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in Air Transport / Features

Meeting the freight of expectation

Posted 26 February 2018 · Add Comment

Egyptian exports rely heavily on the freight system. Alan Peaford met with Captain Bassim Gohar to explore how the EgyptAir cargo division is meeting expectations.

Captain Bassim Gohar will be celebrating 40 years’ service with EgyptAir next year, having begun his career with the national carrier flying Fokker 27s. He actually became a captain way back in 1988.
“Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be a pilot. I used to travel a lot with my parents and there was never any doubt about what I would do,” he said.
Today, as CEO and chairman of EgyptAir’s cargo division, Gohar still gets into the left-hand seat of the Airbus A330 each month to retain his currency and stretch a flying career that saw him rise through the ranks to chief pilot, then vice president of operations for the airline, and VP safety for the holding company before taking the CEO role with the cargo carrier.
“I was delighted to make the move to cargo,” Gohar said. “As VP of safety I learned about all of the different subsidiaries doing audits. I learned a lot about the cargo operation and found it very interesting.”
Gohar is very relaxed as he extols the advantages and the prospects for the cargo carrier.
“It is certainly much easier dealing with freight rather than passengers,” he said with a laugh. “One hour delay could mean a million complaints on the one hand, but one hour in cargo operations is acceptable. And, of course, cargo does not eat and drink.”
But even without passengers, there are still challenges.
The US is one of them. Cargo operations were banned from Cairo after the Metrojet incident in 2015. But Gohar is hoping the ban will be lifted.
“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has visited Egypt on four occasions and has seen us implement new systems and make a lot of improvements to our whole approach to security. They have confirmed that we are complying with the security measures and have filed their report,” he said.
America is an important market for Egypt’s textile industry and represents a potential 30 tonnes of freight daily between Cairo and JFK Airport in New York.
Another major market for Cairo is the European Union, where the demand is for fresh produce.
Agriculture is big business in Egypt. EgyptAir Cargo flies five times a week to Cologne in Germany and Ostend in Belgium with perishable goods; a passenger Boeing 777 also fills its belly with produce for the UK market with its daily flight to London Heathrow.
“In this past year we have seen a 30% increase in the export of vegetables from Egypt,” Gohar said.
The benefit of new products in the passenger side of EgyptAir is permeating through to the cargo side, with four of the A330-200s being assigned from the passenger fleet to the cargo fleet. They will be undergoing conversion to freighters by Airbus subsidiary EFW as launch customer for its A330-200P2F passenger-to-freighter conversion programme.
The first two aircraft were delivered to Dresden for the conversion with another two to follow once EgyptAir receives its first Dreamliners.
The two A330-200F aircraft will replace the existing ageing A300B4 freighters. They will provide an additional 33% payload, with substantially improved range capabilities and significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions, coupled with extensively improved noise footprints.
“They will be capable of flying direct to New York or Guangzhou,” Gohar said.
There are also plans to extend the 40,000sqm warehousing and freight terminal at Cairo by 15,000sqm to open by 2019. It will include a cold area to allow for the consolidation of perishable goods.

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