Volga-Dnepr Group this morning confirmed it has finalised the acquisition or lease of 20 747-8Fs, as new sister airline Cargologicair made its first public appearance.

Both were seeking aerospace business from the industry at the UK’s Farnborough Airshow.

Four of the aircraft have already been delivered, and the remainder will arrive over the next seven years. Some 13 aircraft will be purchased, and the remainder leased.

The Volga-Dnepr order allows the group to replace the 747-400Fs in AirBridgeCargo’s fleet. The group envisages that ABC will have a 25-strong fleet and sister carrier CargoLogicAir (CLA), five aircraft.

Dmitry Grishin

Dmitry Grishin

The occasion also marked the delivery of UK-based CLA’s second aircraft, a 747-8F, which is expected to begin flying to Seattle on a scheduled service in the fourth quarter, serving Mexico, Quito and Aguadilla, before returning to the carrier’s Stansted hub.

The new UK carrier, also planning a Hong Kong service, is operating a mix of charter and scheduled services. Its third aircraft, a 747-400ERF arrives in February 2017.

“Over three years, we will have a five-aircraft fleet plan to coincide with our scheduled route expansion and ad hoc charter business,” said Dmitry Grishin, CEO of CLA. The carrier will focus on higher-yielding niche markets and charter.

“We have had a lot of support from charter brokers, such as Chapman Freeborn,” he added.

Mr Grishin was relatively sanguine about the recent decision by the UK to leave the EU.

“The UK is Europe’s largest aerospace market, so we would probably have got a UK AOC anyway. The UK is a bright spot, where British Airways is now out of freighters, but there is also a wealth of experience here,” he said.

“In Europe, carriers like AF-KLM and Lufthansa are looking at diminishing their fleets, so we have an opportunity to go where traditional carriers aren’t going.”

However, he said, CLA was working on a contingency plan in case Brexit leads to “unfavourable conditions”.

He added: “It is difficult to imagine that [the UK], having invested so much into the EU aviation area – will break away completely. I think it will be much the same.”

He noted that the UK’s CAA and Department of Transport had a “wealth of professionals” who would be able to negotiate a good deal.

“But if the conditions are unfavourable, we are already working on setting up an operational base in Amsterdam. We are also exploring options to see if we can do something in Leipzig. If it gets unpredictable or unfavourable, we’ll go there.”

It could take between eight months and a year to go through the certification process, he added.

Mr Grishin also urged the UK government to start making decisions.

“We need clarity within the next three to six months. We think there are four options on the table, ranging from favourable to extreme. But one decision that needs to be made now is on airport expansion.

“People have lost faith completely. If the government wants to give a boost of confidence to the economy, make this decision on expansion. Job creation in aerospace gives you 10 jobs in other industries.”

Mr Grishin said CLA would consider using Heathrow if there was enough capacity. “We would knock on their door,” he said.

He said Stansted was “a good airport”, but suffered from having just one cargo handler, Swissport.

Announcing the aircraft order news, Volga-Dnepr said it had also signed a deal with Boeing for long-term logistical support, and a deal with GE Aviation, both for logistics support and an extension of its MRO engine agreement. Aerospace accounts for about 30% of the group’s business, and Volga-Dnepr was using the Farnborough Airshow to attract more, displaying both CLA’s new aircraft and an AN-124.

Mr Grishin added: “By putting the aircraft on display, we are also hoping to attract people into our industry.”

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