NordStar (Y7, Norilsk) will enter the dedicated freighter market by the end of the year with the delivery of its first B737-800(BCF) planned for December, it told Cargo Facts.

The Russian carrier expects to take the second unit of the same type in January or February 2022. It has tentative plans to add a third dedicated freighter in the future but so far without a firm timeline.

The carrier said the initial two B737-800(BCF)s would come from two different lessors but did not name them. It also did not identify the aircraft. Both conversions and leases will be managed by Arena Aviation Capital. According to the ch-aviation fleets ownership module, the firm currently manages 34 leases on behalf of at least six different owners and airlines. The majority of Arena-managed aircraft - 26 in total, including the firm's only B737-800(BCF) leased to K-Mile Asia in Thailand - are owned by JP Lease Products & Services.

NordStar said it would operate the two freighters on behalf of its parent, Norilsk Nickel, and its affiliates, predominantly on a triangular route between Norilsk, Moscow Domodedovo, and Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo. It will also explore opportunities to add other routes from either of the three airports. It said it was particularly eager to tap into the booming market for e-commerce between Siberia and China.

The airline's AOC currently includes one B737-300 and nine B737-800s. Until recently, it also operated five ATR42-500s, but they were all transferred to KrasAvia, NordStar's regional joint-venture partner. In September 2019, NordStar announced planes to add between one and five B767 dedicated freighters, although this expansion never materialised. The airline did not respond to ch-aviation's question on whether it is still looking into widebody freighters going forward.

Russia's fleet of converted B737 freighters comprises three B737-400(SF)s and six B737-800(BCF)s operated by Atran and two -800(BCF)s operated by S7 Airlines, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module indicates.