Nairobi-based cargo carrier Astral Aviation will expand its cargo fleet with three Boeing 757-200F freighter aircraft following the announcement of a signed lease agreement with Aquila Air Capital.

The aircraft, which are currently undergoing scheduled maintenance, are expected to be delivered in November 2021.

According to a statement, the lessor, Aquila Air Capital, a US-based specialty finance platform focused on commercial aerospace, also announced that SkyExec Capital Jets acted as a facilitator for the agreement and will “service the lease during the term”.

Commenting on the agreement, Al Wood, Aquila Air Capital CEO, stated: “We are delighted to bring on Astral Airlines as a customer.” 

He adds: “We look forward to this being the beginning [of] a long-term relationship with Astral to help facilitate their future growth.”

Astral Aviation has a fleet of Fokker-27F, DC9, CRJ-200 as well as Boeing 727-200, 767-200, and 747-400 freighters. According to a statement from the airline, the carrier serves an intra-African network, which includes 50 destinations. Its B767-200 freighter operates routes such as Nairobi–Johannesburg, with a capacity of 160 tonnes per week. 

Its international network includes routes such as Nairobi–London, UK and Nairobi–Sharjah, UAE, plus a network to Dubai and Hong Kong.

According to Astral COO, Michael Mutahi, the agreement with Aquila Air Capital catapults Astral Aviation to become “the largest B757F operator in Africa and Middle East, in addition to being the only B767F operator in the region”.

The B757F, a mid-ranged and narrow-body freighter, holds a payload of approximately 30 tons and a range of five hours, which, according to Mutahi, “makes it a perfect freighter for the African, Middle East & South East Asia region”.

This new fleet of B757s is expected to bolster the carrier’s operations on its Nairobi–Johannesburg and Nairobi–Dubai routes, according to Astral Aviation CEO, Sanjeev Gadhia.

“We are excited to enter into a lease agreement for three B757-200F aircraft from Aquila Air Capital and SkyExec Capital Jets,” said Gadhia. “The aircraft will take over the Nairobi–Johannesburg and Nairobi–Dubai scheduled service with increased frequency for our clients in addition to new scheduled routes to and within Africa and the Middle East in 2022.”

Expanding on the new partnership and its benefits for the airline, Gadhia adds: “It will also offer point-to-point solutions for COVID-19 vaccines (from India / UAE to Africa) in addition to E-commerce shipments to new markets.”