The Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan plans to launch a domestic airline, Air Kazakhstan, in early 2015 with a fleet of 10 new Bombardier Q400 twin turboprops. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the plans with Bombardier president and CEO Pierre Beaudoin on February 26 following a meeting between the two at January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss wider cooperation in air and rail transport.
“We can build on the experience of starting a new airline from Air Astana,” a 12-year-old joint venture between Kazakhstan’s national wealth fund Samruk Kazyna and the UK’s BAE Systems, confirmed Nazarbayev.
“We plan to transfer technology, provide training to Kazakhstan’s pilots, construct aircraft maintenance centers…We have long-term plans in Kazakhstan,” said Beaudoin. With the exception of Air Astana, which operates under restrictions and conditions, all Kazakh carriers appear on the European Union air safety “black list.”
Plans call for the new airline to register with the Kazakh civil aviation authority by May and take deliveries of aircraft by the end of the year, according to Umirzak Shukeyev, chairman of Samruk Kazyna.
Air Astana operates an all-Western fleet of Boeing 767-300ERs, Boeing 757-200s, Airbus A320 family aircraft and Embraer E190s to more than 60 international and domestic routes from hubs in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau. Air Kazakhstan, with its Q400 turboprops, will likely fly to small cities and remote airports previously served by a fleet of Fokker 50s retired a year ago by Air Astana. “There are many domestic airports we cannot serve with our all-jet fleet, and it was therefore imperative that steps be taken to serve these cities with modern turboprops operating to internationally compliant standards. Bombardier’s Q400 clearly meets this criterion,” said Air Astana president Peter Foster.
Last year, Kazakh airlines collectively flew 5 million passengers, or 9 percent more than they carried in 2012. The country plans to upgrade 16 airports to accommodate regional air service expansion in the near future.