The An-178’s Silk Road: What is Known about Antonov’s Deal with Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani airline, Silk Way Airlines, has become the first serious buyer for the An-178 aircraft. Several details of the contract, as well as when and where the carrier will use the Ukrainian aircraft, have emerged.
Mykola Zasiadko 21 June 2016 14:52

"The Ukrainian An-178 aircraft created a furor at the Berlin Air Show. It was the only novelty at the air show," Ukraine's Ambassador to Germany Andrii Melnyk said, describing the achievements of Ukrainian aircraft at the Berlin Air Show. The crew of the An-178 aircraft also confirmed the admiration by visitors: "A lot of people applauded and greeted us with Ukrainian flags." Thanks to the An-178, Ukraine received more good news in addition to emotions – an agreement with the Azerbaijani carrier, the Silk Way Airlines, has begun assuming the broad outlines of a firm contract.

Proof of this was the recent visit (on June 6) to Gostomel by an Azerbaijani delegation consisting of the Silk Way Airlines’ President Zaur Akhundov and the AZAL airline’s President Jahangir Askerov. Representatives of Azerbaijan and the Antonov state aircraft manufacturing enterprise’s head Mykhailo Hvozdev shed some light on the future of the An-178 aircraft in the Caucasus region at a short but informative press conference.

Details of the contract The main theme of the press briefing was the details of a contract for supply of An-178 aircraft to Azerbaijan. The first detail is that the Antonov state aircraft manufacturing enterprise has a firm contract for 10 An-178 aircraft. As it turned out, the Ukrainian and Azerbaijani sides signed a protocol of intent in May last year.

"One year ago, we signed a protocol of intent with our Azerbaijani partners. After that, we worked for a year, discussing the concept of the airplane and its equipment. We signed a so-called firm contract after one year, and we have already received advance payment," Hvozdev said.

The last statement reveals a second detail – money. The Antonov state aircraft manufacturing enterprise has received advance payment. However, Hvozdev did not disclose the size of the advance payment or the total value of the contract.

The third detail involves the delivery date. Hvozdev announced the date of delivery of the first two An-178 aircraft to Azerbaijan. They will be delivered in the middle of 2018. The dates of manufacture and delivery of the remaining eight aircraft have not yet been announced. "We are currently at the stage of negotiations. It will all depend on our partners," he said.

The fourth, and no less important, detail is that the An-178 will be assembled in Azerbaijan. However, Hvozdev immediately clarified that final assembly and not manufacture of the aircraft will take place in Azerbaijan. "Production of the An-178 will be established in Ukraine while its final assembly will take place in Azerbaijan. All the technologies and all the jobs will remain in our country. That is very important," the president of Antonov said.

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Who is the buyer? A few words about the buyer: the Silk Way Airlines, which was established in 2001, specializes in transportation of goods from Europe to Asia. The airline operates three An-12 aircraft, which means that it has firsthand knowledge of Ukrainian aircraft.

However, the AZAL airline’s President Jahangir Askerov answered questions from journalists at the press conference in Gostomel. Apparently, the Silk Way Airlines’ head Akhundov discussed more specific issues, but we hardly know about them. This does not matter because the airlines have very close business relations. In particular, a number of subsidiaries of the Silk Way Group, the holding company that includes the Silk Way Airlines, own shares in subsidiaries of AZAL. We will not delve into this issue because journalists with the Azerbaijani service of Radio Liberty conducted a detailed investigation into it back in 2010.

To Link East and West We mentioned the link between AZAL and the Silk Way Airlines in order to explain why Askerov appeared well informed about the operations of the Silk Way Airlines. He was the one who told us about the prospects of the An-178 aircraft in Azerbaijan. According to Askerov, the Silk Way Airlines will use the Ukrainian aircraft for transportation of commercial cargoes from Europe to Central Asia.

"The Heydar Aliyev International Airport is a hub in the Caucasus. We transport cargoes from Europe to Baku and then to Southeast and Central Asia. This particular aircraft (the An-178) is designed for the regions of Transcaucasia and Central Asia. We will transport commercial goods on it. There are containers (type 1C) that fit into the An-178. We will also transport them if necessary," he said.

Askerov did not say when the Ukrainian An-178 aircraft would begin flying on this route. However, he did say that a whole series of tests and international certification procedures awaited the aircraft. "This is long-term work," he said.

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