Kenyan cargo specialist Astral Aviation (8V, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) in conjunction with UAE-based lessor Vaayu Group is supporting the establishment of India's Pradhaan Air Express (6P, Delhi International), by leasing the world’s first A320-200(P2F) converted freighter to the all-cargo Delhi startup.

Pradhaan Air Express will begin operations later this year, making it the global launch customer of the A320-200(P2F) and the first Indian operator of an Airbus narrowbody freighter, according to a statement by the company’s founder and chief executive, Nipun Anand.

He confirmed that the startup had been granted a "no objection certificate" from India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation to offer cargo charters on domestic and international routes.

The 16-year-old A320, D-AAES (msn 2737), which offers a payload of 21 tons with a fully-palletised main deck, is stationed at Singapore Seletar where it has been painted in the Pradhaan Air Express livery. It is expected to arrive in Delhi International later this month. The conversion was done by Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), a joint venture of ST Engineering and Airbus, at its facility in Singapore. The aircraft has been dry-leased through Astral Aviation and the Vaayu Group on a six-month contract.

A second aircraft will be inducted by the end of 2022 with plans for further fleet expansion, Anand said.

“The air cargo market in India has untapped domestic and international potential fuelled by various initiatives to become a global hub for cargo services. We aim to make our small contribution to the big dreams of the Indian cargo industry by offering tailor-made solutions with on-demand charters,” added Vipul Bhalla, chief business officer.