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The aim is to create a "Cargolux of Russia" -and operate α fleet of modem B747 freighters on global cargo routes linking east with west, writes Nigel Tomkins.

According to Russian outsized freighter specialist Volga-Dnepr, there is a market for such an airline connecting China to the west through Russia.

President Alexey Isaikin says studies show that the company shou1d eventually operate at least 10 B747Fs to ensure full customer satisfaction.

It has brought in former Atlas Air senior vice-president Stan Wraight as executive director of the new schedu1ed airline which is due to begin ser- vices between china and the Far East and western Europe later this year.

"His knowledge of the air cargo industry wil1 also be used to help us identify more opportunities to improve and develop the charter business of Volga-Dnepr," says Isaikin.

Wraight's arrival adds substance to α project which until now some observers have considered to be no more than a fanciful Russian pipedream.

Yet Isaikin is adamant it wil1 go ahead. "Initial1y we are considering two B747-400 freighters - both options of acquisition and leasing are being considered - and we plan to take advantage of the geographic position of Russia arid its trans-Siberian and cross-polar routes."

The first operation is planned for between the end of this year (October) and the start of 2004 on a Far East - western Europe route with stops at Moscow and possibly Novosibirsk. The second service is proposed for January or February of next year, a third later in 2004 and then one a year after that.

It is hoped that services will then go on to the USA, possibly via Luxembourg, taking commercial advantage over rivals of a lower fixed operating base of lower fuel and crew costs. The company already has Moscow-New York traffic rights.

The ideal aircraft for direct, maximum payload operations between Novosibirsk and the USA would be the B747-400 ERF extended range version, says Wraight.

"We'll be a freight forwarder-only carrier," he reveals, "offering large, blocked-space deals to forwarders and we'll be aiming to work to Cargo 2000 quality standards."

Wraight's first tasks include setting up a management team and applying for the necessary route licences and operating authorities. The number of key functions such as maintenance will be outsourced and, on the sales side, the plan is to a point one master GSA. Talks have already taken place. "Choosing the right suppliers/partners will be key."

Air Cargo News, July 11 2003

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