Vega overcomes An-12 ban to re-emerge as Cargo Air
23 / 11 / 2008
IN 2007 the new EU rules regarding the operation of a number of Soviet era aircraft types came into effect, and in an instant decimated the operations of a host of eastern European airlines that had built up a sustainable business over a number of years.
One of the effected carriers – Vega Airlines from Bulgaria – has battled through adversity and commenced operations with a new name and a new aircraft type – the B737F.
Angel Petrov, commercial director of Cargo Air, explained that “we lost our Bulgarian operator’s certificate in June 2007 because we only flew An-12 freighters, which could not be registered in any EASA country. But we did not give up. We gathered a new team of stake holders and moved all our activities to a new company – Cargo Air”.
In September 2007, the carrier purchased its first ex-US Airways B737-300 from GA Telesis. It then commissioned Commercial Jet Inc, Miami, to undertake the difficult process of an avionics upgrade and the necessary cargo converion using the STC of Aeronautical Engineers for the cargo modification.
“We chose the Aeronautical Engineers conversion because of the versatile cargo options offered, including nine 125 x 88 in, nine 108 x 88 in pallets or nine containers. This conversion can also accommodate one CFM56 engine, which is a key part of our business and something the other conversions cannot offer,” said Petrov.
Some nine months later, on 4 June 2008, the aircraft was ready for delivery and made its positioning flight to Bulgaria.
Before the airline could begin operations, however, it had to complete the “very difficult process of obtaining its EU Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) with Bulgarian CAA”. This was finally achieved on 9 September, Cargo Air becoming the first freighter operator to receive an EU AOC issued by Bulgarian CAA, after the safeguard measures clause of EU commission was lifted. “We finally gained our licence as an air carrier, as per EU regulation 2407 on 12 September 2008, after a tremendously difficult journey to get to that point,” said Petrov.
The airline performed its first flight on 15 September 2008 carrying a 12 m outsized pipe from Hannover, Germany to Constanta, Romania. “Since then, we have performed 15 ad-hoc cargo charter flights including a flight to Kabul, Afghanistan and Tashkent in Uzbekistan. We are seeking regular scheduled business, but until then we will explore the ad-hoc cargo charter market,” added Petrov.
Cargo Air has now embarked on the next stage of its development to obtain a Canadian Foreign Operator’s Certificate. It plans to explore cargo charter opportunities between Europe and Canada and already has transhipment authority from major airports in Canada to the USA without special traffic rights.