Russian carrier Volga-Dnepr Airlines is moving forward with plans to acquire Boeing 747 freighters, and is negotiating a deal with Boeing to take two new 747-400 freighters.

Volga-Dnepr chairman Aleksei Isaikin says this will be the first step in forming a scheduled cargo business using a Volga-Dnepr brand that will ultimately operate "eight to 10 Boeing freighters". The airline had previously been expected to lease secondhand 747-400 freighters (Flight International, 18-24 February).

Deliveries are expected before year-end, and Volga-Dnepr is considering acquiring the aircraft through either an operating or a financial lease, with the latter being favoured. Funding is likely to come from Ilyushin-Finance (IFC) and the US Ex-Im Bank, while Russia's largest savings bank will help pay for infrastructure development.

The aircraft will initially be employed on scheduled container cargo services linking Shanghai, Tianjin and other airports in South-East Asia with various points in western Europe. Technical stops will be made in Novosibirsk and Moscow. Maintenance of the 747s will be undertaken by East Line Technik at Moscow Domodedovo airport. The maintenance arm was set up in co-operation with Boeing and it expects to gain European and US certification soon.

Meanwhile, Volga-Dnepr and the Russian manufacturing plant Aviastar are forming a joint control board to help manage the struggling Ulyanovsk factory. The Russian government is considering full nationalisation of Aviastar or increasing its share to 51% with Rb1.5 billion ($48 million) of debt write-offs.

Aviastar insists that the state should take a controlling stake to resolve a dispute between shareholders that is preventing the factory working effectively. It supports the government's intention to delegate the state's stake to IFC.

Source: Flight International