Over the course of this month, China-based Guangdong Longhao Aviation Group’s cargo airline start-up, Longhao Airlines, made major progress towards entering into commercial service. Not only has it taken delivery of its first freighter-converted 737-300F aircraft, but the airline also appears to have been granted an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the CAAC.
Although cargo airline startups are abundant across China, an earlier agreement between Longhao and Shenzhen-based SF Express, indicated that Longhao was a serious venture. As part of the agreement, SF will have access to most of Longhao’s cargo capacity – with the agreement to take effect once Longhao actually has both cargo capacity and an AOC. The pair meanwhile, has yet to disclose which routes Longhao will handle.
If things continue as planned, the airline expects to begin commercial service shortly after it takes redelivery of its third 737-300F. Like its first PEMCO 737 conversion (29069, ex-China Eastern, shown in the photo above), units two and three will be converted at the STAECO facility in Jinan. Longhao had earlier said that it expects these conversions to be completed by mid-2017. With one aircraft already in its fleet, it appears that CAAC certification is no longer an obstacle. According to a Wechat release from Longhao, the CAAC granted its AOC after Longhao’s 737-300F successfully completed the final test flight, on 7 December.
In addition to the 737 freighter conversions, Longhao also has ten Y-12s on order with China Aviation Industry’s (AVIC) manufacturing subsidiary, Harbin General Aircraft Industry Co, Ltd. Different variants of the Y-12 can be deployed in mixed-use freighter or passenger configuration. Unlike the 737 freighters which will clearly go into service for SF, it remains to be seen how exactly the Y-12s fit into Longhao’s future strategy.
Prior to venturing into the passenger and cargo airline businesses, the Longhao Group specialized in building airports and running flight training schools.