MK studies 747-400SF and 747-8F for expansion

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UK-based all-cargo carrier MK Airlines has taken delivery of its seventh leased Boeing 747-200 freighter and is evaluating the 747-400 Special Freighter and the 747-8F to meet its future fleet expansion needs. 

Speaking to ATI at Ostend-Bruges International Airport in Belgium during an event to mark the opening of MK’s new European cargo hub, the carrier’s CEO Mike Kruger said an eighth 747-200 will be added to the fleet in 2007, subject to ongoing negotiations. 

Kruger declines to disclose from where the aircraft will be sourced, but notes it will be Pratt & Whitney-powered, MK Airlines’ preferred choice of engine manufacturer. 

For MK’s future fleet expansion plans, Kruger says he is “evaluating” the 747-400SF and is “seriously looking” at the 747-8F, which he calls “the freighter of the future”. The carrier has phased out its McDonnell Douglas DC-8 freighter fleet and plans to focus on “continuing to build” its 747 fleet in the years to come, he adds. 

MK Airlines last year decided to switch its fleet to the UK register; the carrier’s fleet has been registered in Ghana since it was founded in 1990. So far, one of its 747-200Fs has been registered in the UK, with the remaining aircraft to be transferred over the coming months. 

Kruger says that transferring to the UK registry “strengthens our position” ahead of adding destinations in North America and China from MK Airlines’ Ostend gateway. However, he notes that 50% of the carrier’s business is in Africa and “will continue to be”. 

UK registration also gives the carrier “increased credibility” and makes the financing of aircraft “much easier”, he adds. 

In order to facilitate the process of transferring to the UK registry, MK Airlines had to meet certain ownership and control criteria by attracting extra investment partners. To meet these requirements, Kruger in July acquired MK Airlines’ shares in partnership with UK firm Jackson Aviation, which is partly-owned by Flamingo Group. 

Kruger declines to disclose the exact breakdown in share ownership. “Let’s just say it’s a partnership and leave it at that,” he says. 

MK Airlines last year took the decision to branch into third-party maintenance work, using its UK engineering base at Filton near Bristol. Kruger says the carrier has since received the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) Part 145 approval, and the maintenance side of the business is “developing rapidly”. This includes 747 and DC-8 maintenance services for a range of customers, including Russia’s Transaero, he adds.