Turkmenistan Airlines is looking to add a 777F to its fleet. Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has approved the state-owned carrier’s purchase of the freighter, according to a government briefing [FAT 005487].
Local sources report the involvement of Lufthansa Consulting and suggest that lessor Aircraft Finance Germany (AFG) will be facilitating the transaction. AFG, for its part, declined to comment.
Turkmenistan Airlines already operates two 777-200LRs in passenger configuration and has a fourth on order as part of a deal announced at last year’s Paris Air Show. Delivery of this aircraft had been expected in 2021, and it’s unclear if the carrier intends to convert its existing purchase agreement into an order for a freighter. Other carriers, most recently China Southern Airlines, have worked with Boeing to convert orders. Boeing’s order book still reflects an outstanding order for one 777-200LR. Turkmenistan Airlines, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment.
For now, Turkmenistan complements cargo capacity in the bellyhold of its passenger aircraft with a trio of Soviet-era Il-76 freighters.
Even before the global onset of the COVID-19 crisis, carriers based in Central Asia had been gravitating toward freighters. In January, Kazakhstan’s Sigma added the country’s first 747F, followed just days later by Kazakhstan-based Azee Air’s addition of a 747-200F (24399, ex-Air Georgia) later that month. Kyrgyzstan-based startup KAP.KG surfaced in March with plans to launch operations with an A300B4F.
Freighters haven’t exactly panned out for all the new entrants. Last week, The Civil Aviation Committee of Kazakhstan revoked the AOCs of Azee Air and Sigma Airlines, which had recently each added a 747-200F, “for violation of the Republic of Kazakhstan legislation and ICAO requirements.” KAP.KG has yet to commence operations.
Startup Mongolian Airways added a pair of 737-300Fs to its fleet last year, but is not currently operating them, according to FlightRadar24. One of the aircraft (25172) appears to have been returned or repossessed by the aircraft’s owner, GECAS, which declined to comment.
Still, the trend toward freighters has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with Air Astana now considering the addition of 767 freighters.
Uzbekistan Airways, which added a pair of 767-300BCFs in 2014, was mulling the sale of its freighters last year. For now, the two freighters continue to operate on the carrier’s AOC.