There have been lots of stories around about the "Merchants of Death"
flying around Africa after the exposure of Viktor Bout and his capture
Thailand in an elaborate sting conducted by the DEA. Many of these
wild fiction, boy's own fancies and good bedtime tales for small boys.
true and some are just horrid. The recent crash of an AN-12 was horrid.
However, it exposes a great deal about the hidden side of ‘gun-running’
ago there was a small note in
the press that an Antonov-12 aircraft crashed and burned in Egypt. The
a Ukrainian-made plane, roughly in the same size and configuration of a
(the main Western military cargo plane). It is made at the Zaprorozhye
in the Ukraine. Like the C-130 Hercules, the AN-12 is the workhorse of
cargo fleet and has been the plane of choice of many seeking a reliable
inexpensive plane to use which can land on unprepared runways and,
take hard knocks. It is ideal for Africa. The AN-12 is the plane one
dismantled in the film "Lords of War". A frequent use is the transport
of arms and ammunition.
these planes have been in use
for a long time. Aircraft are made with certain rules which apply to
the finite nature of their substructures. They most go in for checks
periodically. There is a hour restriction on the engines which must be
periodically and a certificate produced. The avionics must be checked.
importantly there is a shelf life of the airframe, after which it is no
licensed to fly and its airworthiness certificate is removed. The
termination is the effective death of an aircraft. In some conditions
airframes can be reworked and strengthened in a licensed factory which
renew the "resources" and the plane can continue to fly for a bit
longer. Almost always, for AN-12s, this is done in the Ukraine at the
original factory or at a licensed plant somewhere among the former
republics. In any case the adaptatations and improvements must be
supported by the
Antonov Design Bureau in the Ukraine.
which crashed (registration number
was out of time. It was being
ferried (without cargo) from Kisangani (Bangoka Airport) in the DRC,
via a stop
in Entebbe (Uganda) to Luxor in Egypt where it was supposed to refuel
flight to Nikolyev in the Ukraine. It had been working for an Indian
(Service Air) in the DRC but had been given back to its owners,
COMPANY LTD on whose behalf the ferrying was to have been done.
The owners of the plane are Viktor Zelenyuk
and Yevgeni Zacharov, resident in South Africa.
For many in
the air cargo industry the
registration tells a tale of its own. The ICAO and IATA give
to designate in which country the aircraft is registered and whose
responsible for inspecting te airworthiness of the registered aircraft.
example the code for the US is ‘N’. The S9 registration means that the
registered with the aviation authorities of Sao Tome and Principe. This
has a limited ability to perform its regulatory tasks; indeed few of
planes on their registry ever actually make it to Sao Tome to be
aircraft in question originally belonged to the Ukrainian company named
“VOLARE”, who sold it to Victor Zelenyuk (the owner of the South
registered company “Vulcan Air”) and to Yevgeny Zakharov (the owner of
the South African registered company “Aerolift”).
year ago the Russian crew from Syktivkar under command of the captain
Iljasov, while landing in Kisangani, executed a sharp left turn while
to the parking area and hit the right wing of the plane against the
during the taxing to the parking area damaging an
on the right wing and buckling the
right side main undercarriage. The local DRC authorities examined the
and pronounced the plane not airworthy. In fact, the DRC Aviation
suggested that they cut it up for scrap metal. The owners were
changed the engine, patched the wing and reinforced the undercarriage.
then said it was airworthy. It continued to fly.
principals of the Aerolift and Vulcan Air companies have a chequered
According to South African and Ukrainian sources their track record is
brilliant. According to theim “Evgeniy Zakharov is ex- co piliot of
craft of “Volga” aviation company based in Volgograd city. He had very
links with the ‘black caviar mafia’ in Volgograd, who lent him money to
purchase AN-12 aircraft. However, because they have been imprisoned for
years Zakharov never been paid their money back. Right now they are
looking for Zakharov in order to get their money back. That is why
keeps his profile low and is hiding. In order to avoid any contact with
world he is living in South Africa where he feels safe.”
Zelenyuk is originally born and raised in
the Ukraine, but now has South African citizenship. He calls himself
of ANTK Antonov Design Bureau and as per his declarations has very
relationship with the secret services of Ukraine (SBU). He spent some
time in a
Zambian jail for illegal arms dealing with the ex-leader of UNITA in
Jonas Savimbi, when the
National Avia Transportation Company) Ilyushin-76 aircraft was grounded
Zambian air forces while attempting
bring arms to Savimbi’s forces.
Ukrainians say that Victor Zelenyuk still owes some money to UOTK. When
that he is the 'Godfather’ of the ANTK Atonov Design Bureau this means
everybody, who is operating Antonov air craft need to contact him to be
extend the resources of the aircraft
without unnecessary problems He is the intermediary with the
Zelenyuk and Zakharov both operators of the Antonov air craft wrote a
ANTK Bureau, where they described the condition, faults and details of
Antonov air craft of other operators in DRC except theirs, stating
other air crafts were not airworthy. The DRC Government, on the basis
letter, made the decision to send all Antonov air craft for extensive
works or major overhauls
Zelenyuk is a well-known figure
in South African business. He was most recently in the news earlier
following the death of Gottfried Rautenbach, South Africa's Madoff.
a partner of Rautenbachs in a "bridging financing enterprise", which
Danter Beleggings. Zelenyuk agreed to invest
company which would offer bridging finance transactions to others and
they would take 4% interest a month. When Zelenyuk didn't get paid for
he had the company sequestered (put in receivership) at which point
committed suicide. The question which arose was not if Victor Zelenyuk
fool but where did he get the R10.5 million to invest in the venture.
for anyone in the air cargo
business, is that Zelenyuk and his partner Yevgeni Zacharov operated
cargo aircraft on behalf of ADAJET (previously ADAGOLD-Australia), a
famous for allegedly transporting arms around Southern Africa and dodgy ballot
African "elections". They are considered as giving African air cargo
business a bad name.
These two were obliged to send their depleted AN-12 aircraft back to
Ukraine. They, however, did not choose to ferry this plane back to the
using their own crew. Either their own crew who knew the plane well
carry out this mission or the pair decided to take on an AN-12 crew
sitting idle in South Africa awaiting the repair of their own aircraft
was delayed. At any rate, the hired crew (taken on without the
their employer) were promised that if they agreed to ferry the crashed
for its’ owners, Zelenyuk and Zacharov promised to push the Antonov
Design Bureau to ease up and approve the extension of resources on
aircraft then being repaired.
of this aircraft was a
highly experienced pilot and a decent and very hard-working person, a
Mr Yuri Berdiev, who was
the best captain of Antonov-12 aircraft
in the whole African continent
agreed to do this flight so
that they could get back to their “own” aircraft and start working
had been without any flying work for the past 12 months.
the aircraft was is such
a state of disrepair that it caught fire after refueling in Luxor,
Egypt as it
was taking off. All the crew died in the fire. It was a tragedy for
involved. The owners are alleging a bird strike but this has yet to be
is a tragedy that didn't need to happen. Even if an exemption was
allow the plane to fly off for repairs, some inspection of its
must have been made before it is allowed to take off. To a large extent
traffic depends on the presumption of good faith and the knowledge that
pilot or crew are willing kamikazes. In this case, the crew didn't
the state of the plane they were ferrying and the 'good faith' of its
not likely be the last such
tragedy in African cargo aviation as long as these rogues continue to
in this manner.