Double ‘first’ for the Astral planes
Becoming the launch customer for one new aircraft model is something that happens to few airlines during their existence. Kenya-based Astral Aviation is involved in the launch of two.
The Nairobi-based freight specialist is taking delivery of both the initial Airbus A320F and the Embraer E190F, freighter conversions of the popular passenger aircraft.
The A320, converted by Singapore’s ST Engineering Aerospace Resources, was delivered by Astral and UAE freighter leasing specialist, Vaayu Aero Leasing, to India’s Pradhaan Air Express in September 2022, with a second example following in March this year. Astral has a lessor relationship with Pradhaan.
The first E190Fs will be delivered to Astral Aviation in November 2024 and January 2025 by lessor, Nordic Aviation Capital, with the aircraft converted by Embraer in Brazil.
There are several reasons for Astral’s involvement in two new freighter variants, said CEO, Sanjeev Gadhia.
“The A320F is an excellent narrow-body freighter, which is well-suited for India and will operate as a regional freighter covering parts of Asia. Its optimum range is four hours with maximum payload.
“The A320F will operate to and from Delhi. It is currently being used for carrying mobile phones and electronics from Hanoi to Delhi, while the E190F will focus on e-commerce and general cargoes.
“The Embraer 190F fits well as a feeder-aircraft and will operate from Astral’s hub in Nairobi and will fly to destinations in east, central and southern Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa, expanding the airline’s cargo footprint in Africa.”
The A320F is on a six-year dry lease from Vaayu, while the E190F will be leased from Nordic Aviation Capital, launch lessor for the type.
The E190F will join Astral’s varied fleet, whose capacities range from the Fokker F50 (seven tons), up to the Boeing 747-400F (110 tons).
Meanwhile, Astral Aerial Solutions, the company’s UAV-operating subsidiary, plans to offer ‘last-mile’ delivery solutions within Africa using a range of large cargo drones, which are currently undergoing certification and regulatory approval.
The drones will enable Astral to reach inaccessible parts of the continent with humanitarian cargoes.
Payloads will be expanded to cover e-commerce and agricultural products.
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