RUSSIAN cargo airline Volga-Dnepr is negotiating with authorities in Beijing and Washington to start scheduled flights to China and the United States, according to its president, Alexei Isaikin. Volga-Dnepr was formed in 1990 by aircraft manufacturer JS Aviastar, engine maker MotorSich, the Antonov aircraft design bureau and the Kiev Industrial Union, which makes aircraft equipment. Since then, the carrier has gained a firm footing in the cargo charter market, specialising in the carriage of oversize and heavy loads of up to 120 tonnes. ''Our aim is to continue to consolidate and expand in this area and also to move into scheduled cargo flights from the US and China to Russia,'' Mr Isaikin said. ''We are seeking US Federal Aviation Authority approval and certification of Volga-Dnepr for scheduled flights to the US. Negotiations are also underway with other aviation authorities in Far Eastern countries, he said. The carrier plans to expand its fleet from six to 10 Antonov An-124 aircraft this year and acquire another four Ilyushin Il-76TDs, bringing the total in service to six. Mr Isaikin said the company was happy with its aircraft and their performance but faces some practical problems. ''Indeed our success is based on them, but for some specific routes and for some particular types of general cargo, the An-124 is not suitable as it is too big,'' he said. ''Its cargo hold can be filled up but it is not operating at its maximum weight capacity, which is not efficient.'' He said the An-124s operation was the equivalent of using a big truck to ship a few boxes of eggs. Because of this factor, which is common to all aircraft types on certain route/cargo combinations, Volga-Dnepr is planning to also acquire two Western-built aircraft. Several types were being looked at, he said. The carrier recorded further growth last year, with cargo volume rising 6.2 per cent to 35,655 tonnes and revenue by 35.3 per cent to almost US$41 million. The number of employees increased by 38.4 per cent, from 500 to 692.