Ukraine aircraft builder goes west in Boeing tie-up


Ukrainian plane maker Antonov, known for producing the world’s biggest aircraft, plans to restart serial production by the end of next year thanks to a deal with Boeing that will end Antonov’s dependence on Russia.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Antonov, which imported more than 60% of its aircraft parts from Russia, halted serial production two years later.

It now plans to build eight aircraft a year thanks to a deal with Aviall, Boeing’s parts, equipment and services unit, with the first two or three ready by the end of 2019, Antonov chief Oleksandr Donets told Reuters in an interview.

He gave no details about future customers. Antonov’s main sales markets have been Russia, the former Soviet republics and Africa.

The companies will jointly set up storage facilities in Ukraine by November, he said. “The agreement with Aviall has given us two gains. We are setting up a joint warehouse, located on Ukrainian territory in Gostomel,” Donets said. “This warehouse will deal with products, materials, metals, non-metals – with all components we are not able to get from our former partner, the Russian Federation.” The warehouse could cost tens of millions of dollars, Donets added, to be funded by Aviall.

Antonov was founded in 1946 and has manufactured some 30 different types including the two biggest air cargo planes – the An-124 Ruslan and An-225 Mriya.

Mriya, built in 1988 for the Soviet space shuttle programme is still the world’s largest and heaviest plane able to carry a cargo of up to 250 tonnes.

Ukraine leaders are pushing the country on a pro-Western course, aspiring to join the European Union and NATO while cutting trade and diplomatic ties with Russia and weaning itself off dependence on Moscow in sectors like defence and energy.

Ukraine no longer imports gas directly from Russia and in July completed another milestone asa unit at one of its nuclear power plants was fully loaded with fuel from US firm Westinghouse rather than Russia.

Aviall will support Antonov’s new manufacturing programme to build the AN-1X8 planes and will have exclusive rights to help service the aircraft, Donets said, envisaging Aviall sourcing parts from the United States, Canada, Israel and Europe. Antonov wants Aviall to procure equipment for Antonov to produce more parts domestically, he said.

Boeing rival Airbus also made a foray into Ukraine announcing an agreement in July to sell 55 helicopters to the interior ministry for search and rescue, public services and emergency medical service missions.