AZAL head: AZAL's stability reflects successful economic policy of Azerbaijan (INTERVIEW)

Business Materials 8 July 2010 09:11 (UTC +04:00)
Trend interviewed CJSC Azerbaijan airlines (AZAL) head Jahangir Askerov
AZAL head: AZAL's stability reflects successful economic policy of Azerbaijan (INTERVIEW)

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 7 / Trend S. Aliyev /

Trend interviewed CJSC Azerbaijan airlines (AZAL) head Jahangir Askerov

Q: JSC "Azerbaijan Airlines" regularly renovates its fleet. In particular, the Company has made an order for the purchase of aircrafts Boeing. How many aircrafts of this brand are planned to receive? Do you plan to purchase aircrafts from other manufacturers?

A: The presence of a strong national airline, having a large fleet of aircrafts transporting passengers to various points of the world today is not just the prestige of the country. It, first of all, impacts positively on strengthening of economic, cultural and humanitarian policy. The presence of branched routes allows to significantly enhance the economic potential and tourist attractiveness of Azerbaijan.

"The presence of airports, purchase of new aircraft and the high level of service will raise Azerbaijan Airlines to the international level," Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at the opening of the airport in Lankaran.

Today AZAL is the airline, which occupies a leading position in the region in various activities. One of the facts is that Azerbaijan will receive new aircrafts Boeing-787 Dreamliner first among all the CIS countries. AZAL and Boeing reached the agreement in August 2009. They formally signed the agreement to buy two aircrafts Boeing-767-300 ER in May 2010. AZAL will get one of them in 2011, and the second one - in 2012.

From 2014 the national airline will begin to receive aircrafts Boeing-787 Dreamliner (two aircrafts). Dreamliner will be more economical than the previous ones. It will be the first passenger aircraft, widely using composite materials.

AZAL will open new routes to Europe, South-East Asia and the United States by buying these aircrafts.

The purchase of two aircrafts Boeing-747 by cargo airline Silk Way Airlines can be called a major event. The airline has also bought two aircrafts Boeing-767. Pilots have been already chosen to fly at these aircrafts. Their training will begin in the nearest future.

Today the Baku international airport named after Heydar Aliyev is the most attractive for transit flights of international cargo and passenger carriers. After the airline Silk Way Airlines buys new aircrafts, one of the largest cargo carriers of the attractive economic region will be placed at the Baku airport. The company will be able to compete with the best known global carriers.

Along with the purchase of aircrafts, Azerbaijan implements the process of development of small aircrafts and, in particular, expansion of the helicopter fleet. It holds a significant place in support of oil and gas industry, which is the cornerstone of the Azerbaijani economy.

Offshore oil and gas operations in the Azerbaijani Caspian shelf are supported with the use of these helicopters. Ltd. SW Helicopter Services, using the European helicopters Super Puma, Dauphin, Eurocopter and Russian Mi-8 MTV-1 and Mi-171 (received in February), signed the contract with the U.S air corporation Sikorsky for the purchase of two S-92 helicopters. Azerbaijan will get these aircrafts by the end of 2010.

The company SW Business Aviation operates in Azerbaijan. It began providing corporate and individual services for personal and business flights worldwide in the entire former Soviet Union. This company operates by such aircrafts as the Gulfstream G550, Gulfstream G450, Gulfstream G200, Boeing 727-200 and ATR 42-500 VIP.

A modern developed infrastructure plays an important role in increasing the number of aircrafts in AZAL's fleet, as well as received by Azerbaijan. Today, one can often see one of the largest aircrafts in the world - Boeing-747 at the Baku international airport named after Heydar Aliyev.

Modern Baku cargo terminal - BCT, meeting the highest world standards, holds a significant place in this process. This terminal is equipped with modern equipment and machinery. It is one of the world's best cargo complexes. Azerbaijan significantly improved effectiveness of freight operations, became a transshipment point for goods coming from the U.S and Europe to Asia and back by putting BCT into operation. The terminal is able to accommodate 9 aircrafts Boeing 747 / AN124 or 15 aircrafts IL76.

Q: AZAL completely abandoned the use of Soviet aircrafts. How many aircrafts and what brands are there in AZAL's fleet now?

A: It should be noted that aircrafts produced in the Soviet Union were used during the entire period of existence of this state and were considered one of the safest ones in the world. Today, when we speak about cessation of exploitation of Soviet or Russian aircrafts, it concerns aircrafts, which exhausted their resources and exploitation term.

Today, "Azerbaijan Airlines" does not use Soviet or Russian aircrafts.

Aircrafts Tu-154 are used by the airline Turan Air to make flights to Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, located in the blockade as a result of Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Summer resource of these aircrafts is 30,000 hours. Today, planes flew about 6,000 hours of this figure. It is only one-fifth of the total resource.

