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A310 lease signals Asian growth plans for TMA

Trans Mediterranean Airways (TMA) will use the acquisition of its first widebody freighter, an Airbus A310, to rebuild its Asian cargo network as it begins a hunt for more widebody cargo aircraft.

The Lebanese national all-cargo carrier will introduce the A310-300 freighter this month on aircraft/ crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) lease from Islandsflug. The Icelandic wet-lease specialist took delivery of the ex-Ecuatoriana A310 last November following conversion to freighter configuration by EADS EFW in Dresden.

The aircraft will be operated alongside the airline's ageing fleet of Boeing 707-320 freighters. The Beirut-based airline has European hubs in Amsterdam, Bergamo (near Milan) and Paris.

According to TMA chairman and president Fadi Saab, the move is part of the airline's plans to modernise its fleet and expand operations. Saab says that TMA will introduce the A310 on flights between Beirut and Europe, while its 707s will continue to ply routes between Beirut, the Gulf and Africa. Two of TMA's 707s are believed to be currently deployed on flights for Libyan Arab Airlines.

The A310's superior range over the 707 will allow TMA to reinstate flights to Asia, as part of efforts to resurrect an extensive network into the region this year. It previously served Bangkok, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo.

TMA says it "aims to acquire another aircraft type to suit this market by the year-end, such as the A300-600, McDonnell DouglasDC-10-30 and Boeing 747-200".