It has been a long time coming, but Silk Way finally took delivery of its first 747-8F.
In March 2013, Azerbaijan-based all-cargo carrier Silk Way Airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Boeing to purchase four 747-8 Freighters. Four months later, the carrier signed a firm order with Boeing for two 747-8Fs, and now, almost a year-and-a-half after the original MoU the first 747-8F in Silk Way colors has landed at the carrier’s hub in Baku.
Formal delivery was made on 21 August, and the freighter (msn 44444) took off the next day, with Silk Way following the progress of the delivery flight in real time on its Facebook page – as shown in the illustration at right, six hours into the flight. The second (44973) is reportedly scheduled to follow sometime this week, although the time and date of the flight have not been announced.
The first of the two rolled out of Boeing’s Everett facility in November last year, and there has been much speculation about why it took nine months from roll-out to delivery. The answer, for what it’s worth, is that at some point in the process, Silk Way changed its financing plans, and sought financing through the US Ex-Im Bank. This took some time (and also explains why both of the -8Fs now carry Bermuda registration), but was completed earlier this month, and Silk Way will soon be operating both of the new freighters in revenue service.
And what of the original Memorandum of Understanding for four 747-8Fs? At the time of the signing, Silk Way’s Managing Director Shamsaddin Mirsalayev said the freighters would be would be delivered beginning in 2014 with the fourth unit arriving in 2017, so it is possible that the carrier will firm up its order for the second two (or take them through a lessor), but it is also possible that, at least for now, two is all that will be acquired.
In addition to the two 747-8Fs, Silk Way currently operates three 747-400Fs and two 767-300Fs in scheduled service, mostly through its Silk Way West subsidiary. The carrier also has two Il-76TD-90s, which it operates mostly in charter service.