|Founded||1950 (as Sokao)
1954 (as Chosonminhang Korean Airways 조선민항)
|Operating bases||Pyongyang Sunan International Airport|
|Fleet size||9 (July 2014)|
|Destinations||23 (4 seasonal & 1 charter)|
|Headquarters||Pyongyang, North Korea|
|Revised Romanization||Goryeo Hanggong|
Air Koryo (Chosŏn'gŭl: 고려항공; MR: Koryŏ Hanggong; formerly 조선민항; Chosŏn Minhang) is the state-owned national flag carrier airline of North Korea, headquartered in Sunan-guyŏk, Pyongyang. Based at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport (IATA: FNJ), it operates international scheduled and charter services to points in Asia.
Air Koryo has offices in Beijing and Shenyang, China; Vladivostok, Russia; Bangkok, Thailand and Berlin, Germany. There are sales agencies in Tokyo, Japan; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Kuwait; Singapore; Taipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong; Italy; Austria and Germany.
In 1950 SOKAO (Soviet–North Korean Airline) was established as a joint North Korean-Soviet concern to connect Pyongyang with Moscow. Services were suspended during the Korean War, resuming in 1953 as UKAMPS. The state airline was then placed under the control of the Civil Aviation Administration of Korea (CAAK), starting operations on 21 September 1955 with Lisunov Li-2, Antonov An-2 and Ilyushin Il-12 aircraft. Ilyushin Il-14s and Ilyushin Il-18s were added to the fleet in the 1960s.
Jet operation commenced in 1975, when the first Tupolev Tu-154 was delivered for services from Pyongyang to Prague, East Berlin and Moscow. However, because the Tu-154 did not have sufficient range, the aircraft had to refuel at Irkutsk and Novosibirsk. Tu-134s and An-24s were also delivered to start domestic services.
The Tu-154 fleet was increased at the start of the 1980s, and the first Ilyushin Il-62 was delivered in 1982 (two of these aircraft are used in VIP configuration), allowing CAAK to offer a direct non-stop service to Moscow for the first time, as well as serving Sofia and Belgrade.
The end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism in East Europe saw a vast reduction in the number of international services offered. CAAK was re-branded as Air Koryo in March 1992 and in 1993, ordered 3 Ilyushin Il-76 freight aircraft to carry cargo to and from its destinations in China and Russia.
Air Koryo purchased a Tupolev Tu-204-300 aircraft in December 2007 and another in March 2010 to replace the ageing international fleet. With the Tu-204, Air Koryo would be able to fly to Europe.
In September 2009, Air Koryo ordered a further example of the Tu-204-300 aircraft and a single Tupolev Tu-204-100. Air Koryo was also in talks over possible orders for Superjet 100 aircraft to replace the ageing Tu-134 and An-24 aircraft.
Air Koryo was to receive its first of two Tupolev Tu-204-100B aircraft fitted with 210 seats. Flights to Dalian, China, were added to the Air Koryo schedule. Also twice weekly Tu-134 flights from Pyongyang and direct services from Pyongyang to Shanghai Pudong were inaugurated with a two weekly service via JS522 and returning on JS523 opened in 2010.
In 2011, Air Koryo inaugurated services to Kuala Lumpur and Kuwait City, both being operated weekly by Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft. The services operate during peak travel season- April to October.
In 2012, Air Koryo resumed services to Kuala Lumpur along with its expansion into Harbin, China. In 2012, Juche Travel Services a company operating tours to the DPRK, launched "aviation enthusiast" tours using chartered Air Koryo flights, which offered visitors the chance to fly on every variety of Air Koryo aircraft within North Korea, the Il-76, Mil-17, An-24, Tu-134 and Tu-154. The international services were operated by inbound and outbound Tu-204 or An 148.
The first regular charter flights between North Korea and South Korea began in 2003. The first Air Koryo flight operated by a Tupolev Tu-154 touched down at Seoul's Incheon International Airport. Air Koryo operated 40 return services to Seoul, along with flights into Yangyang and Busan in South Korea. Inter-Korean charters from Hamhung Airport to Yangyang International in South Korea began in 2002. Currently, there are no inter-Korean flights, according to laws in both countries. In 2014 Air Koryo operated a series of services to Seoul Incheon International Airport with Tu-204 and An-148 aircraft for the Asian Games; the North Korean Government Ilyushin Il-62M also appeared at ICN during the same period carrying officials.
