Volga-Dnepr Subsidiary Expands Boeing 737-800BCF Fleet

Atran Cargo Airlines is set to double its Boeing 737-800BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter) fleet by the end of the month. The Russian carrier, which is a subsidiary of the wider Volga-Dnepr Group, previously had two of the ex-passenger 737-800s in its fleet. However, a third has recently arrived on lease from GECAS, with a fourth due later this month.

Atran Boeing 737
The 737-800BCF makes up more than half of Atran’s fleet. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Two more 737-700BCFs

According to FlightGlobal, Atran will be bolstering its cargo-carrying fleet by leasing a second pair of Boeing 737-800BCF aircraft from GECAS. Data from ch-aviation shows that the airline’s first two 737-800BCFs from the Irish-American lessor arrived in December 2018 (VQ-BFS) and September 2019 (VQ-BFT). One of the second pair has already arrived.

FlightGlobal adds that the second new (to the airline, rather than brand-new) 737-800BCF will join Atran later this month. With the 737-800 series entering service more than two decades ago, such conversions will likely become more common as their passenger-carrying lifespan expires. West Atlantic UK received the first of these in April 2018.

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West Atlantic Boeing 737
West Atlantic received the first Boeing 737-800BCF, with a commemorative tail marking, in April 2018.    Photo: James via Flickr

The market for such aircraft, which can carry a payload of 23.5 tonnes, is strong, with GECAS alone having ordered 60. Of these, 34 have been delivered to their new operators. Vitaly Andreev, Atran’s General Director, welcomed the new arrivals, commenting:

“At Atran, we appreciate the support from GECAS’ Cargo team as we continue to expand our fleet and network. The Boeing 737-800BCF constitutes the backbone of our fleet, and additional aircraft will enable us to provide more solutions and guarantee high-quality services to our customers.”

Atran in a nutshell

Despite being a relatively small airline, Moscow Vnukovo-based Atran has a long history that stretches as far back as the Second World War. Indeed, it came into existence during the conflict in 1942, under the name Moscow Aviation Enterprise. At this time, it was an agency of flag carrier Aeroflot, to whom it would deliver spare aircraft parts during its early years.

Atran Antonov An-12
During Atran’s long history, it has also operated Soviet aircraft, including the mighty Antonov An-12.      Photo: Aleksandr Markin via Wikimedia Commons

Atran began to fly heavy freighters in 1962, and amassed 29 aircraft by 1980. By this time, it was flying these aircraft throughout the Soviet Union under the name Transport Aviation. The airline went independent in 1990, becoming the first Soviet carrier to do so.

This change in structure was reflected by a corresponding name change to Aviatrans, which it held until 1997 before assuming its present identity. The airline, which is majority-owned (73%) by its employees, then became a Volga-Dnepr subsidiary in 2011.

An all-737 fleet

Atran operates a relatively small fleet, which will total seven cargo-carrying aircraft one the latest 737-800BCF arrives. These freighters all belong to the popular Boeing 737 family, although the examples that Atran operates are split among two variants. The 737-800BCF will become the dominant variant, with the new pair bringing its tally up to four aircraft.

Atran Boeing 737
Atran’s oldest aircraft at present are its Boeing 737-400Fs. Photo: Getty Images

These converted aircraft have an average age of 18.4 years old. Meanwhile, Atran’s remaining three planes are even older, clocking in at 23.5 years old on average. These jets are examples of the 737-400F variant, and also saw passenger service before being converted to carry cargo. Atran also previously operated a fourth 737-400F from December 2018 to December 2019. It now flies for CargoLogic Germany as D-ACLW.

What do you make of Atran’s latest fleet expansion? Have you ever come across one of the carrier’s aircraft on your travels? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!