Bermuda-based Longtail Aviation, the territory’s sole holder of an air operator’s certificate, has become the latest 747-operator with the addition of its first freighter, a -400F (27503) previously in service with Cargolux. The aircraft is being leased from U.A.E.-based Aquiline International [FAT 005463-005464].
For Longtail, which had been offering VIP charter services for around seventeen years, the foray into freighter operations represents a significant shift in strategy. CEO Martin Amick told Cargo Facts the carrier had been considering the move for a while and began discussions with Aquiline in late 2019. However, it wasn’t until March, when demand for long-range cargo capacity spiked amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that Longtail and Aquiline agreed to accelerate the plan to bring the aircraft into service.
The aircraft was only part of the equation. Amick said Longtail also had to quickly invest in all the associated infrastructure and personnel, including ground equipment, eighteen pilots, dangerous-goods experts, loadmasters and cargo software such as CHAMP Cargosystems’ Weight & Balance tool.
Unit 27503, first delivered to Cathay Pacific in 1995 and added to the Cargolux fleet in 2015, was retired at the end of 2019 and brought to Kansas City (MCI) for storage and maintenance. It is finishing up maintenance there and will be soon be available for service.
According to Amick, Longtail has received a range of requests for the 747, including regular flights between China and Europe or North America, and ACMI operations. But the carrier is also interested in exploring CMI opportunities.
Beyond flying medical supplies in the short term, Longtail is looking ahead. Amick said there is no limit to the size of aircraft Longtail can operate, and envisions a fleet of three to eight freighters just a year from now, potentially including 737Fs, 747-200Fs and A330Fs, in addition to its current aircraft.
Cargo Facts believes Longtail could also add Aquiline’s 747-400BDSF (24311) that was previously operated by Slovakia-based Air Cargo Global (ACG) but was stranded in Karaganda, Kazakhstan (KGF) from mid-December until June 13. It is currently in Bishkek (FRU). Aquiline has another 747-400BCF (24975, ex-Air Cargo Germany) on lease to Belarus-based Rubystar Airways.