PROJECT CARGO HEAVY LIFT 2007 - Heavy lift carriers excel in niche markets

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By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTThe Russians are coming on strong in the air freight market with their heavy lift aircraft ready to transport what may seem to many, the unmovable. Polet Airlines and Volga-Dnepr know the business: heavy lift, over sized and project cargoes. To these carriers, this job is anything but impossible. They have the equipment and the know how to get the job done.
Dmitry Avdeev, MBA, sales manager for Polet Airlines, reports that not only is business steady in the oversized and heavy weight cargo transportation niche, Polet Airlines is advancing and diversifying its airline business.
“We are upgrading two ex-military AN-124 aircraft to expand our current fleet of six AN-124-100,” he remarks. “At the same time we are actively working with all interested parties to restore production of an upgraded AN-124 version at Aviastar Aircraft Plant in Ulyanovsk, Russia.”
Polet is developing its regional passenger airline business in Russia, leasing six Saab-2000 turboprops, and expanding its domestic and international route networks. In addition, the company has acquired a fleet of business jets and turboprop aircraft of various sizes to accommodate the VIP and business air transportation segment in Russia.
Unique cargo solutionsIn the cargo arena, Polet Airlines provides airport-to-airport transportation services. Avdeev points out that such deliveries offer, in essence, unique logistics solutions.
“Almost each transportation is different from the other, and requires thorough load planning and creative loading techniques,” he says.
For example, recently the carrier transported oversized construction crane sections from the United States to Central Asia. The original crane was involved in oil rig construction and was damaged. The project was on a tight schedule and, therefore, the customer did not have the time to transport the new crane sections by sea freight.
“Interestingly, all competing AN-124-100 operators offered two flights based on the cargo details provided,” Avdeev says. “After detailed load planning, Polet offered to transport all sections on a single flight.”
The customer doubted if Polet could manage the shipment.
“All others were giving a definite negative answer even after reconsideration,” he recalls. “We signed the contract, and the same evening Polet’s loadmaster was on his way across the United States to the crane manufacturing factory to provide necessary instructions in preparing the cargo for loading into the AN-124-100.”
Once the aircraft was in position, the sections were fitted into the cabin with barely several millimeters of clearance, but just enough to fit perfectly into the cargo cabin.
“Needless to say the customer was very impressed by the expertise and the quality of service provided,” Avdeev says.
Avdeev’s motto is: “Polet’s main distinguishing factor is, ‘when no one else can do it, we will!’”
Niche business at Volga-DneprLike Polet, Volga-Dnepr is excelling in the heavy lift niche market. In the first nine months of 2006, the Volga-Dnepr Group, which includes Volga-Dnepr Airline Company and AirBridge Cargo, transported a record 95,000 tons of freight, making the Group Russia’s largest all-cargo airline. In 2005, the Volga-Dnepr Group controlled approximately 56% of the total market.
Alexey Isaikin, president and CEO of Volga-Dnepr Group, reports that the volume of cargo transported on ramp loaded freighters currently accounts for 1.5% of the total air cargo market. This is significant since the movement of freight shipments onboard ramp loaded all-cargo aircraft has been one of the air cargo industry’s fastest growing sectors. Isaikin forecasts business to grow to seven percent, or $7.2 billion, by 2030.
“We are optimistic because our business is very customer-oriented,” he says.
Business has been exceptionally robust. Revenues generated by AN-124-100 and IL-76 cargo charter services operated by Volga-Dnepr Airline rose 14% and 129%, respectively, between January and Sept

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American Journal of Transportation