Last week, the German Aviation Authority LBA approved the air operator’s certificate (AOC) for newcomer Universal Sky Carrier (USC). The startup’s fleet consists of two former South African Airways operated A340 aircraft, with one of the jetliners (Reg: D-AUSC) intended to be converted into a freighter by British specialist Avensis Aviation.
P2F conversion intended
Asked by CargoForwarder Global, Irmana Dukla from USC’s sales and management team confirmed the planned conversion of the aircraft. Before that, however, interested tour operators could book it to operate charter flights.
At present, however, the aircraft is still at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, where it is undergoing technical maintenance by the local provider Hangar 901 they will also reconfigure the cabin, preparing the aircraft for its first mission.
The conversion of D-AUSC into a freighter will take place as soon as the sister model A346 has been handed over to the startup. An exact date for this has not yet been fixed, Ms. Dukla said, as contracts are still to be finanized. However, she expects the maiden flight of USC’s A343 to already take place in early SEP23. “In addition to the German AOC, we also have obtained traffic rights for the USA and expect these to be granted shortly by the Canadian and Chinese authorities. As for cargo, we are also certified to carry Dangerous Goods.”
55 tons uplift capability
Dukla explained that the conversion from passenger to freighter will include the installation of a large cargo hatch on the main deck and the insertion of a loading system. Following the P2F conversion, the maximum transport capacity will be 55 tons. Both aircraft were purchased by USC, she confirmed. They once flew for South African Airways, which used to operate eight units of this Airbus variant: four A340-300s and four A340-600s. Main business segments are ad hoc charters, ACMI, and wet lease operations for both passenger and cargo services, is stated on the carrier’s website.
Names of investors are not disclosed
The manager did not comment on the financing of the aircraft deal. Nor did she say which financiers are backing the entire project. She only revealed that four private investors of German nationality have channeled funds into the project. “All of them bring in many years of experience in the airline business.” That said, she confirmed that the leading figure in the group is Klaus-Dieter Martin, who is the Managing Director of the new airline.
From ECA to USC
Martin is no stranger to European aviation circles. Together with like-minded people, he founded European Coastal Airlines (ECA), in Croatia in 2000. The carrier operated seaplanes that transported passengers between the mainland and the offshore islands in the Adriatic. The company was finally dissolved in 2016, after internal squabbles.
Although USC's headquarters are officially located in Frankfurt, the homebase of the new airline has not yet been defined. "We have been signaled high interest from Cologne-Bonn and also Frankfurt-Hahn, each of which has offered us attractive conditions," Ms. Dukla revealed. Both airports are open 24/7/365 which is an important operational requirement, especially for cargo traffic.
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