in Features

Astral plane plugs the capacity gap

Posted 17 June 2019 · Add Comment

Kenyan all-freight operator, Astral Aviation, is to add two Boeing 767-200Fs this year – marking its first examples of the type – and is separately evaluating Airbus A321 and 737-800 freighters as it seeks to address capacity gaps in its fleet. Victoria Moores reports.

Astral Aviation currently operates two 747-400Fs, one 727, two McDonnell Douglas DC-9s and a Fokker F27.
“We’re really proud of our aircraft. They serve us well,” said the company’s founder and CEO, Sanjeev Gadhia.
However, Gadhia is looking to address the capacity jump between Astral’s 747s and 727s, by adding a pair of 767-200 freighters. Both have already been converted. The initial 767 was scheduled for delivery as African Aerospace was going to press, followed by the second towards the end of 2019.
Integrators are taking a lot of 767 freighters from the market, but Gadhia said there is less demand for the older variants, so Astral is still seeing a good supply.
The 767s will be used to operate a scheduled service from Nairobi to Dubai, stopping at various African points – including Lagos (Nigeria), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Johannesburg (South Africa) – on the return flight to Astral’s Nairobi hub. “There is a bit of a shortage of main-deck capacity between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Africa,” Gadhia explained.
Beyond the 767s, Gadhia is also looking at some further fleet additions. “We expect that, by 2020, we will go for either the A321 freighter, or the 737-800 freighter. We have already got a proposal on paper for the A321 freighter and it looks amazing.”
Despite looking very positive, Astral wants to wait until the specifications are tried and tested before taking a decision. “The manufacturers are very good at giving estimates, but the reality can be very different.”
Meanwhile, Astral’s two 747s – one nose-loading, one side-loading – are operating a busy schedule, including twice-weekly flights from Nairobi to Doncaster Sheffield (UK) and twice-weekly to Liege (Belgium). “Both 747s are operating flat out, especially during the Christmas and Valentine’s peaks,” Gadhia said.
Much of this 747 capacity is to the UK. Gadhia believes these operations will be unaffected by the UK’s plans to leave the European Union (Brexit). “We are currently not worried about Brexit. Kenya and Britain have traffic rights, so we expect no issue. All in all, everything is looking very positive.”
Astral is also striding ahead with its cargo-drone plans. The Kenyan freight specialist has plans to take at least five FlyOx drones from Spanish company Singular Aircraft in 2019-20. The programme is well under way and a series of tests have just been completed in Norway.
Timings for the launch will depend on when Astral secures type approval from the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority. “We will be the first airline in the world to commence flying cargo by drone,” Gadhia said.
The drones will initially be used for humanitarian work, later extending into commercial freight.
Astral is also taking up to 12 250kg-payload Lucas-F250 drones from Dubai-based Falcon Drones Technology. The initial delivery was planned as African Aerospace was going to press. These will be used for agricultural freight, carrying produce from remote farms to the city.
 

* required field

Post a comment

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

MEBAA Show Morocco to celebrate business aviation

The MEBAA Show Morocco will open 25 September at Marrakech Menara Airport.

Airbus forecasts need for over 39,000 new aircraft in the next 20 years

The world’s passenger and freighter aircraft fleet is set to more than double from today’s nearly 23,000 to almost 48,000 by 2038 with traffic growing at 4.3% annually, also resulting in a need for 550,000 new pilots and 640,000 new

Air Seychelles commits to reducing carbon footprint

Air Seychelles, the national airline of the Republic of Seychelles, has announced that the airline is moving forward with its corporate social responsibility programme to reduce carbon emissions, reinforcing its commitment towards

MEBAA Conference Morocco announce agenda

The MEBAA Conference Morocco, taking place 24 September 2019 in Marrakech, has announced the agenda for the one-day event.

Paramount Group’s Mbombe 4x4 meets NATO STANAG 4569

Paramount Group has announced that the Mbombe 4x4, the newest addition to its advanced Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) family of vehicles, has received final certification for the independently verified blast tests which exceeded

IATA Regional Aviation Forum opens in Nairobi

The IATA Regional Aviation Forum in Nairobi was officially opened this morning by Aaron Munetsi, director of government and international affairs – AFRAA.

AVAFA20SK2207050320
See us at
AVAFA20BT2207050320AVMENA20 BT1309100620Dubai AS BT2006211119MEBAA BT2006260919