By Adina Solomon
(Editor’s note: This article begins an occasional look at the personal side of various jobs in the air cargo industry. We begin the series with a Ukraine-based cargo plane pilot. The interviews were conducted via email.)
More than 16,000 hours and 30 years of flying experience, a passion for aviation since a young age and a taste for transporting cargo that no other plane can hold.
This all prepares Dmytro Antonov (pictured in the olive jumpsuit above) for his job flying the An-225, the largest airplane in the world.
“It requires great experience and deep knowledge and analysis of all flight stages,” Antonov said. “Due to its size, it is necessary to get acquainted with each flight route and each aerodrome.”
Antonov, the chief pilot of Antonov Airlines (no relation between the two), has flown the An-225 since 2002 and also flies the An-124. But it took a long time to reach that point.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1963, he decided to become a military pilot after finishing secondary school. In 1980, Antonov entered military flying school in Balashov, Russia and flew for the first time as a pilot in 1982.
He served in the Soviet Air Force and the Ukrainian Air Force, resigning in 1993, which is when he began working for Antonov Airlines, a Ukrainian cargo airline that owns a joint venture company with Volga-Dnepr Airlines called Ruslan International.
Antonov said that piloting the An-225 is “difficult as well as easy” because in spite of its size – the aircraft is almost 60 feet high and more than 275 feet long – it has high maneuverability.
“As a rule, cargo loads which these aircraft carry are unique,” he said. “These cargo loads are for example turbines for hydroelectric power station, generators, huge machines, yachts, underground railway carriage and so on. These cargo loads cannot be transported by any other airplanes.”
Mariya Antonov, one of Dmytro’s three children, said she is proud of her father’s work.
Dmytro also has a 25-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. Mariya is 29.
“He has always been an inspiration to me and my brother, and in many ways, I’m thankful because it’s been in a way my motivation to move forward and develop,” Mariya said.
But for Mariya, who has two kids, it wasn’t always easy to have a pilot as a father.
“It’s been always great to welcome father back home from flights,” she said. “Since I was nine, we didn’t often see him. Sometimes, he was absent for over three months in a row. My father has a very interesting job, but he never told us things in detail. He didn’t want us to worry about him.”
Aleksandra, Dmytro’s wife, said the entire family is proud of Dmytro.
“It is hard when he is away for so long, and we do worry sometimes,” she said. “It’s nice when we are all back together, and then we enjoy traveling.”
When Dmytro isn’t flying around the world for work, he likes to go to movie theaters and plays and travel – all with his family by his side.
It’s fitting that Dmytro has wanderlust since Antonov aircraft work around the globe.
“Very often we fly to aerodromes not known before, and only good training allowed the crew to do its work safely,” he said.
When asked about a memorable flight, he talked about the An-225’s first flight to Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan.
“This small airport is difficult to fly into even for small aircraft,” he said. “And we’ve done it with our enormous freighter.”
Andriy Blagovisniy, commercial executive for Antonov Airlines, talked about Dmytro.
“For people who work in sales for cargo charter flights, it is essential to receive proper and optimal route information for the flight from the flight department in order to be able to calculate an accurate price,” Blagovisniy wrote. “Captain Dmytro Antonov rids the task of any difficulty by responding in the shortest possible time and in the most professional way.”
Dmytro has spent years of piloting – first in the military and then for Antonov Airlines. What he enjoys about working as a pilot is the chance to “discover new places where you have never been.”
And it’s clear that his family supports him no matter how the wind blows.
“I don’t think that anyone I know could be a better cargo pilot for such planes,” Mariya said. “He dreamt about becoming one since childhood and did everything to embody his dreams.”