Air Koryo is searching for new aircraft to add to its fleet. The new planes would be Russian-made, given the existence of sanctions from the US (where Boeing is located) and the EU (where Airbus is located). Air Koryo is considering the Ilyushin Il-96 and Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft. The Tupolev Tu-204s are capable of flying to Moscow non-stop. Air Koryo have also installed LCD screens in their Tu-204s which now show safety demonstrations and films. Moreover, Air Koryo has purchased new airport low-floor buses.
Rights to enter the EU airspace using certain aircraft were granted by the EU authorities in April 2010, after a 7-year period of being banned from EU airspace. In April 2011, Air Koryo launched its first services to Malaysia with the inauguration of flights from Pyongyang to Kuala Lumpur. The flights operate twice a week with Tu-204 aircraft. Along with the new services to Kuala Lumpur, Air Koryo has also inaugurated links to Kuwait City operated weekly.
In October 2012, the airline launched its first online booking service. On the first quarter of 2013, Air Koryo had received their first Antonov An-148 aircraft, and their second on the final quarter of 2013.
The first Tupolev Tu-204-300 for Air Koryo was officially handed over to the carrier on 27 December 2007, and was ferried from Ulyanovsk to Pyongyang. It has been fitted out with 16 business class seats and the remaining 150 seats are economy. This was the first Tupolev Tu-204-300 to be exported from Russia.
The Tu-204 aircraft are currently scheduled on all international flights out of Pyongyang. With the arrival of the new aircraft, a new seasonal route to Singapore was introduced and the resumption of the Pyongyang-Bangkok route commenced in 2008. Its first revenue-earning flight was made on 8 May 2008. Air Koryo operates another version of the Tu-204 jet, being the Tu-204-100B, which is a longer version of their Tu-204-300. On 4 March 2010, Air Koryo took delivery of its second Tu-204, a −100B version. It started operating scheduled services the following day.
On 30 March 2010, the two Tupolev Tu-204 have been given the rights to operate into the European Union. The planned services to Germany could be resumed again with any of the two aircraft.
Accidents and incidents
- On 30 June 1979, a Chosonminhang (predecessor to Air Koryo) Tupolev Tu-154B sustained landing gear and wing damage at Budapest Ferihegy Airport in Hungary. On final approach to Runway 31, the pilot realized the plane would undershoot and brought the nose of the plane up without applying power. The aircraft stalled, and with a hard landing, the right landing gear collapsed, causing the right wing to strike the ground and sustain substantial wing structure damage. There were no fatalities, and aircraft P-551 was subsequently repaired and returned to service.
- On 1 July 1983, a Chosonminhang Ilyushin Il-62M on a non-scheduled international passenger flight from Pyongyang, North Korea (Pyongyang Sunan International Airport) to Conakry, Guinea (Conakry International Airport) crashed in the Fouta Djallon Mountains in Guinea. All 23 people on board were killed, and the aircraft was written off.
- On 22 July 2016, an Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-204-300 on a flight from Beijing to Pyongyang, flight number JS 151, made an emergency landing at China's Shenyang Airport due to reports of smoke in the cabin. Oxygen masks were deployed due to an oxygen shortage.
European Union ban
Due to safety and maintenance concerns, Air Koryo was added to the list of air carriers banned in the European Union in March 2006. The European Commission found evidence of serious safety deficiencies on the part of Air Koryo during ramp inspections in France and Germany. Air Koryo persistently failed to address these issues during other subsequent ramp inspections performed by the EU under the SAFA programme, pointing to blatant systemic safety deficiencies at Air Koryo operations. The airline failed to reply to an inquiry by the French Civil Aviation Authority regarding its safety operations, pointing to a lack of transparency or communication on the part of Air Koryo. The plan by Air Koryo for corrective action, presented in response to France's request, was found to be inadequate and insufficient. The EC also held that North Korean authorities did not adequately oversee the flag carrier, which it was obliged to do under the Chicago Convention. Therefore, on the basis of the common criteria, the Commission assessed that Air Koryo did not meet the relevant safety standards.
In March 2010, Air Koryo was allowed to resume operations into the EU with their Tu-204 planes which were fitted with the necessary equipment to comply with mandatory international standards. All other Air Koryo aircraft remain banned from landing at EU airports or overflying EU airspace.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Air Koryo.|
- Official website
- Air Koryo - Presented by Koryo Tours
- Swiss Website of Air Koryo at the Korean Friendship Association website Switzerland Delegation
- Air Koryo at the Aviation Safety Network Database
- CAAK (predecessor) at the Aviation Safety Network Database
- Air Koryo Timetable 31/10/1999 to 26/3/2000 at angelfire.com
- Air Koryo photo gallery at www.airliners.net