July 09, 2012
Credit: Nigel Howarth
Lee Ann Tegtmeier
Volga-Dnepr tends to plan on a supersized scale—it transports oversized cargo, such as a 60-ton truck-mounted pump—and considers its mission to be building “air bridges” across the world.
Its investment strategy is equally supersized. The Volga-Dnepr group intends to grow its fleet by more than 50% in the next four years and at least double its maintenance division's locations worldwide, says Victor Sherin, managing director of Volga-Dnepr Gulf. “We plan very huge,” he summarizes.
After accepting two Boeing 737s in June, the group now operates 30 aircraft, but “by 2016, we plan to have around 50,” says Sherin. The additional aircraft, which will include Boeing 747-8s, Antonov An-124-100s, modified Ilyushin Il-76s and around 16 Boeing 737 Classics, will be a combination of new and converted airframes that will serve Russian and international markets.
Sherin says Volga-Dneper has not selected vendors to convert the passenger aircraft to cargo configurations, but a company—or companies—in China will complete the process.
Volga-Dnepr's niche is scheduled and charted cargo service—especially for oversized or heavy freight. AirBridgeCargo Airlines provides scheduled service with 747 freighters and Volga-Dnepr Airlines operates charter flights with IL-76 and An-124 aircraft.
The maintenance division, Volga-Dnepr Technics, which was launched in 2008, is exploring global expansion to possibly China or the U.S. For now, it has three facilities in the works in Russia—Moscow, Ulyanovsk and Krasnoyarsk—and Volga-Dnepr Gulf in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. By year-end, the group will have two facilities in Sharjah large enough to house 747s, which will be a new maintenance capability for that facility.
The Sharjah site will start completing 747 A checks for a UAE customer this summer and 747 C checks in 2013, Sherin says. He expects the first A checks to take 2-3 weeks, until the site's workers gain experience on the type.
In Ulyanovsk, “we need a hangar big enough to hold three widebodies.” The group also would like to add another hangar in Moscow for A checks.