly suitable for outsized and wheeled loads, says the airline. Says Antonov Airlines' commercial director Valery Kulbaka: "The An-225 is ideal for transporting outsized wheeled and tracked items such as this earth moving equipment. The aircraft's loading ramp means it requires no additional ground handling equipment. In addition, its high volume capacity meant it was able to carry a large quantity of other urgent relief supplies on this same flight."