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Why Does The AN124 Need Six Flying Crew?  
User currently offlineEI321 From Iraq, joined Jul 2009, 0 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 4 hours ago) and read 12115 times:

The AN124 has a flying crew of six - two pilots, two flight engineers, a navigator & a communicator. Why so many? Its not even that old! Are the avionics that dated? Even the oldest 747s only have three crew.

37 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineMandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6590 posts, RR: 75
Reply 1, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 2 hours ago) and read 12039 times:

The Radio Operator is a normal thing given that it was designed as a military transport, and they use their own language (ICAO: English, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.... if I remember that rightly)... so, the radio guy speaks English when flying outside Russia.
Navigator? Well again, it was a military transporter, designed to fly offroutes etc...
As of 2 flight engineers, well, perhaps there's a rule on the number of wheels limit before you need an extra engineer ! LOL
Or perhaps one of them is the loadmaster>

J/K

Mandala499



When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
User currently offlinePILOTALLEN From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 656 posts, RR: 3
Reply 2, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week ago) and read 11960 times:

I got an explanation once that with russian aircraft, usualy the russians are very quick to roll out a plane, ie: read tupolevs books, he came out with like 200 different planes! anyway with the "rushed" way of doing things they didnt bother with simplifying things, thus you have the many positions, instead of setting it up like a 747-400 they just made everything seperate.


Thats not flying, thats falling with style -Woody
User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3139 posts, RR: 11
Reply 3, posted (7 years 1 month 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 11910 times:

Because the USSR had to provide everybody a means of work. One thing that's nice about communism is that you didn't have to consider downsizing the crew.


DMI
User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5354 posts, RR: 8
Reply 4, posted (7 years 1 month 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 11878 times:

Actually the A124-100Ms only require a crew of 4.

Joking aside, and apart from the fact they aren't B747s by any stretch of the imagination in terms of modern systems, I'm assuming that the 'engineers' are/were more a requirement just because of rarity of the aircraft and systems. If they fly into most airports around the world, and they have even the simplest systems problem, I assume that you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV to get parts and an engineer on-site within 2 hrs ... these guys are probably qualified to perform much of the maintenance and fixes that airline ground crew would normally perform.


Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 16908 posts, RR: 67
Reply 5, posted (7 years 1 month 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 11845 times:

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 4):
If they fly into most airports around the world, and they have even the simplest systems problem, I assume that you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV to get parts and an engineer on-site within 2 hrs ... these guys are probably qualified to perform much of the maintenance and fixes that airline ground crew would normally perform.

Exactly. One should compare to, say, BA flying a 744 into JFK. Well before BA started flying into the 744 JFK, they would have arranged for maintenance and such. Everything from fueling to possible engine replacement. This might be done by stationing BA personnel at JFK or contracting out. That's because BA will then fly 4-6 744s a day into JFK. The flight crew, while needing good knowledge of the aircraft, do not need to know how to perform all the maintenance required.

However, with a transport like the An-124, every flight is a one off. They might be in Ouagadougou when all of a sudden a hinge for the front cargo door breaks. As Bond007 bsays, you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV. Maybe you even have to run out and find some machinist to make a part. The flight engineers have to be trained in not only supporting the flying aircraft, but maintaining and repairing it as well.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31580 posts, RR: 57
Reply 6, posted (7 years 1 month 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 11817 times:

I've seen AN124 Freighters carry 6 crew including a Mx Engineer & a round 6-7 Crew for loading unloading Cargo & of course the Famous Towbar.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineBAe146QT From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2006, 996 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (7 years 1 month 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 11688 times:

I just dialled 1-800-ANTONOV. Instead of hold music, they have Helen Mirren reading passages of Dostoyevski in a Ukrainian accent.


