Volga-Dnepr Airlines is an airline based in Ulyanovsk, Russia. It operates scheduled and charter passenger and cargo services, but specialises in outsize cargo operations using the world's largest fleet of Antonov An-124 aircraft. Its main base is Ulyanovsk Vostochny Airport (ULY), Ulyanovsk and it has a hub at Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo Airport (KJA), Krasnoyarsk.
The airline was established in August 1990 as a joint stock company by its 3 major shareholders: Aviastar, Antonov Design Bureau and Motor Sich. It started operations in October 1991. It entered a marketing agreement with UK-based HeavyLift offering the Antonov An-124 on the world cargo market, but this has now ceased. It became the first carrier in Russia, which was not part of Aeroflot, to start operations in outsize cargo. In April 2000 the privately owned Russian defence industry investor Kaskol acquired a 48% stake later bringing it up to 50% in the airline. At the end of 2005, KASKOL sold its stake in the airline, due to its discontent with the company's management's strategy.
Volga-Dnepr is in a group of 11 companies. In 2004 a new cargo subsidiary called AirBridge Cargo was established to provide scheduled cargo services.
Antonov Airlines terminated its joint venture with Air Foyle Heavylift on 30 June 2006 to allow it to pursue a joint marketing venture with its erstwhile competitor Volga-Dnepr under the name Ruslan International, in which it has a 50% stake.
Although heavy lift operation is the company's main activity, Volga-Dnepr operates small and little known passenger services connecting Moscow with the various destinations, which at March 2006 were:
The Volga-Dnepr Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft (at August 2006) :
The airline's first upgraded Ilyushin Il-76TD-90VD, fitted with Stage IV compliant PS90 engines, was delivered in June 2006 and has been heavily used on cargo charter flights to Europe, North America, Australia and Japan, from where the freighter had previously been banned due to stringent changes in environmental legislation. A second upgraded aircraft was delivered in late 2007, and it expects to convert and operate at least 17 Il-76 aircraft by 2011