Russia's heavy-lift air carrier Volga-Dnepr Airlines recently flew more than 300 tonnes of gold mining equipment to Kenya aboard three Antonov AN-124-100 freighters.
The flights from Ostrava in the Czech Republic to Nairobi carried large semi-rings used for mining gold, each one weighing over 50 tonnes. The large pieces of cargo had to be precisely loaded onto the Volga-Dnepr aircraft as the clearance on either side of the cross-section of the AN-124's cargo hold was a mere 77 millimetres.
"A special frame was designed and manufactured to distribute the load over the AN-124-100 cargo floor for these flights. The tooling had to be interfaced with the cargo with the highest level of precision and required extensive communication with the customer regarding certain modifications to the semi-ring design," said loading chief Alexey Soshnikov.
Due to the height of the equipment, the slightest displacement could have made the loading impossible. To avoid this, the airline used guide rails with the lowest profile to roll the cargo inside the aircraft, said a company statement.
The AN-124-100 floor and front cargo door ramp had to be precisely aligned. "The nature of our outsize and heavyweight air cargo business means there are no standard loading procedures for this type of cargo so every shipment is deemed to be unique and relies on the expertise of our planning and loading teams," said Mr Soshnikov.
The equipment will be used by the gold mining company located in Tanzania.