The appointment of Mykhailo Hvozdev as the acting president of the Antonov state enterprise was a real surprise. Previously, Hvozdev was a parliamentary deputy for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc political party and occupied a fairly high 53rd place on the election list of this political party. At the time of his election to the parliament, he was the general director of Trans-Group Ltd and the general director of Audi Center Khmelnitsky. In other words, he was a dealer in German automobiles.
The president of Ukraine personally presented the new head of the Antonov state enterprise to the enterprise’s staff on 13 June. At the same time, Dmytro Kiva retains the post of chief designer of the enterprise. The personnel change at the Antonov state enterprise took place on the eve of the Le Bourget air show, and this only added to the tension.
We interviewed Mykhailo Hvozdev one month after his appointment. The new head of the Antonov state enterprise wants to increase production volumes and, in this regard, he has high expectations for the new AN-178 aircraft, as well as for orders from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. However, things are not yet working out regarding completion of the second model of the world-famous Mriya aircraft. However, it seems that Antonov has decided to focus on much smaller aircraft. It is no wonder that the model of the AN-188 aircraft was presented at the Le Bourget air show.
Your appointment was quite unexpected. For a while, it was unclear who was the head of Antonov. Why was this mystery around your appointment?
There was no mystery. As you know, the Antonov state enterprise recently became part of the Ukroboronprom state concern. A decision was made to separate the responsibilities of the management of Antonov into their financial and economic component and the scientific and technical component. This measure was taken to improve the efficiency of the enterprise.
I have been entrusted with leadership of the Antonov state enterprise, the handling of its financial and economic issues. This is something I can do and I am willing to do, using all the 12 years of experience that I gained while managing various companies. Dmytro S. Kiva was appointed as the chief designer. We are committed to friendly and fruitful work.
What goals are you setting for yourself in your new position?
It is still too early to articulate specific plans. We will conduct a detailed analysis of the structure and operations of the company and develop a strategy for its development. However, having assessed the current state of affairs, I understand that the situation is difficult. In the past few years, Antonov has been selling an average of two aircraft. That is very few. After all, the volume of deliveries is one of the main indicators of the success of a company. Therefore, our priorities are to increase the pace of production and broaden the sale of aircraft produced at Antonov. We plan to achieve production of 20-25 aircraft per year in the near future. Another important task is to - to develop new markets and ensure decent support for the aircraft that are in service.
I am confident that all this can be done. After all, Antonov has a great team of professionals. I am glad that many of them are young people. A mechanism for passing experience from the older generation to young people has been established and there is a system for preparing and training young professionals.
"We plan to achieve production of 20-25 aircraft per year in the near future"
Le Bourget Air Show 2015 took place in France in June. How do you assess its outcome for Antonov?
Ukraine and Antonov, in particular, performed adequately at this major international air show. The An-178 transport aircraft that we presented was one of the main novelties at the show, and it drew attention to itself. Negotiations were held with potential partners and customers. However, I believe that the effectiveness of our participation in such significant events should be improved significantly.
Antonov presented the new An-178 aircraft in April this year. How do you see its prospects?
This aircraft is designed to replace the well-known An-12 and C-160. With a payload of 15-18 tons, it can occupy the niche that practically exists on the global market of transport aircraft today. We offer two versions of the An-178 – one for commercial operation and one for use as a military transport airplane. A contract has been signed with the Azerbaijani company Silk Way for the civilian transport aircraft that is currently undergoing tests. This airline has experience of operating the An-12, and it intends to replenish its fleet with 10 An-178 aircraft. Compared to its predecessor, the new transport aircraft has a number of advantages. Among them is compliance of the An-178 with modern standards of airworthiness and - considering the future development of the aircraft - future requirements.
The most important feature of the An-178 is its ability to transport various palletized cargoes, including large shipping containers. This makes it an indispensable vehicle for logistical support, both in commercial operation and in emergency situations.
"Together with foreign companies and potential customers, we are developing a new version of the An-178, which will be equipped with Western engines and equipment"
The promising military transport version of the aircraft is attracting interest from aviation equipment operators around the world, including the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. We hope to receive government orders for this machine, since our army needs such a machine.
At the same time, together with foreign companies and potential customers, we are developing a new version of the An-178, which will be equipped with Western engines and equipment. The market for the An-178 aircraft is estimated at 1,100 until 2034.
The project for the An-188 aircraft was presented at the Le Bourget air show. What is this model? When do you plan to launch it into production?
The An-188 is a new program. Antonov’s many years of experience in creating military transport aircraft lie at its foundation. According to plan, the An-188 will be equipped with Western-made equipment and engines. Its short takeoff and landing characteristics will meet European standards, i.e. the An-188 will be based at airfields with a runway length of 915 meters. In terms of its transport capabilities, it is to the An-70 aircraft. In particular, its maximum payload is 40 tons. We are confident that the An-188 will take its place on the market. In addition, this project could serve as the basis for cooperation with the world’s leading aviation corporations.
It is too early to talk about the date of launch of the An-188 into production. The aircraft is under development.
Do you plan to complete the construction of the second model of the Mriya aircraft?
We do not yet plan to complete the construction of the second model of the An-225 aircraft, although such a possibility exists technically. One such airplane is sufficient to fulfill the orders coming from our airlines. That is, customers are needed in order to build a second Mriya.
Antonov has become part of Ukrobornprom. Does this mean reorientation of production toward military needs? Will orders from civilian customers be fulfilled?
The inclusion of our enterprise in Ukrobornprom state defense concern will allow maximum localization of production of Antonov aircraft in Ukraine, and it will also facilitate reception of state contracts, which means that funding will be provided for creation of military aircraft. In addition, we will be able to enter new markets. Of course, civilian programs will be developed. We will fulfill all obligations to customers.
A Polish-Ukrainian forum on "Westernization of Antonov Aircraft" was held in June. Among other things, the possibility of creating a consortium with Poland for production of Antonov aircraft was discussed. Is this a preliminary project or some sort of agreement already exists?
It must be said that Antonov has a long experience of cooperation with Poland. We are entering a new stage of cooperation today. Certain agreements have been reached on the issue of creating a consortium, and an entity is in the formation stage. It will be possible to speak more concretely after the signing of the relevant document.
How do you plan to build future relations with Russian partners? Will the company continue the policy of rejecting Russian components?
As you know, we have completely stopped cooperation with Russia in the military-technical sphere at this time. For all modern programs, we are implementing an import-replacement and import-substitution plan. We are placing the main emphasis on Ukrainian and Western suppliers. The main criterion is quality. However, this process requires a certain amount of time and funding because if engines or systems are replaced, it will be necessary to install them on airplanes, perform the relevant tests, and obtain supplementary certificates. We are actively working on this.
It was recently reported that PricewaterhouseCoopers would audit Antonov’s 2014 operations. When will its results be made public?
For now, it is difficult to give specific dates because it is a long and laborious process. We will await information from the experts. We hope it will be completed by the end of the year.