Moscow-based carrier Moskovia Airlines signed an agreement with Aeronautical Engineers Inc (AEI) for the conversion of six 737-400s from passenger to freighter configuration. All six conversions are scheduled for 2011, with at least the first two, and as many as all six, to be done at the Commercial Jet facility in Miami. The deal follows the recent certification of AEI’s 737-300 and 737-400 P-to-F conversion programs in the CIS countries (Russia, plus nine countries formerly in the Soviet Union)
Moskovia was originally established in 1995 as Gromov Air, a wholly-owned commercial subsidiary of the Gromov Flight Research Institute which operated a fleet of Tu-154s. It was rebranded as Moskovia in 2006 and now operates four 737NGs on the passenger side (top photo), and three An-12 freighters on the cargo side (lower photo). It also has ten An-148 regional jets on order.
There are currently somewhere around 100 An-12s in commercial operation in the CIS region. The An-12 is a 1950s-design four-engine turboprop, of which commercial production ceased in 1973. This means that the youngest units now in operation are approaching 40 years in service, and the entire fleet is therefore ripe for retirement/replacement. The An-12’s payload, depending on variant, is roughly 30 tonnes, which implies that replacement could take the form of 737-400F, A320-200F, or 757-200F depending on whether the operator was looking for more or less payload. Of course, one thing that none of the currently available converted freighters can replace is the An-12’s ramp-loading and rough-field capabilities, so some will undoubtedly be kept in service.
Here is a short video of an An-12 taking off. You can see and hear that it would have emissions and noise compliance problems at most of the world’s airports.