Astral Aviation (8V, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) has established its first Middle Eastern base at Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, as part of an expansion of its operations within the region.

Headquartered at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta, the Kenyan cargo specialist, on February 3, began serving Sharjah with two weekly services, using its B767-200(SF), offering capacity for 80 tonnes per week of flowers and vegetables to the UAE, while using the return leg for the distribution of COVID vaccines to and within Africa, according to a statement on the company website.

Astral Aviation is operating the freighter under a five-year lease from Air Transport Services Group. It is the first aircraft ATSG has leased to Astral, as well as the first B767 that Astral has put into service.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sanjeev Gadhia, said: “We will provide a scheduled service for perishables from East Africa to Sharjah for the UAE region, while on the return, Astral’s consolidations from China, and the UAE will be moved from Sharjah to Nairobi for onward connection to Astral’s intra-African network.”

Sharjah Airport Authority Chairman Ali Salim Al Midfa said the airport would facilitate Astral Aviation flying Covid-19 vaccines from China to the African continent. The storage and handling unit of medicinal products at the cargo centre in Sharjah provided continuous temperature control and monitoring of thermal changes, he added.

Astral also planned to deploy the B767 on its Nairobi – Johannesburg O.R. Tambo route replacing the B727-200(F), thus increasing the total capacity to 160 tonnes per week to South Africa, the company said. The B727-200F also currently serves Djibouti, Maputo, and Zanzibar, according to the ch-aviation schedules module.

It also shows that Astral has a fleet of six aircraft, including the B767 freighter, two B727-200Fs, one B747-400(BDSF) and one B747-400(FSCD) both wet-leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic (CC, Reykjavik Keflavik), one DC-9-30(CF), as well as BAe ATP(F)s and, Fokker 50 and Fokker 27 freighters. The carrier has a second base in Liège, Belgium, with Sharjah being its third.