However, I want to note that these aircrafts are kept up all the necessary procedural and technical procedures. A representative of Tupolev company design bureau operates in Baku on a permanent basis, who conducts all the necessary procedures for aircrafts Tu.

Q: 2009 was a hard year for the whole world, and, in particular for air transport. How did AZAL cope with the consequences of the global financial crisis?

A: Civil aviation worldwide is experiencing difficulties for the recent years. Air transportation is one of the sectors most acutely sensitive to many negative aspects seemingly unrelated to each other.

A few blows affected the world civil aviation during the last few years.

This is a sharp rise in oil prices. It led to an increase in the cost of fuel, situation with influenza A1H1, and, finally, the world financial crisis. All these factors led to the closure of a large number of international airlines, which did not cope with their consequences.

Despite this, "Azerbaijan Airlines" managed to maintain its positions in the global air transportation market and expand them. The company continues to modernize and expand its fleet, increase the number of routes, preserve rates of passenger and freight transportation at a high level. Today about 3,000 passengers come to Azerbaijan a day. The same number of passengers depart from Azerbaijan.

Stability of AZAL's activity, primarily reflects the true and successful economic policy of the state. As it is known, Azerbaijan did not demonstrate a negative trend, as it happened in many countries, and kept the trend of economic growth during a financial crisis.

Today the reduction of the influence of the global financial crisis is observed in the world. As a consequence, there is a gradual stabilization and growth in economic activity of airlines. In these conditions AZAL will develop even more rapidly.

Q: AZAL regularly expands the direction of flights. Can we expect opening of new flights this year? When does AZAL plan to carry out flights in far distances, in particular, in the Southeast Asia, North and South America?

A: Azerbaijan has signed an intergovernmental agreement on air communication with 29 countries, ratified or coordinated them on the level of experts with 22 countries and is holding relevant talks with 12 countries. Azerbaijan has joined 22 documents on international civil aviation. Azerbaijan has a "horizontal agreement" with the EU, which envisages liberalization of air communication between the countries, adapts the existing agreement to be in line with the EU legislation. This legislative basis enables AZAL to realize flights in different directions, permanently expanding the number of routes.

Flights have been opened to Antalya and Bodrum recently. Regular flights will be implemented from Baku to Prague beginning from July 15 by Airbus-319.

There are plans to open flights to Europe, Southeast Asia, North and South America after receiving Boeing airliners in the near future. 

Along with flights, which AZAL implements out of borders of the country, it is necessary to note increasing interests towards flights of foreign companies in Azerbaijan. It concerns not only the Heydar Aliyev Baku international airport, but also airports in the country's regions. It first of all confirms the correctness of a decision to reconstruct regional airports. That makes them more attractive from the tourism point of view amid ongoing socio-economic development of regions. For instance, the Lankaran airport, which was opened in 2008, is implementing flights of several air companies from Moscow. Another air company will join them in July. Though flights are implemented almost daily, they are always fully complemented.

Plans also include increasing the number of international flights from Ganja, west Azerbaijan, and Nakhchivan. It is planned to commence flights to Zakatala airport (northwest Azerbaijan) during the tourism season, if tour operators apply for.

Q: AZAL attaches great importance to security of flights. What is the level of organization of security in AZAL?

A: National Leader Heydar Aliyev stated the key task for AZAL is to ensure security of flights. Much attention is paid to improving the security of flights of AZAL and its divisions. Security standards, which AZAL applies, fully meet the highest international requirements. No wonder, results of audits of large and mostly respected International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which were submitted in February, testify for high level of security of flight in Azerbaijan.

A largest international event in the field of civil aviation - ICAO regional meeting - was held in Baku in February. Attending the event which focused on security of flights were 70 representatives from 20 countries of Europe and Asia, as well as six international civil aviation organizations. Holding this forum, which was of great significance in developing principles of global security of flights, once more testified for a significance the international organizations attach to civil aviation of Azerbaijan. Over the past two years Baku has hosted four international forums related to civil aviation.

Training of personnel takes an important place in improving security of civil aviation in Azerbaijan. There is an internationally recognized higher school in Azerbaijan - the National Aviation Academy headed by Professor Arif Pashayev.

The NAA was issued a certificate of higher civil aviation school in 1999 at the decision of the Interstate Aviation Committee. The NAA was included in a register of ICAO schools. National specialists are trained on the base of this school in the field of civil aviation.

Special flight simulators are used to train pilots and improve their skills. It will enable to train pilots for different types of aircrafts in Azerbaijan, which is not only efficient from financial point of view, but also enables to get rid of dependence on foreign centers, which possess such type of flight simulators.

Azerbaijan received training flight simulators of Boeing 757, Airbus 319 and ATR this year. They are being installed on the NAA. Use of these flight simulators will enable to improve personnel potential of civil aviation of the country. Cessna planes, which are based in Zabrat airport are also used to train pilots.