|Parent company||SW Group |
Silk Way Airlines is an Azerbaijani private cargo airline with its head office and flight operations at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku, Azerbaijan. It operates freight services linking Europe and Asia, United States and Africa, as well as services for government and non-governmental organisations.
The company was founded in 2001 and started commercial flights on 6 October 2001. In early 2015 a contract was being negotiated for another 3 Boeing 747-8 freighters. In May 2015 the airline was announced as the launch customer for the Antonov An-178 after placing an order for 10 aircraft. In 2017, the company signed purchase of 10 more Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with total cost of $1B.
As of April 2013, Silk Way Airlines offers scheduled flights to the following destinations:
In September 2018, Silk Way Airlines announced its expansion of routes in to Northern China, with flights to Tianjin carried out twice a week.
The Silk Way Airlines fleet consists of the following freighter aircraft (as of August 2019):
The airline previously operated the following aircraft:
In July 2017, an investigation by the leading Bulgarian daily newspaper Trud, which has a reputation for investigative crime reporting, reported that Silk Way Airlines exploited a loophole in the international aviation and transport regulations to offer flights to arms manufacturers and private companies - with much of the cargo heading for conflict zones including Central Asia and Africa. However, the transportation of military cargo by civil aircraft is heavily regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Therefore, Silk Way Airlines applied for diplomatic exemption of the aircraft and cargo (e.g. diplomatic charter flights), through local agencies to transport heavy weapons, ammunition, and white phosphorus, in support of U.S. military operations, to several challenging war zones.
The published documents included correspondence between the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Bulgaria with attached documents for weapons deals and diplomatic clearance for overflight and/or landing in Bulgaria and many other European countries, United States, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey. The documents disclosed that American weapons manufacturers had shipped over $1 billion of weapons through Silk Way Airlines, and corporate subcontractors included ?Purple Shovel LLC? based in Sterling, Virginia, the US Department of Defense subcontracting vehicle ?Culmen International LLC? based in Alexandria, and weapons and defense procurement firm ?Chemring Military Products? based in Perry, Florida. When Silk Way Airlines did not have enough available planes, Azerbaijan's Air Force jets would transport the military shipments. In the investigation, the reporter accused responsible authorities of many countries (e.g. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, as well as to the militaries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, the military forces of Germany and Denmark in Afghanistan, of Sweden in Iraq, and the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)) of allegedly "turning a blind eye and allowed diplomatic flights for the transport of tons of weapons, carried out by civil aircrafts [sic] for military needs."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan called information of Bulgarian media on transportation of weapons by "Silk Way" under the cover of diplomatic immunity misleading. Azerbaijani Embassy in Bulgaria also denied these assumptions as unreasonable..
In 2018, Silk Way Airlines responded to the Trud journalist's allegations formally, stating that the company had legally conducted the flights on behalf of the United States government and followed established protocols and regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as well as operating in compliance with DOD requirements.
The journalist responsible for the allegations, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, was fired from the publication. Trud has however yet to add any clarifications to or retract the article in question. Silk Way Airlines subsidiary Silk Way West Airlines supports German NGO 'Wings of Help' by flying aid supplies into Northern Iraq, aiding over 23,000 children.
Media related to Silk Way Airlines at Wikimedia Commons