A special An-124 delivery: De-icing at CHS

Fans of the Antonov An-124 may be in for a special treat this weekend. There’s a very good chance the massive cargo aircraft will be flying a special domestic delivery flight across the United States carrying much needed cargo to South Carolina.

Amidst the chaos caused in last weeks bomb cyclone blizzard on the US east coast the story of Charleston, South Carolina flew mostly under the radar. The airport closed for several days following the storm due to a lack of available de-icing equipment available. It is not just that the airport didn’t have enough. It simply does not have any de-icing gear on site at all.

Typically that lack of hardware isn’t a problem. On the rare occasion it gets too cold overnight the airport would just wait for the sun to come out and naturally defrost aircraft. That doesn’t work so well with an ice storm and significantly colder than normal weather.

For commercial airlines the impact is annoying as they cancel service. For Boeing, with a 787 final assembly line at the airport, the business interruption is far worse. Without its dreamlifter fleet flying between Charleston and manufacturing facilities around the globe the supply chain suffers. And with a tightly timed production plan a  delay of a day or two can throw the whole line off.

The Boeing Dreamlifter is a critical part of the 787 assembly supply chain
The Boeing Dreamlifter is a critical part of the 787 assembly supply chain

And so the company decided to bring a de-icing truck to Charleston this weekend in advance of another cold snap predicted for the coming days. It is getting the gear there as only an aircraft manufacturer would: flying it in on a cargo plane.

There’s only one cargo craft that can readily handle the load, the Antonio An-124 and that’s operated by Volga-Dnepr. As the company is not licensed for regular operations in the United States it is forced to apply for exceptions from the DoT when it wants to run such services. Late on Friday that application was filed.

The cargo to be transported by Volga-Dnepr consists of one De-Icing Truck 35,000 pounds with dimensions of (L-38’2 x W-8’4” x H-12’8”) and eight (8) totes of glycol.

Volga-Dnepr will operate the flight on behalf of Boeing Commercial Aircraft as part of an effort to provide urgently needed lift to leave Everett not later than xx00 PST on January 13, 2018. The de-icing truck is required in Charleston to support Boeing’s Dreamlifter operation which currently has no de-icing equipment on-site.

3. Due to the urgency of the shipment, Boeing cannot use surface/ocean transportation to ship the cargo.

4. Since the de-icing truck is of extraordinary importance for Boeing’s Dreamlifter operation it needs to be delivered as expeditiously as possible, Volga-Dnepr must perform the operation no later than the set date. Volga-Dnepr is polling all U.S. certificated air carriers on the attached service list and will inform the Department of the results of that poll.

Perhaps most amusing about the plan is that a new de-icing truck and a glycol supply is likely cheaper to acquire on the open market rather than flying one in. Those charter flights aren’t cheap, especially on the huge Antonov. Ouch.

Header image via Flickr/CC-BY DeltaNewsHub

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Why couldn’t they use a 747? That’s not too heavy. Or cut a deal with US Gov. to put it on a mil aircraft? Or freaking call AA or DL and rent or buy one from ATL or CLT? There’s something here that’s completely crazy and someone should lose their job over, but it’s boeing and they will likely get promoted.

  2. Because you can load things in these that won‘t fit in a 747. The US military is frequently using these to ship large items, like eg. helicopters, between military bases.

  3. Silly. In just the time it would take to fly it around you could have just driven one in from say New York.

  4. I’m not suggesting they have cargo aircraft. I’m suggesting they have de-icing Equipment within a few hours drive.

    All you’d need is a 747 with a nose door to load in a de-ice truck if that truly is the best way to get an iceman to CHS.

  5. This is great, but the problem at CHS wasn’t really about lack of deicing for the airplanes (although there is none), it was lack of deicing for the runways. Those deiced Dreamlifters wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere. The airport was closed for four days because the Air Force’s entire plan of attack for clearing the runways was, and always has been “wait for the sun to melt it”. It’s always effective, unless the temps stay at or below freezing for 5 days in a row. D’oh. (Side note:. CHS is joint usebAir Force Base, so the Air Force is responsible for things like airfield maintenance, runway conditions, etc, not the civilian airport managers.

  6. I know this is a novice question, but is there any way to track this flight? IE, what the flight number would be? Would love to see that bad boy on the ground here.

    1. Brian Fisher dunno. VD also ID-blocks a lot of their flights. You may need to try Flightradar24 alerts or ADSBExchange as well. The latter doesn’t use FAA block lists.

    2. Michael J. Graven Thank you. I’ll keep poking around and see what I can find. Wouldn’t surprise me if the flight took place overnight, but doesn’t hurt to look!

  7. There’s still hope. These planes actually come to CHS once in a while. They park over on the C-17 ramp, so presumably they are carrying some sort of military cargo when they are here.

  8. I saw one of these a long time ago at SLC, made a special trip up to see it. It was amazingly huge. Whenever a unique aircraft lands in SLC I try to get there to see it, I wasn’t able to go see the emergency landed A-380 a few years ago. And even though I don’t like President Trump it’s always impressive to see Air Force One, that visit late last year was impressive as well.

    It would seem like a C-5 could handle this load too, why not contract with the USAF for it?

  9. After this weather event, why would any airline/airport sell or lend deicing equipment? None of the airports mentioned has spare equipment of this type. We are in a winter of unusual weather patterns. No operator, in their right minds, would sell or lend their deicing equipment. I’m sure Boeing inquired first, before going this route.

  10. I do wonder why people are getting upset that they not using a 747 for this job. I am sure the dispatchers checked which aircraft is best for the job.

Comments are closed.