Afghanistan's newest cargo airline has taken delivery of its first aircraft and is in negotiations to expand its service network beyond Afghanistan, with its first international destinations likely to include the UAE, Western China and India.
East Horizon Airlines, which is the first carrier to be certified under the new, internationally compliant Afghan aviation standards, acquired four CASA 212-00 ramp-loading cargo planes from EADS CASA.
The aircraft will make stops in Malta and the UAE for final inspection, maintenance and pilot training before proceeding on to Afghanistan, a statement from the company said.
Once the aircraft arrive in Afghanistan, East Horizon will complete the final operational preparations necessary for the grant of an air operator's certificate (AOC) by the Afghan Aviation Ministry.
East Horizon executives expect the final operating certificate to be awarded in May, 2011, with the airline planning to begin cargo operations the day after the AOC is awarded.
The start of operations will be a welcome milestone for a country determined to rebuild and redevelop its national infrastructure following years of unrest.
"We are a 100 per cent Afghan-owned cargo airline dedicated to supporting and accelerating the re-development of Afghanistan by moving reconstruction materials across the country more safely and quickly than is currently possible," said East Horizon Airlines Chairman Fawad Sultani.
He also emphasised the new airline's mission to build commerce both within Afghanistan and between the country and its neighbours, accelerating the process by bringing fast, safe and reliable air cargo service to remote cities and towns which have had little or no air cargo service before.
"As the first airline designed from the ground up to comply with the new internationally-recognised Afghanistan civil aviation regulations, East Horizon Airlines will lead the way as a new Afghan aviation industry emerges," added Sultani.
The airline's first operational routes will be inside Afghanistan, moving cargo quickly and safely from Kabul to smaller Afghan cities, which have previously been dependent on slower, less dependable truck delivery of goods.
East Horizon Airlines selected the CASA 212-100 as the first aircraft in its fleet because of its capacity, reliability and strong safety record, with its excellent short take-off and landing performance also a key consideration.
"The CASA 212-100 can take off from unimproved landing areas in as little as 1,500 feet. That sort of performance is essential when we are trying to serve remote cities and towns which have had little or no air cargo service previously, because they may not have a conventional airstrip," said East Horizon Airlines Chief Executive Officer Peter Donlevy.
East Horizon will have a fleet of five aircraft in operation by the end of the year, with further expansion planned over the next two to three years as market demand dictates.