Kenya-based Astral Aviation will take delivery of its first 757-200F before yearend, on lease from Aquila Air Capital, with two more to follow.
Aquila, backed by private equity firms Warburg Pincus and Kepler Hill Capital, purchased the three aircraft from Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM) earlier this year.
Astral, which had hinted at expanding into the narrowbody platform at Cargo Facts EMEA in June, told Cargo Facts that it had been considering 757s before the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside its foray into 767-200F operations which began earlier this year.
The 757-200PCFs are three of the four (22812, 22910, 23687 and 25042) that were previously in operation with CAM’s airline affiliate Air Transport International, flying in ACMI service for DHL Express. They were built in 1984, 1986, 1986 and 1991, respectively, and all have Pratt & Whitney PW2000 engines.
Two of the frames going to Astral are units 23687 and 22812, which have been in Hagerstown (HGR), Md. for storage and maintenance since August and September 2021, respectively. Unit 22910 remains in Wilmington (ILN) where it has been since exiting service at the end of 2019, while unit 25042 has also been at ILN since May 2020.
CAM’s parent ATSG put units 22910, 23687 and 25042 up for sale in 2020, suggesting that Aquila has in fact acquired all four 757-200PCFs. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
At Cargo Facts Symposium last month, five appraisers valued a 1998-vintage 757-200F with Rolls-Royce RB211 engines at an average of approximately $12.3 million.
Returning to Astral, the carrier told Cargo Facts that it intends to deploy the 757s on flights to Africa and the Middle East, including Johannesburg and Dubai, freeing up its sole 767-200BDSF (22217, ex-West Atlantic) — on lease from CAM — for longer-haul routes.
Astral said it also is in need of more 767Fs, but it remains to be seen whether the carrier will manage to secure any in the next several months.
Warburg Pincus and Kepler Hill Capital launched Aquila Air Capital earlier this year, with Al Wood at the helm. Wood was previously CFO of Boeing Commercial Services and has also served as head of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) at Boeing Global Services and chief commercial officer of AeroTurbine.