As the U.K.’s exit from the European Union’s single market and customs union on Jan. 1 due to Brexit snarls intra-European supply chains previously reliant on surface transportation, regional freighter operations are on the rise.
U.K.-based RVL Aviation has added to its fleet a Saab 340BF (340B-223, ex-NyxAir), on lease from Miami-based Jetstream Aviation Capital [FAT 005887]. Having received regulatory approval, the aircraft will soon be used for ad-hoc charter operations and other international flights, according to a release from the carrier.
Unit 340B-223, which arrived at East Midlands Airport (EMA) in December 2020, will be joined by additional aircraft from Jetstream. RVL told Cargo Facts that it expects around three more Saab 340B freighters to join its fleet this year.
The Saab 340B will be the largest freighter for RVL, which now has sixteen aircraft on the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority’s register: four Beechcraft King Air B200s, six Reims-Cessna 406s, two Cessna 404s, one Cessna 402, as well as two Cessna 310s that do not appear to be operational.
If even a small fraction of modal shift to air is required, the “knock-on effect” could call for a large number of dedicated freighter flights, said Dan Morgan-Evans, cargo charter director of U.K.-based Air Charter Service. Ahead of Brexit, the charter company inked a deal with Jota Aviation to reserve a U.K.-registered BAe 146 freighter. Smaller freighters, such as the 10.5-tonne capacity BAe 146, are desirable because they can land at smaller airports if major gateways face congestion issues. Regarding the regional freighter fleet, there are “a limited number available” in the U.K., according to Morgan-Evans.
That may soon change.
The growth trajectory of the region’s regional fleet reflects not only Brexit-related impacts, but also express volume growth. “A confluence of factors is driving demand,” said Stuart Klaskin, CEO of Jetstream.
Independent from the pact with ACS, Jota Aviation, which expanded its cargo business in 2018 with the acquisition of four BAe 146-300QTs recently began operating regular flights between Ostend (OST) and Birmingham (BHX) for time-critical logistics provider Priority Freight.
The carrier began service with two of the BAe 146 freighters (E3182 and E3186) in 2018, and brought the third (E3168) out of long-term storage at Southend Airport (SEN) last June in light of rising demand. Unit E3186 is currently flying in Italy on behalf of Poste Air Cargo, and has been operating such flights on a regular basis since April 2020.
Meanwhile, ahead of Jan. 1, West Atlantic added to its U.K. AOC an ATR 72-200F (147) — the carrier’s first — transferred from Spain-based affiliate Swiftair in November 2020. The aircraft is operating intra-U.K. flights between EMA, Guernsey (GCI) and Jersey (JER) — the same route it had been flying under Swiftair’s AOC. Since Jan. 5, another ATR 72 owned by Swiftair (446) has been operating regular flights between London Stansted (STN) and Manchester (MAN) using West Atlantic flight numbers.
ASL Aviation Holdings, which in Europe owns airlines in Belgium, France, Hungary, Ireland, Switzerland and Spain, is working to establish a U.K.-based AOC, and filed an application in August 2020. On Dec. 16, ASL registered an ATR 72-500F (265) to ASL Airlines UK, according to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority. However, the latest list of U.K. AOC holders, published on the same day, does not include ASL Airlines UK.
Another U.K.-based regional freighter operator is Loganair, which operates an ATR 72-500F (570) and several Saab 340 freighters also leased from Jetstream.