Astral Aviation (8V, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) has signed operating leases with US-based Aquila Air Capital for three B757-200(PCF)s, with delivery expected this month upon completion of their scheduled maintenance.

Astral Aviation Chief Executive Officer Sanjeev Gadhia told ch-aviation the freighters are three of the following four aircraft – N605DL (msn 22812), N620DL (msn 22910), N557CM (msn 23687), and N531UA (msn 25042) - that previously flew with ATI - Air Transport International (8C, Wilmington, OH) on behalf of DHL Express. “They were built in 1984, 1986, 1986, and 1991, respectively, and all have Pratt & Whitney PW2000 engines,” he elaborated.

Gadhia said the aircraft would take over scheduled cargo services with increased frequencies between Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Nairobi and Dubai World Central, in addition to new scheduled routes to and within Africa and the Middle East in 2022. They would also operate point-to-point for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from India and the United Arab Emirates to Africa, in addition to e-commerce shipments to new markets.

"The B757-200PCFs will complement the Astral Aviation fleet with new and efficient options to and within its existing scheduled and charter freighter network, which comprises of over 50 destinations in Africa, Middle East, and Southeast Asia," commented Astral's Commercial Director in the UAE, Satvir Kalsi.

“With this agreement, Astral Aviation will become the largest B757F operator in Africa and the Middle East, in addition to being the only B767F operator in the region," added Chief Operating Officer Michael Mutahi. He said the mid-range narrow-body freighter was well-suited to the African, Middle East & South East Asia region due to its fuel efficiency, 30-tonne payload, and five-hour range.

Astral Aviation has an all-cargo fleet of freighters that operate from its multiple hubs in Nairobi (Kenya), Johannesburg (South Africa), Dubai (UAE), and Liège (Belgium), to more than 50 destinations to and within Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, using a combination of scheduled and charter flights.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Astral Aviation operates two B727-200(F)s; one B747-400(BDSF) and one B747-400(FSCD) both wet-leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic (CC, Reykjavik Keflavik); one owned B767-200(SF), one DC-9-30(CF), and one Fokker 27 freighter.

The company said it has been operating cargo flights for PPE, ventilators, and test kits to 42 countries in Africa during the pandemic and was active in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to and within Africa.