MOSCOW, February 28 (RIA Novosti) – Kazakhstan is to launch a new domestic airline, the oil-rich country’s sovereign wealth fund has announced.
The airline, to be called Ar Kazakhstan, will likely be based on a fleet of regional Bombardier planes and aims to rival the existing carrier Air Astana.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during a meeting with Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin on Wednesday that Kazakhstan was pursuing a contract with the Canadian company to supply planes for the service.
Nazarbayev added that the experience gained from creating Air Astana with UK-based BAE Systems could be used to launch the new airline.
Air Astana, the country’s largest airline and flag carrier, operates international routes to more than 15 countries, according to its website.
Umirzak Shukeyev, the head of the Samruk-Kazyna fund, said the new regional airline was being created to improve flight safety. It would both cooperate and compete with Air Astana.
The fund said in a video that the airline will buy 10 of the company’s planes this year with flights scheduled to begin next year. No estimate of the value of the contract was given.
Beaudoin said at the Wednesday meeting that the contract will include the delivery of the planes, as well as the training of Kazakh pilots and the construction of aircraft service centers.
Kazakhstan, the ninth-largest country in the world, has vast expanses of open steppe between its cities that make the country particularly suited to regional air travel.
A Bombardier CRJ-200 in the country operated by a private carrier crashed early last year killing all 21 people on board.