Lithuania-based AviaAM Leasing is the latest lessor to move into the 737NG freighter space, as it seeks to enlarge its exposure to the cargo market.
AviaAM, part of the Cyprus-headquartered Avia Solutions Group, has already sent its first 737-800 for conversion. The lessor confirmed to Cargo Facts that the aircraft was inducted early March, and is being converted to freighter configuration by Boeing at the Taikoo (Shandong) Aircraft Engineering Company Limited (STAECO) facility in Jinan (TNA), with redelivery expected in June.
The lessor declined to identify the frame but said that it was manufactured in 2001.
AviaAM told Cargo Facts that it plans to convert up to ten 737-800s over the next year and has so far committed to four more conversion slots in 2021. AviaAM currently has 2016- and 2018-vintage units on lease contracts, but is on the hunt for feedstock candidates to add to its portfolio. The lessor said it is preparing to finalize negotiations with potential lessees for the first aircraft, with a “strong emphasis” on Chinese cargo operators.
AviaAM’s decision to enter the 737-800 freighter market was dictated, it said, by the stagnation of the passenger market in the past year, as well as its parent’s gradual steps in recent years to expand its cargo activities. Avia Solutions Group fully acquired British charter broker Chapman Freeborn in 2019, and acquired Iceland-based Bluebird Nordic early last year.
In May 2020, Lithuania-based KlasJet — another subsidiary of Avia Solutions Group — began operating its first freighter, a 737-300F (25263, ex-Frontier) subleased from Bluebird Nordic. Meanwhile, an AviaAM subsidiary last summer acquired its first freighter, a 747-400F (26563, ex-El Al), and leased it to Air Atlanta Icelandic to operate on an ACMI basis on behalf of Magma Aviation, an affiliate of Chapman Freeborn.
More recently, SmartLynx Malta — also a subsidiary of Avia Solutions Group — revealed its own plans to begin freighter operations by leasing an A321-200PCF (891, ex-Air Mediterranee) and an A321-200P2F (1017, ex-R Airlines) from Luxembourg-based Vallair. In February, DHL Express announced that it will ACMI-lease the two units from SmartLynx.
It remains to be seen whether AviaAM will place any of its upcoming 737-800BCFs with Bluebird Nordic, which currently operates six 737-400Fs.
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