Volga-Dnepr Group has brought in a former Atlas Air executive to launch a new Russian cargo carrier operating Boeing 747 freighters.
Stan Wraight, who has more than 30 years' experience in the cargo industry with KLM Cargo and latterly as senior vice-president sales for Atlas, hopes that the as-yet-unnamed airline will start up with its first 747-200 this autumn. At present there are no western cargo aircraft operating in Russia, he says.
Talking at the show, Wraight says he hopes to finalise either the lease or purchase of the carrier's first two aircraft next week. The training of Russian pilots for the operation begins in July.
With the Russian economy starting to recover, the timing is right to launch this project, says Wraight. "Our aim is to get in at the leading edge [of this recovery]. We want to be perfectly positioned and the first ones in there."
The carrier will operate from two Russian hubs - Moscow and Novosibirsk - on long-haul services to China, Europe and the USA. There is already a healthy flow of cargo on these routes, and Wraight has found strong interest from freight forwarders in a service of this type.
Several scheduled airlines operating to and from China have dropped some services, causing a "tremendous withdrawal of belly-freight capacity", he said.
Wraight's preferred aircraft for the new operation is the 747-400 freighter but there are simply none available. He will bring in this type later, either new-build or conversions. The strong business plan for the new operation is encouraging interest from several investors, including The Savings Bank of Russia. Volga-Dnepr has also held preliminary talks with the International Financial Corporation and American Eximbank on raising money for the project.
The first 747-200 should arrive in the autumn, with the second entering service in spring 2004. Wraight's target is to grow to three or four aircraft within a couple of years.
Source: Flight Daily News