Todos mis dominós son totalmente pegajosos
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 16908 posts, RR: 67
Reply 8, posted (7 years 1 month 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 11618 times:

Quoting BAe146QT (Reply 7):
I just dialled 1-800-ANTONOV. Instead of hold music, they have Helen Mirren reading passages of Dostoyevski in a Ukrainian accent.

 rotfl   rotfl   rotfl 



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineJetlagged From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 2536 posts, RR: 24
Reply 9, posted (7 years 1 month 6 days ago) and read 11570 times:

Quoting Pilotpip (Reply 3):
Because the USSR had to provide everybody a means of work. One thing that's nice about communism is that you didn't have to consider downsizing the crew.

I can just see it down at the Kiev Job Centre. "Sorry, we don't need any more farmers at the moment, you'll have fill in as the extra Flight Engineer/Seat Warmer on an Antonov."  Wink

Not just communism, though. If you go to Japan (capitalist) you will see a lot of people doing non-jobs. We have them too. It's called the service sector. In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it was the telephone sanitisers, marketing executives, etc who were returned to repopulate the Earth, which of course explains everything.  Big grin

The big Antonovs are basically military planes, so have military crewing concepts. Military navigators have a lot more to do besides fix where they are, similarly radio operators. For civil ops, with a modern nav system, the flight crew could presumably be reduced.

When the An124 was designed I doubt the Russians had the automation technology to eliminate the Nav and F/E anyway.



The glass isn't half empty, or half full, it's twice as big as it needs to be.
User currently offlineBAe146QT From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2006, 996 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (7 years 1 month 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 11503 times:

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 9):
"Sorry, we don't need any more farmers at the moment, you'll have fill in as the extra Flight Engineer/Seat Warmer on an Antonov."

"In mother Russia, aviation job finds you."

Although what Jetlagged says makes perfect sense, I think the most likely explanation is;

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):
with a transport like the An-124, every flight is a one off. They might be in Ouagadougou when all of a sudden a hinge for the front cargo door breaks. As Bond007 bsays, you can't just call 1-800-ANTONOV.

From what I understand of Russian culture in general, they (historically) like the idea of specialisation*. And if you look at what Starlion says in the post I quoted, that approach is completely appropriate. Why waste a good pilot's capacity by training him as an engineer (in the true sense of the word), given that so many things may go wrong when you have no support? "Jack-of-all-trades" and all that.



* Or maybe it is just as true to say that they didn't like the idea of one person knowing too much. That may be wrong - my view is skewed as a Westerner...



Todos mis dominós son totalmente pegajosos
User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5354 posts, RR: 8
Reply 11, posted (7 years 1 month 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 11484 times:

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 4):
Actually the A124-100Ms only require a crew of 4.

Remember guys .... the new ones only need 4  Wink


Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31580 posts, RR: 57
Reply 12, posted (7 years 1 month 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 11451 times:

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 11):
Remember guys .... the new ones only need 4

Who are the other Two  Smile
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineEx52tech From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 559 posts, RR: 1
Reply 13, posted (7 years 1 month 5 days ago) and read 11349 times:

I actually witnessed an AN-124 crew breaking down a wheel assembly out on the freight ramp in MSP with hand tools and a sledge hammer.
They had the new tire leaning against the cargo ramp.

We stopped and offered to let them use some air tools in one of our hangars, but the language barrier was the problem.

So I would lean heavily on the "bring your own maintenance" theory.

Ex.



"Saddest thing I ever witnessed....an airplane being scrapped"
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31580 posts, RR: 57
Reply 14, posted (7 years 1 month 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 11150 times:

Quoting Ex52tech (Reply 13):
I actually witnessed an AN-124 crew breaking down a wheel assembly out on the freight ramp in MSP with hand tools and a sledge hammer.
They had the new tire leaning against the cargo ramp.

