Volga-Dnepr Group / Press-center / Media Coverage

Viewpoint

10/12/2009

The skies over Europe have been much quieter since the European Union implemented ICAO’s Stage 3 noise regulations in April 2002.

It meant an immediate ban on older, noisier aircraft that could not meet ICAO’s new stringent standards on noise emissions.

Hushkit solutions were found for some aircraft, such as the B727, but for others like the IL-76 freighter, time was about to run out. It was deemed too expensive to re-engine and upgrade the aircraft to meet the new standards.

So a desperate rearguard action was mounted to exempt the freighter. But to no avail. The IL-76’s fate, it seemed, was sealed. It would no longer be able to operate commercial flights within the EU. Exemptions would only be granted for government ordained operations, such as military or mercy aid missions.

With such a tough new noise regime in place, it was obvious that a longer-term solution was needed to find a replacement. Volga-Dnepr made the bold decision to go back to the drawing board and work with Ilyushin Design Bureau, the IL-76’s originator and TAPOiCH (the IL-76 production factory in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), to build a new version of the freighter. The new IL-76TD-90VD, fully Stage 3 and Stage 4 compliant, has now flown and the first aircraft entered commercial operation in May 2006. A second aircraft was delivered to Volga-Dnepr in July 2007, with a third due for delivery in October this year. It has been an expensive and long-term commitment. But it does mean that the IL-76 freighter can once again operate over the skies of Europe as well as to other major markets in the US, Japan and Australia that have also remained closed to the older version.

There is only one problem. Those skies are already pretty crowded with older non-compliant IL-76 freighters. What has happened since the EU issued its collective ban on such aircraft from operating within its airspace? Exemptions for the IL-76F within Europe, rather than the exception have become the norm, not just for government-ordered flights, but also for normal day-to-day commercial operations.

As of today, only two European states, namely the UK and Ireland, adhere strictly to the ban on non-compliant aircraft for all commercial and government operations. Others, including Germany and France, issue exemptions with the most meager of excuses.

Forwarders in these countries seem able to argue that no other suitable capacity is available. Smaller airports claim they will go out of business if they cannot accept IL-76 flights.

Even in the UK it is quite simple to avoid the ban. You simply truck your freight across the channel and pick up an IL-76 flight in a neighboring EU state. Economically more stringent times, it may be argued, should allow for a more flexible approach, at least in the short term. But where does this leave the airlines and operators who have invested in more modern freighter fleets to remain compliant with ICAO standards?

This not only impacts the niche players in the air cargo market. Larger EU carriers, with extensive freighter fleets, much of which are currently grounded, are also seeing their business further eroded by these errant operations. Volga-Dnepr would like to make further commitment to the IL-76TD-90 and introduce more of this modern freighter capacity to the European market. But what incentive does it have when others continue to ply their trade with older, “illegal” equipment? It seems all too easy to be able to turn the clock back for the sake of convenience.

The EU should reassert its position and insist that non-compliant states adhere to the ICAO Stage 3 noise standards. This could be achieved by establishing a defined time line for all operators to become fully compliant. In this way, the EU could achieve what it set out to do seven years ago.

Dennis Gliznoutsa was born in Fergana, Uzbekskaya SSR and graduated from the Ulyanovsk branch of Moscow State University in 1995 with a diploma in Applied Math and Theory, Mechanic/IT Engineering and Programing. He joined Volga-Dnepr in 1996 and in 2001 became Sales Director of Volga-Dnepr UK. Today, as Group Commercial Director (Charters) he manages AN-124-100 Ruslan and IL-76TD-90VD charter services.

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