Georgian start-up Silk Route to serve Baku, Yerevan

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Georgian regional start-up carrier Silk Route Airways is expecting to launch international scheduled operations within weeks after starting trial flights from Tbilisi to the Azerbaijan capital Baku using the first of two newly-acquired Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops.

Silk Route Airways also has the rights to operate from Tbilisi to the Armenian capital Yerevan, and is to commence test-flights on the route early next week.

The carrier – which is leasing Brasilias formerly operated by Dutch airline KLM Exel – is to take delivery of the second aircraft on 15 January and foresees that it will conduct a series of charter flights before starting scheduled operations in early February.

In addition to Baku and Yerevan the new airline is to serve domestic routes to Batumi and Poti.

Silk Route Airways is being led by managing director Bob Christian, who founded Northwest Airlink partner airline Pacific Island Aviation (PIA) in 1988 – the carrier operates three Shorts 360 turboprops on services between Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan.

Christian tells ATI that, in addition to management expertise contributions obtained through his PIA links, he has received financial support from Lockheed Martin; the US firm is currently developing a 15-year masterplan to improve the Georgian air transport and airport infrastructure in partnership with the Georgian Government.

Silk Route Airways is 60% owned by Georgian interests, the remainder being held by foreign parties. The carrier is backed by a group of five partners which includes a Georgian company and private individuals.