New Tire or Wheel assy.
Were they Assembling the Wheel together ie Tie bolts etc.Surprising.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13815 posts, RR: 63
Reply 15, posted (7 years 1 month 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 11084 times:

Polet Air rented some rooms in our hangar to set up a MX station for their AN-124's in HHN. They actually replaced the tyres themselves, means they get "naked" spare tyres, dismantle the old wheel assy and put a new tyre on, though they are using an hydraulic (manually operated) bead breaker to get the old tyre off the rim.
They also set up an avionics shop in one of the back offices.

Jan


User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5354 posts, RR: 8
Reply 16, posted (7 years 1 month 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 11070 times:

OK, Imagine an airline sending a 747 (or any aircraft actually), to an airport thousands of miles away, with no maintenance staff on the ground there, and limited support otherwise ... they would probably no doubt include much more than a crew of 2!


Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31580 posts, RR: 57
Reply 17, posted (7 years 1 month 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 10968 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 15):

Hopefully they charged the Wheel in a Safety cage  Smile
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineZed From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 16 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (7 years 4 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 10821 times:

I flew as passenger on an AN124 from Copenhagen (Kastrup) to Louisville, Kentucky (KSDF) in 1995. While my company's freight was being loaded in Copenhagen we were free to wander about the airplane, visiting the flight deck, cargo area, and crew quarters. The upper deck was divided into three areas (in addition to the flight deck). The forward area was set up much like the first-class section of a railway train - several private rooms with comfortable bench seats facing each other across a table. The flight crew and the single HeavyLift representative used the forward section. The aft section (where I travelled, along with a representative of my company's supplier) was equipped with regular airline seats and tables - done up in that floral pattern you often see in Russian decor - spread out over an abundance of floor space. There was a middle section, to which we were not invited.

In addition to the flight crew of 6, there was a full maintenance crew aboard. It was hard to tell exactly how many, but by keeping track of the faces as they entered and left our quarters from the middle section, I counted 22 personnel. These were airframe and engine mechanics, and systems experts (hydraulics, electrical, avionics, etc), according to the HeavyLIft representative.

I have some 35mm photographs of the flight deck somewhere - of a tourist-snapshot level of quality. The engineer's panel impressed me with the amount of space it required. If there were only one engineer he would need a crew seat on a sliding track to cover it all. Humans don't come equipped with arms long enough to cover that panel.

The navigator was stationed sideways behind the captain. His panel was equipped with two mechanical / analog HSIs, and two RMIs, if I recall. 'The captain's and F/O's panels were relatively sparse. The radio operator also sat sideways, next to the navigator.

In addition to the four sideways seats, there were fittings in the floor between the engineer's and nav / comm seats for two removable seats. I would think they would serve as observers' seats for instruction / supervision / certification exams of new crew members, but was told they were for old communist party bosses to keep an eye on the flight cerw.

From our position in the aft section, the mechanic crew chief allowed me time in his seat with an intercom station. Listening to what was going on up front, I could hear the US ATC transmissions, as well as internal communications. The radio operator was the translator. He would acknowledge an ATC directive in English, then relay the comm to the captain and/or navigator in Russian. When the captain initiated the exchange, he spoke to the radio operator in Russian, who then transmitted the request to ATC in English.

The engine runup before takeoff was interesting. The airplane lined up on the runway, having coordinated with ATC how much time they needed to set takeoff power. This was done in stages. I don't remember exactly what the HeavyLift rep told me they were, but it was something like set 50% N1, hold for two minutes, then 60% N1, hold for two minutes, and on up to takeoff thrust. I think it took about twenty minutes to set takeoff power, while the engineers verified all internal engine parameters warmed up to spec on schedule. This is hearsay, but the HeavyLift rep told me there wasn't an ounce of titanium in those engines. He said they were 1000 hour throw-aways. Somewhere over the north Atlantic there was a rather excited exchange among the mechanics in our compartment. As they spread engine technical manuals and drawings across one of the tables the conversation got quite lively. While they gestured and pointed to diagrams in the tech manuals - they seemed to be having a debate. Upon landing, the fans hadn't stopped rotating before the crew chief had a ladder in place up to the #1 engine. The HeavyLift rep told me the engine had developed an "unaccepteble" vibration inflight, and there was some talk of turning back, or diverting.

