Silk Way Airlines

Silk Way Airlines is an Azerbaijani private cargo airline with its head office and flight operations at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku.[2] It operates freight services to Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as services for government and non-governmental organisations. The airline is part of the Silk Way Group.[3]

Silk Way Airlines
Logo of silk way airlines.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
HubsHeydar Aliyev International Airport
Fleet size5[1]
Parent companySilk Way Group
HeadquartersBaku, Azerbaijan



A Silk Way Airlines Douglas DC-8 at Zurich Airport in 2003
Silk Way Antonov An-12 in 2005
Silk Way Ilyushin Il-76 in 2010

The company was founded in 2001 and started commercial flights on 6 October 2001.[4] In early 2015 Silk Way West Airlines negotiated a contract for another three Boeing 747-8 freighters, the 747-8F.[5] In May 2015 the airline was announced as the launch customer for the Antonov An-178 after placing an order for 10 aircraft.[6] In 2017, the company signed purchase of 10 more Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with total cost of $1B.[7]

However, the Boeing 737 MAX passenger airliner was grounded worldwide between March 2019 and December 2020 – longer in many jurisdictions – after 346 people died in two crashes, Lion Air Flight 610 on 29 October 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on 10 March 2019. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) resisted grounding the aircraft until 13 March 2019, when it received evidence of accident similarities. By then, 51 other regulators had already grounded the plane,[8] and by 18 March 2019, all 387 aircraft in service were grounded. Therefore, these aircraft are not included in Silk Way Airlines' current fleet.

Cargo and munitions, humanitarian aid transportationEdit

In July 2017, an investigation[9] by the leading Bulgarian daily newspaper Trud, which has a reputation for investigative crime reporting,[10] 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).[11] 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 munitions, in support of United States military operations, to several challenging war zones.[12]

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 countries such as the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, 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 United States 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, United Arab Emirates, the military forces of Germany and Denmark in Afghanistan, of Sweden in Iraq, and the United States 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."[9][13]

The Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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.[14]

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 ICAO, as well as operating in compliance with DOD requirements.[15]

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.[16]

In 2020, it was alleged again that Silk Way Airlines were transporting Israeli-made weapons from Ovda Airport in Eilat, Israel to Azerbaijan, on behalf of Azerbaijani Armed Forces during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. It was speculated that Israel sold advanced weaponry to Azerbaijan on operations against Armenian forces, and Silk Way Airlines were contracted to transport the orders.[17][18][19][20]


In September 2018, Silk Way Airlines announced its expansion of routes to Northern China, with flights to Tianjin carried out twice a week.[21] As of January 2021 Silk Way served over 40 destinations.[citation needed]


As of September 2021, the Silk Way Airlines fleet consisted of the following aircraft:[1][needs update]

The additional fleet of Boeing 747 cargo aircraft is operated by sister company Silk Way West Airlines.

Incidents and accidentsEdit


  1. ^ a b "Silk Way Airlines celebrates 20th anniversary". 9 October 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Contact Archived 2014-01-17 at the Wayback Machine." Silk Way Airlines. Retrieved on 25 August 2011. "Head office Heydar Aliyev International Airport AZ1044 Baku, Azerbaijan."
  3. ^ "Silk Way Airlines". CAPA - Centre for Aviation.
  4. ^ " AeroTransport Data Bank". Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Boeing, Silk Way West Announce Order for Three 747-8 Freighters". 3 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Antonovs for Silk Way". Airliner World (July 2015): 8.
  7. ^ Holding, APA Information Agency, APA. "Silk Way Airlines to purchase ten Boeing-737 MAX aircrafts [sic] for $1B". Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Editorial: Why was the FAA so late to deplane from Boeing's 737 Max?". Los Angeles Times. 14 March 2019. Archived from the original on 20 July 2021. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, 350 diplomatic flights carry weapons for terrorists, Trud, 2. July 2017
  10. ^ John Herbert (2001). Practising Global Journalism: Exploring Reporting Issues Worldwide, Focal Press. Oxford and Woburn, MA. p. 186. ISBN 978-0240516028.
  11. ^ ICAO Annex 18, The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods, Fourth Edition. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 2011.
  12. ^ Azerbaijan's Silk Way Airlines Accused of Transporting Weapons to War Zones, Meydan TV, 7 July 2017
  13. ^ Report: Saudi, UAE weapons end up with armed groups, Al Jazeera, 27 August 2017
  14. ^ Azerbaijani MFA calls misleading the news of Bulgarian media on transportation of weapons by "Silk Way" under diplomatic immunity
  15. ^ "Silk Way West Airlines Supports Humanitarian Aid Mission to North Iraq". Global Trade. 5 July 2018.
  16. ^ "Silk Way Refutes Claims of 'Secret' Flights for U.S. Defense Department". 8 October 2018.
  17. ^ Barak Ravid, Azerbaijan using Israeli “kamikaze drones” in Nagorno-Karabakh clashes, Axios, 30 September 2020
  18. ^ Live updates: Fighting continues for sixth day in Nagorno-Karabakh, OC Media, 2 October 2020
  19. ^ Guillaume Lavallée, Israel Under Diplomatic Fire Over Arms To Azerbaijan, Agence France-Presse, 5 October 2020
  20. ^ Maxim Edwards, Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh raises scrutiny of Israel's arms sales to Azerbaijan, Global Voices, 12 November 2020
  21. ^ "Silk Way West Airlines opens flights to new destination in China". 21 September 2018.
  22. ^ Harro Ranter (7 November 2002). "ASN Aircraft accident Antonov 12BK 4K-AZ21 Kome".
  23. ^ Harro Ranter (6 July 2011). "ASN Aircraft accident Ilyushin 76TD 4K-AZ55 Bagram Air Base (BPM)".
  24. ^ "The Aviation Herald".
  25. ^ "Azerbaijani plane crash victims identified". Reuters. 19 May 2016. Archived from the original on 20 June 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2016.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Silk Way Airlines at Wikimedia Commons