Volga-Dnepr Airlines (VI, Ulyanovsk Vostochny) has told Russia's federal air transport regulator (Rosaviatsia) that it has grounded all of its eight operational An-124-100s to conduct engine checks following an emergency landing of a ninth unit at Novosibirsk on November 13, 2020, The Loadstar has reported.

"This is a well-thought-through decision. We want to be proactive and pre-emptive and demonstrate that we are a responsible airline where safety comes first. We have not received any official notifications or service directives yet, and there are no preliminary conclusions, so we have to suspend the entire An-124 fleet with immediate effect," Chief Commercial Officer Konstantin Vekshin wrote.

RA-82042 (msn 9773050455093) suffered extensive damage after an engine failure on take-off from Novosibirsk. While the crew managed to land the aircraft back at the airport, it overran the runway and suffered severe damage to its landing gear, fuselage, and multiple systems. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Vekshin admitted that the decision to ground the fleet will be financially painful for the carrier due to surging demand for cargo. Some shipments will be transferred to its B747-400(ERF) and B747-8(F) fleet, operated by sister carrier AirBridgeCargo (RU, Ulyanovsk Vostochny), but many cannot be accommodated by the airline.

"We don’t care how much revenue we will miss - it’s not even relevant right now. Safety is more important than any potential benefits from the peak season," he said.

Vekshin said that it was impossible to gauge how much time the inspections will take. While he hopes that it would be a matter of a week, the thoroughness of the checks could require more time.

Flightradar24 ADS-B data indicates that out of eight operational An-124s in Volga-Dnepr Airlines' fleet, five are currently stored at Ulyanovsk Vostochny airport and four at Leipzig/Halle.

Vekshin suggested that the other major commercial operator of the An-124s, Ukraine's Antonov Airlines (ADB, Gostomel), should also conduct inspections of its aircraft. The Ukrainian carrier currently operates seven An-124s, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows. Russian regulatory authorities have no power to force Antonov Airlines to grounds its An-124s.

The only other commercial operator of the type in the world is Maximus Airlines (6M, Abu Dhabi Int'l) with a single An-124. Russian military transports 224th Flight Unit and Voyennaya Transportnaya Aviatsiya operate seven and six units, respectively. All An-124s are equipped with Progress D-18T engines, manufactured by Ukraine's Motor Sich.