China-based Ningxia Cargo Airlines plans to launch with a pair of freighter-converted 737-800s and will likely become the country’s fourth carrier with 737NG freighters.
Ningxia told Cargo Facts that it expects to lease its first 737-800F around mid-June and a second around September. Unlike any other carrier that has begun -800F operations to date, Ningxia will take two different STC variants: one 737-800SF converted by Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) and one 737-800BCF converted by Boeing.
The carrier expects to end 2021 with the two units, but did not say whether it plans more additions beyond this year.
Ningxia declined to identify the aircraft for now, but Cargo Facts believes the 737-800SF could be one of the following:
- Units 29916 and 29917, two 1999-vintage frames that BlackRock sent to Jinan (TNA) in July 2020 and Xiamen (XMN) in January 2021, respectively; and
- Units 28655 and 29925, which Aero Capital Solutions ferried to TNA in August 2020.
Meanwhile, the source of the 737-800BCF could be GECAS, BBAM or BoComm Leasing.
Ningxia was founded in 2012 with 120 million RMB ($18.7 million) in capital, but was not issued an operating license from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) until 2014. In 2015, the CAAC approved the airline’s purchase of three 737-300Fs from Loong Airlines (27518, 25891, 27372), according to a release from the CAAC. However, Ningxia’s startup license was cancelled shortly after in 2016, due to a prolonged period of inactivity. The trio of 737-300Fs remain active in the Loong Air fleet.
While Ningxia had intended to target domestic routes from its Yinchuan (INC) hub, the 737-800s, which have expanded range capabilities, will enable international flights. Freighter-converted 737-800s with a full payload have a range of 2,000 nautical miles, compared to 1,700 nautical miles for the -300, according to the Cargo Facts Freighter Guide.
Ningxia could end up being the first 737-800SF operator in China, but three other carriers in the country have already introduced 737-800BCFs to their fleets. The first was China Postal Airlines, which took its first in August 2019 and now has six. Tianjin Air Cargo also added its first that year, while China Central Longhao Airlines received its first toward the end of 2020 and has grown its -800BCF contingent to three units.
The first Asia-Pacific operator to take a 737-800SF was South Korea-based Air Incheon, with the lease of unit 30501 from BlackRock in February 2021.
The CAAC certified AEI’s 737-800SF in January 2020.
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