Takeoff and climbout was uncomfortable, very uncomfortable because of the noise. It is the loudest airplane I have ever been in. Louder than a 30 yr old NW DC-9 in that seat, in the back, next to the engine where your ear is about 2 Ft. from N1. More uncomfortable than when those DC-9 engines aren't properly synched, and the beat frequency goes straight through your head. Louder than the time I forgot to put on my helmet and earplugs before rolling for takeoff in a spam-can 350Hp Piper Pawnee Hutcherson conversion. I seriously considered ripping up a cotton t-shirt from my luggage in order to have something to stuff into my ears, but when we leveled off at the cruise altitude of 11,000 meters, it quieted down considerably. Before takeoff the crew chief and another guy each took a seat at those little portholes you see in the aft upper deck of the airplane. They both put on a headset, and watched the engines throughout takeoff and climb, until we throttled back at cruise. I never saw their eyes move from the assigned position. I don't think they blinked. HeavyLIft said they were to monitor the engines for signs of "distress", e.g. smoke, flame, shedding of parts etc. and immediately inform the flight crew.

I was told the airplane is best flown low, but is reasonably fast. Our trip from Kastrup to KSDF at FL290 took exactly 9 hrs 45 minutes. Contrary to a Wall-Street Journal article I remember from about the same time, I didn't see any vodka. Maybe it was in that middle section. The trip was interesting. I haven't searched the site for AN124 info before posting this, but I'd be interested to see what changes they have made to the airplane in the 12 years since my experience.


User currently offlineBAe146QT From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2006, 996 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (7 years 4 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 10810 times:

At the risk of sounding like a fanboi, that was an excellent post, Zed. Thank you.


Todos mis dominós son totalmente pegajosos
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31580 posts, RR: 57
Reply 20, posted (7 years 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 10802 times:

Fantastic Post zed.If only there were pics.

Quoting Zed (Reply 18):
I think it took about twenty minutes to set takeoff power,

Is this common.

regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5354 posts, RR: 8
Reply 21, posted (7 years 4 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 10789 times:

Nice informative post Zed!

Wasn't there also a requirement for being at the end of the runway for 20 minutes for the INS to 'set' ??
Maybe this was a myth, and it was the engine runup as you described ... or maybe both?
My understanding was that the end of the runway is one of the known lat/lons, and they punched it in and had to wait for everything 'to settle'.


Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offline3MilesToWRO From Poland, joined Mar 2006, 275 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (7 years 4 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 10789 times:

I'd suppose it is, however maybe more and more automatized. You shouldn't even use car engine at full power when it's cold, the more aircraft turbine. And it takes few minutes to warm car engine.
(There is a beautiful procedure for Il-2 engine startup when you look into Wikipedia for this aircraft. They have a link to real (battle)field manual of this plane, but in Russian of course. Quite similar steps: set X rpm and wait for oil temperature to reach Y, then set Z rpm and wait for oil to reach T...)


User currently offlineZed From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 16 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (7 years 4 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 10775 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 20):
Quoting Zed (Reply 18):
I think it took about twenty minutes to set takeoff power,

Is this common.

...or is my memory faulty.

I've since heard other accounts putting the time at 4 minutes, total. I've also read on this site that the engines are removed / replaced at 500 hrs.

