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Antonov An-2 and An-24

Polar Airlines plans to retire soviet-era aircraft

Yakutia Airlines' subsidiary for remote regions in Russia is modernising its fleet. The 40-year-old Soviet aircraft make way for new local developments.

The largest region of the world’s largest country by area is very lonely. Situated on Russia’s eastern edge between the Arctic Ocean and almost as far as China, the Sakha region covers one fifth of the country’s surface area. But of the total population of 145 million in the Russian Federation, not even one percent live here.

It is therefore not surprising that Sakha’s own regional airline Yakutia Airlines has a special branch for very remote airports. Polar Airlines relies on Antonov An-24 and An-2 propeller aircraft, which are perfectly suited for Sakha thanks to their robustness. But despite all their durability: The planes developed back in the Soviet Union have gotten very old.

40 year average age

Polar Airlines has recently set a retirement time frame for its An-2 and An-24. The airline will retire the aircraft by 2025. This was first reported by the Interfax news agency. Together with Mil Mi-8 transport helicopters, which are also being phased out, this sub-fleet currently has an average age of around 40 years.

Russia is currently developing successors for both the single-engined short-range Antonov An-2 and the larger twin-engined An-24 turboprop. The state-owned manufacturer consortium UAC plans the first flight of the Ilyushin Il-114-300, a replacement for the An-24, for later this year, and has already started series production. A successor to the An-2, which has not yet been named, is scheduled to be introduced in 2023.

Deal between state companies

Polar Airlines is planning to add both new developments to its fleet. This replacement follows a blueprint of the Kremlin. Polar Airlines’ parent airline Yakutia is planning to introduce the so far not very successful regional jet Superjet 100 and the new Irkut MC-21.

Meanwhile, Moscow plans to convert the regional carrier Aurora, still owned by the national airline Aeroflot, into a larger airline to boost sales of new Russian regional aircraft such as the Il-114-300.

Younger Soviet aircraft to stay

Nevertheless, various planes from the Soviet era will continue to be used by Polar Airlines. With the An-3, the airline operates a further development of the An-2, which is powered by a turboprop engine instead of a piston engine.

The more recent An-26, a more robust version of the An-24 with a rear loading ramp, originally developed for the military, will also remain in service with Polar Airlines for the time being. The airline further operates a copy of the twin-engined short-haul aircraft Let L-410.

See pictures of Polar Airlines’ aircraft in the picture gallery above.

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