Air Charter Service and Volga-Dnepr Airlines celebrate 30 years of relief charters
Air Charter Service and Volga-Dnepr Airlines are the most established names in the air cargo charter world celebrating 30 years of collaborating on humanitarian missions. Konstantin Vekshin of Volga-Dnepr Group and Justin Lancaster and Dan Morgan-Evans of Air Charter Service recently caught up on board an Antonov 124-100 to reminisce on the companies’ work together.
At the end of 1989 Alexey Isaikin was working on the aviation plant in Ulyanovsk overseeing manufacturing of Antonov 124s, and Chris Leach was unemployed with a wealth of aircraft charter contacts. Shortly afterwards he began working as a broker from his basement in his house in Kingston-upon-Thames.As the Soviet Union was collapsing Alexey formed his company, Volga-Dnepr Airlines working with the Antonov 124s that he knew so well.
It soon became apparent that Alexey and Volga-Dnepr had the Eastern aircraft and crews, whilst Chris Leach and his company ACS had the Western contacts and contracts.These entrepreneurs, along with others in the market, were pioneers in bringing in the Antonov 124s to the western charter market, which had unmatched capacity compared to anything on the western market at the time, and changing the face of the cargo charter industry.
That was 30 years ago, now both companies have turnovers of more than a billion dollars. The relationship have had its ups and downs as the companies both found their own ways in the industry, but have completed more than 500 charters together since they both formed in 1990 – a large number of which have been carrying relief and humanitarian aid.
Over the years the two aviation giants have collaborated on charters in the aftermaths of virtually every natural disaster since the early 1990s. The first recorded relief charter between the two companies was on an Antonov 124 from Luanda, Angola to Entebbe, Uganda in the early 1990s. Since then the two companies have worked on a number of charters following natural disasters. These include flying boats to help the relief effort following the Asian Tsunami in 2004, and flying in a mobile hospital to the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma in 2017. Also, following the earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010 the airport’s infrastructure was so damaged that only self-loading aircraft could land there with humanitarian aid and ACS and Volga-Dnepr worked together again.
The most recent humanitarian projects have been numerous charters between the two companies in transporting Personal Protective Equipment on both Ilyushin 76s and Antonov 124s. ACS offices all across the globe used the aircraft to help move their customers’ PPE throughout 2020.