I'll modify my account slightly. The 2 minute stabilisation time, 20 minutes total are not a result of my timing them, they were given me by the HeavyLIft representative. I do remember four distinct stages during the runup. The pause at each setting seemed to take forever, especially the final stage at takeoff thrust, with accompanying buffet as the airplane strained against its brakes. I subjectively accepted the time as consistent with my experience. The thrust advance from one stage to the next was also very gradual. So, figuring 30 seconds to maneuver from the hold line to takeoff position, 2 minutes times 4 stabilisation periods, maybe 30 seconds to advance thrust from one stage to the next - works out to 11 or 12 minutes. The 20 minutes is a figure I was told that ATC blocked for our time on the runway. We probably didn't use all of it - but add another 30 - 45 seconds for takeoff roll, then 2 minutes for wake turbulence before clearing another airplane onto the runway, and the number begins to look almost reasonable from an ATC scheduling perspective. I'd bet a pint on it, but wouldn't risk my lunch money. I know it was more than 4 minutes. As for that figure, I wonder if that's one of the advances made in the ensuing 12 years, or if experience has shown they don't have to baby the engines quite so much if they replace them at 500 hrs rather than the 1000 I was told...

Jimbo: 20 minutes for the INS? That's an interesting angle that hadn't entered my mind. The Honeywell FMCs I'm familiar with on Boeing / Airbus require 7 minutes stationary to "set", It's conceivable the Russian systems might have taken longer - though we certainly have more published lat/lon information than just the runways these days.

If I ever get the chance to do it again (it's remotely possible), I have a number of questions I'll be taking with me.


User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2254 posts, RR: 16
Reply 24, posted (7 years 4 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 10754 times:

I never knew what they were flying but back in the 80s(before the wall fell) I met an Aeroflot crew in Narita. They agreed to come to my room and swap wings. Two guys came but the full crew was pilot, co-pilot, F/E, navigator and radio operator. One of which was the political officer. The conversation stayed on an aviation line but it was a neat moment and I still have the 2 pair of wings from the pilot and navigator.

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 21):
Wasn't there also a requirement for being at the end of the runway for 20 minutes for the INS to 'set' ??
Maybe this was a myth, and it was the engine runup as you described ... or maybe both?
My understanding was that the end of the runway is one of the known lat/lons, and they punched it in and had to wait for everything 'to settle'.

I cetainly can't say about this AN124 but in the old Litton INS I flew in the 70s you just used the ARP and the jet had to be stationary for 10 min. Now the newer FMSs still have a 10 min countdown but many gates have the lat/lon marked or published and if you're GPS equipped it doesn't matter.


25 Starlionblue : First of all, great post Zed! Interesting about the zampolit. I would also imagine crew training could take place from the navigator seat since you pr
26 HAWK21M : Whats a political officer's job profile. regds MEL
27 Starlionblue : Did you watch or read "The Hunt for Red October? A political officer, also known as a commissar, zampolit or politruk, is officially responsible for
28 CosmicCruiser : Starlionblue is correct but I suspect that in those later years he was more involved with making sure no one deviated from the "political correctness
29 3MilesToWRO : I'd rather say they were there to prevent the crew members from not returning home, however I highly doubt they would do it with direct force. It was
30 N92r03 : An A124 departed TPA today, for BGR. Listening on ATC.net, the crew requested 4 minutes "delayed takeoff" which I had no clue what it was or what it
31 saafnav : Great post about your adventure! Modern Ring Laser Giro Systems use less than 10min to align. We normally have a 4min alignment where you have to stan
32 Post contains images TWA772LR : I took a tour of a 124 once. The cockpit reminded me of an ATC center mixed with a haunted house lol. But it is a beast of an airplane. I guess the la
33 ARFFdude : I saw one take off on ATL several years ago. Sure enough, it sat in position on the runway for around 4-5 minutes. We didn't know what they were doing
34 Zkpilot : Very true... a normal business carpark (for shops for example) often has a little man with a flag waving showing drivers how to drive into a driveway
35 Post contains images TWA772LR : Reminded me of that video with the Il-76 where the ATC said "And the vodka burner is rolling!" LMAO!
36 jetblueguy22 : We have Smirnoff! Classic! Blue
37 AirlineCritic : Amazing post, Zed! Two people to watch engines. Talk about crew requirements... Wow. I always wanted to fly on an AN124, but after this account I'd be
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