AirBridge Cargo (ABC) commenced operations with its third Boeing 747 freighter on October 6th 2005 from Beijing to Amsterdam via the airline’s Russian hub in Krasnoyarsk.

The arrival of the third 747 in ABC’s fleet has enabled the airline to add four more scheduled frequencies a week between China, Russia and Europe in time for the peak season, in support of its regular customer base. ABC currently operates six flights a week to Shanghai and twice-weekly services to Beijing from Amsterdam and Frankfurt, operating via Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and Krasnoyarsk. All four additional frequencies will be to Shanghai.

This latest addition to the fleet is a 747-300 version aircraft that was converted from passenger to all-cargo configuration by Boeing at its Wichita facility. Originally built in 1990, the aircraft is one of only three of its type with GE Engines converted to freighter configuration and offers a 30 pallet maindeck, comparable with the Boeing 747-400F.

Stan Wraight, Vice President of Volga-Dnepr Group, said: “The arrival of the new aircraft will enable us to take the next step in the development of AirBridge Cargo, and increase flexibility and reliability. As well as providing the additional capacity we require between China, Russia and Europe in the peak, the aircraft will allow us to expand our route network with the launch of services to Nagoya, Japan, in the New Year.”

In the latest negotiations between the Russian and Chinese aviation authorities, ABC was awarded substantial additional frequencies to Shanghai (14x) and Beijing (5x) as well as traffic rights to other Chinese destinations, including Guangzhou (6x), and Nanjing plus the right to co-mingle cities and for the first time add Moscow on the westbound flights as well. This will allow the carrier to launch Peking Moscow direct services for the first time this winter season, and Moscow -Amsterdam and Moscow-Frankfurt will commence as well. Thus the additional capacity this new aircraft comes at an ideal time

AirBridge signed a lease with EAST, managed by GATX leasing for the 747-300SF, The aircraft recently completed a successful complete maintenance check at the AMECO Center in Beijing and painting in the distinctive AirBridge colours, supervised by representatives from AirBridge and Lufthansa Technik. ABC expects to add a fourth Boeing 747 to its fleet in early 2006 to enable it to take advantage of all the additional rights granted to the carrier in the past year, including Hong Kong.

In June, Volga-Dnepr Group announced it had signed a financial agreement with Illyushin Finance Corporation to take delivery of two 92 tonnes capacity IL-96-400T cargo aircraft. On delivery in 2006 and 2007, these freighters will be used to support AirBridge Cargo’s growing B747 network.