I have loved following Baltia Air Lines for quite sometime now. Since August 2009 when Tom Luly on The Airline Blog first talked about the airline, or lack of an airline, I have been intrigued.
Really the story starts long ago. Back in 1989, Baltia Air Lines was founded in New York City. The idea was to provide service from New York to what used to be the Soviet Union. After lots of planning, it looked like things were going well for the start up. Baltia had plans to fly to multiple cities in the Soviet Union and were looking to purchase a few Boeing 767’s and 737’s. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, which was great for America, but not so great for the new American-based Baltia Air Lines. There was too much instability in the Baltic region and plans to start a new airline were shelved.
It took until 1996 when Baltia was able to get authority to fly from New York (at JFK) to St. Petersberg. At the time Baltia was planning on flying a single Boeing 747 and in 1998 put a $100,000.00 down payment for an ex-Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-200. However, in 1999, the airline did not have enough capital to start flying and the Department of Transportation (DOT) revoked their route authority. In 2007, Baltia received more capital and once again filed to fly from JFK to St. Petersburg. The DOT approves the plan and allowed them to fly in 2008.
When Luly with The Airline Blog first contacted Baltia back in August 2009, they assured him they were planning on purchasing one Boeing 747 from an airline that was based in the US. Many were skeptical that the airline would actually purchase an aircraft and questioned if the airline would ever take off (pun intended).
It was quite shocking when they announced that they purchased a Boeing 747-200. They didn’t end up getting a 747 from an American carrier, but they still found one. Baltia ended up purchasing one which was first delivered to TAP Air Portugal in 1975. Then in 1976 it was sold to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), where it flew until it was stored in 2005. Then in July 2009, Baltia Air Lines purchased the jumbo jet and registered it as N705BL. They paid a little less than a half-million for the plane, which did not come with engines.
Even though they had a plane, it became questionable if it would ever fly. Doubters were amazed, when on August 4th 2010, she arrived at the Malaysian Airlines Maintenance Center where it will be updated and painted.
The choice of an older, less fuel efficient aircraft is a bit puzzling. Of course there is a lower up front cost, but it will cost a lot in the long run. Will passengers be willing to fly in such an old aircraft? Will most even realize how old she really is?
This airline surely is interesting. Not only a US airline flying passengers in a Boeing 747-200, but flying non-stop to major Russian cities is too good to ignore. These people sure seem to have the drive and ambition to make an airline happen, no matter what the time line.
The keen eye of a ramp worker caught N705BL at LAX on its way to Malaysia (photo) and was allowed to go in to take a look. The interior is still looks like PIA (photo), but they plan to install a VIP interior. I kind of hope they can keep the classic spiral stair case going up to the upper deck (photo).
More recently, Baltia Air Lines has announced the purchase of a second Boeing 747 and that they plan to start flying during the second quarter of 2011. According to Airliners Gallery News, Baltia Air Lines President, Igor Dmitrowsky stated, ’œSignificant progress has been made in the FAA Air Carrier Certification document process and that Baltia is anticipating a second quarter launch.” He continued with, “There are still other pre-launch certification tasks to be accomplished such as the completion of the Safety Attribute Inspection audit process of the manuals, the completion of maintenance on our newly acquired Boeing 747 aircraft, the training of our crewmembers, and the mini evacuation test and proving flights, which should all be completed prior to our inaugural flight.’
You can be sure I will be keeping a close eye on Baltia and sharing anything new they might have.
MORE BALTIA AIR LINES GOODIES:
* Video of N705BL arriving in Malaysian Airlines Maintenance Center
* 20 photos of the aircraft’s life
* Simpliflying looks at Baltia Air Lines use of social media