Silk Way is flying its new 747-8 freighter to where?

Looking out the nose door of a Silk Way 747-8F at the Baku Cargo Terminal

Looking out the nose door of a Silk Way 747-8F at the Baku Cargo Terminal

Azerbaijan-based Silk Way West Airlines took delivery of its third 747-8F (60102) from Boeing.

The carrier said it would use this third 747-8F to launch new services to Singapore and Komatsu, which had us scrambling for the maps.

Sure, everyone knows where Singapore is and why a freighter operator would fly there. But Komatsu?

Komatsu turns out to be a small city in Ishikawa Prefecture on Japan’s west coast, 300 km west of Tokyo and 130 km north of Nagoya. Despite its relatively small size (population of barely more than 100,000) and remote (by Japanese standards) location, it is of interest to the air freight world because it lies at the center of a major industrial area, and Komatsu Airport (KMQ) is the main airport for the region.

Besides being a major center of large construction equipment manufacturing, Ishikawa Prefecture produces 22% of Japan’s woven fabric and 28% of the nation’s woven synthetic fabric. These synthetic fabrics, including carbon fiber, are important in the manufacture of composite material used in the aerospace, automotive, and wind turbine industries. (Japanese producers hold over 50% of the world woven synthetic fabric market and manufacture it worldwide.)

Silk Way’s freighter will not be lonely, as Cargolux has long served Komatsu. The Luxembourg-based freighter operator has offered as many as three weekly 747-400F frequencies to KMQ, although it cut back to twice-weekly a few years ago. (Four of the top ten wind turbine manufacturers in the world and their suppliers are located in northern Europe, within one day’s truck journey of LUX)

In addition to the three -8Fs, Silk Way West also operates two 747-400Fs and has two more 747-8Fs on order.

Silk Way West was formed in 2012 to take over the scheduled-service business of Silk Way Airlines, which then focused on the charter business with a fleet of Il-76 and An-12 freighters. Silk Way West started with two production 767-300Fs, then added three 747-400Fs, followed by the 747-8Fs. In January of this year, Silk Way West transferred one of its 747-400Fs to SW Italia, a Milan-based startup in which it is a joint-venture partner, and a month later sold the original two 767 freighters to FedEx.

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