India is going to upgrade, rather
than replace, its aging fleet of 110 An-32 transports. This will include new
engine components, new cockpit electronics and refurbishing or rebuilding
structural elements as needed. This will cost a few million dollars per
aircraft and enable the An-32s to serve another 15-20 years, as well as
increasing range and payload a bit. This is a lot cheaper than buying new
aircraft (about $10 million each for an An-32, and more than double that for a
The An-32 is
actually a modernized, and most recent version, of the Russian An-24 transport.
The original design is from the early 1960s. Over 1,100 AN-24s were built, and
over 600 are still in use. Before the end of the 60s, some 600 of an improved
version, the An-26, were built, and about 300 are still flying. It's easy to
confuse the An-24 and An-26, and journalists (and government officials) often
do so. In the 1970s, even more powerful versions (An-30, An-32), entered
service, but only about 360 of these were made. India was the principal
customer for the 27 ton An-32, which is basically an An-26 with better engines
and modifications for tropical operations. This version can carry 6.7 tons of
cargo or up to 50 passengers. Max speed is 540 kilometers an hour and range is
2,500 kilometers. The crew consists of two pilots and a loadmaster.
built the An-24 series to be simple, rugged and easy to use and maintain. They
succeeded. Four decades later, it should not be surprising that nearly a
thousand An-24 series aircraft are still working. That's not the first time this
has happened. After 70 years, there are still several hundred DC-3 transports
working in odd (and often remote) parts of the world.
But with age
comes problems. Engines, and other parts of these aging aircraft, are prone to
fail at bad moments. A major problem with the An-24 is the shortage of spare parts.
The network of factories producing the parts, fell apart when the Soviet Union
collapsed in 1991. The parts supply network has been slowly rebuilt, with many
factories outside of Russia producing the stuff. Quality of these parts varies,
which adds to the sense of adventure one has when flying in these aircraft.
India manufactures many spare parts itself, and the refurbished An-32s will
consist of many new parts (like a modern electronic cockpit) made in India.