Volga-Dnepr’s new generation IL-76TD-90VD freighter aircraft has successfully completed its first flight to and from the United States, the first IL-76 commercial flights in the US market since old versions of the aircraft were banned under ICAO noise restrictions in 2000.

The flight from Detroit underlines the return of the unique IL-76 cargo aircraft to the world’s major cargo markets. The ban on old IL-76s restricte\d the aircraft from operating to its former prime markets in Western Europe, North America, Australia and Japan. Volga-Dnepr took delivery of its first new IL-76TD-90VD in June 2006 and a second aircraft of the same type will join its fleet later this year.

Volga-Dnepr Group initiated the project to upgrade the IL-76 in order to meet current and future ICAO requirements. In order to consolidate resources for the aircraft modernisation programme and to manage the project, the Group established the Volga-Dnepr Leasing Company in 2004.

With an increased payload to 50 tons and greater range, since joining the Volga-Dnepr fleet the new aircraft has also successfully operated cargo flights in Europe and to Japan and Australia.

The modernised aircraft has operated to airports including Toulouse, Baku, Kuwait, Bombay, Utopao, Sendai, Fujairah and Brize Norton.

The first flight from the US left Detroit on February 10th 2007. A day earlier, the aircraft ’ chartered by a Russian oil company ’ flew into the United States from Kazan with a shipment of raw oil samples.

From Metropolitan Airport in Detroit, the IL-76TD-90VD then flew to Baghdad, arriving on-time at the Iraqi airport with a shipment for another US customer.

Andrey Pakhomov, Director General of Volga-Dnepr Leasing, said: ‘The first two charters involving landing and taking off in the United States were a milestone for the aircraft and our company’s strategic development. The IL-76 is a very popular, in-demand aircraft with customers all over the world. Its success is based on its unique operating capability and its cost effectiveness. The aircraft has been sorely missed by commercial customers since 2000 but, today, the IL-76TD-90VD is back in the world market and represents a major success not only for Volga-Dnepr but also for Russian aviation.’

Volga-Dnepr forecasts that the modernised IL-76TD-90VD will have an operating life of 25 years. It is currently the only civil aircraft in the world in the 30-50 tons capacity sector capable of transporting outsize cargo to any airport.