Libyan An-124s in trouble as Ukraine seeks to auction aircraft

By Stijn Mitzer

As the ongoing chaos ravaging Libya continues with no prospect of relative stability in sight, one of Libya's two giant An-124 transport aircraft is now facing the possibility of being auctioned off by Ukraine if the Libyan government fails to pay the $1.2 million it owes to Antonov for storage and routine maintenance of the aircraft at the Antonov facility in Kiev since 2009.

Libya had originally acquired two An-124s for Libyan Arab Air Cargo in 2001, and began using these behemoths for international charter services for cargo that required aircraft as large as the An-124. While the country had previously suffered from almost complete isolation from the outside world as the result of sanctions for the Lockerbie bombing, the An-124s were now flying around the world as Libya began normalising relations with its former arch-enemies.

At least until 2011, when the Libyan revolution and subsequent outbreak of a Civil War heavily impacted commercial aviation in the country. Although both aircraft escaped destruction from bombardments and shrapnel in 2011, a lack of initiative and funding to restart operations of Libyan Air Cargo meant that An-124 '5A-DKN' remained idly at Tripoli IAP while An-124 5A-DKL 'Susa' was never collected from Ukraine, remaining with Antonov in Kiev to this day.

As normal operations by Libyan airlines began to demise and the destruction of commercial aircraft became a common sight due to the continued infighting throughout the country, the future for the An-124s in Libyan service began to look increasingly grim. This however appears to have not deterred staff from replacing the green Jamahiriya flag with the new Libyan flag.

Even though the security situation in Libya deteriorated further, '5A-DKN' miraculously survived the renewed fighting after warring parties battling for control over Tripoli IAP targeted nearby facilities and destroyed several aircraft situated close to the An-124. Although the An-124 escaped with shrapnel damage only, the heavy clashes completely destroyed the passenger terminal, resulting in the closure of the airport and redirection of the few remaining flights to Tripoli to Mitiga airbase.

With no incentive and likely a lack of money to collect the An-124 remaining in storage at Antonov, a possible auction to the highest bidder is becoming an increasingly likely prospect for this aircraft. Having relatively few flying hours compared to other An-124s, '5A-DKL' could prove an attractive aircraft for either Antonov's own cargo airline or other operators of the An-124. Whether the current Libyan government deems the An-124 an asset it intends on keeping will undoubtedly be tied to finances and stability in Libya, both of which are currently heavily unfavourable however.

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