MIAMI – On June 5, 2020, WOW carGO (WW) announced the commencement of worldwide cargo operations from its US base in the capital region on the East Coast at Martinsburg, West Virginia. 

The facility has a 100,000SF hangar and a 25,000SF warehouse with administrative offices to manage global dispatch operations.

Today we take a closer look at WW’s U.S. hub, its history, and rebirth as a cargo airline.

US Base at Martinsburg

Martinsburg is located in Berkeley County, West Virginia, United States, at the tip of the state’s eastern Panhandle region in the lower Shenandoah Valley.  

The city is served by several main highways. The most prominent of these is Interstate 81, which is the main north-south highway through the region. The main highway serving regional east-west travel is the West Virginia Route 9.

The Airport of Martinsburg

The Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (MRB), also known as Shepherd Field, is a civilian-owned, public-use airport located four nautical miles (7 km) south of the central business district of the city.

The airport covers an area of 998 acres (411 ha) at an elevation of 565 feet (172 m) above sea level. It has one runway designated 08/26, built mainly with an asphalt surface, with portions composed of portland cement concrete (PCC), and measuring 8,815 by 150 feet (2,687 x 46 m).

This runway also features paved asphalt shoulders of 25 feet on either side laterally and two additional 400-foot paved blast pads on either runway end, making the total paved surface dimensions approximately 9,615 feet in length and 200 feet in width (2,931 x 61 m), by far the largest runway in the state of West Virginia.

Photo: NDoran2017

History of Wow Air

Wow was founded in November 2011 by Icelandic entrepreneur, Skúli Mogensen (51), whose extensive business background is largely in technology and telecoms in Iceland, Europe, and North America.

The sole owner of the company was Titan, an investment company owned by Mogensen, who was the company CEO and sat on the five-person board of directors. It operated its inaugural flight in 2012.

In October 2012, WW acquired Iceland Express’s operations and network. Iceland Express operated to several destinations in Europe and North America using leased equipment.

At the end of October 2012, following the acquisition of its operations, flights to LGW and CPH saw frequency increases, services to BER, KUN, SZG and WAW had begun.

From 2015, WW started expanding into North America, serving first the U.S., then Canada starting in May 2016.

On 5 November 2018, it was announced that Icelandair Group, the holding company of rival carrier Icelandair (FI), would acquire the entire share capital of WW, subject to shareholders’ approval.

The two airlines would continue to operate under separate names. Together, FI and WW have a share of around 3.8% of the transatlantic market.

On 27 November 2018, WW announced that it had returned four aircraft to their lessors as a sale and leaseback offer fell through. Alas, the company’s financial situation worsened due to stricter demands by suppliers and contractors.

In January 2019, WW disclosed that Indigo’s investment would initially correspond to a 49% shareholding, with the option to increase at a later date.

However, by March 2019, Indigo Partners withdrew its investment proposal and WW briefly but unsuccessfully resumed talks with Icelandair Group, but after Icelandair examined WW’s finances, they quickly dismissed the proposals.

On 25 March 2019, the day after talks with FI ceased, several WW flights were canceled, fueling speculation as to the airline’s fate.

On 26 March 2019, WW announced the conversion of bonds into equity and ongoing discussions with bondholders to secure the company’s sustainability.

On 28 March 2019, WW announced that it was ceasing operations.

A new start for the Airline

On 6 September 2019, USAerospace Associates chairman Michele Ballarin (65) announced that the company had acquired WW’s assets and would launch flights in October 2019 between Washington Dulles International Airport and Iceland using a United States air operator’s certificate.

Ballarin expressed confidence in the WW brand and claimed that US$85m would be spent to begin operations.

As of October 8, 2019, USAerospace Associates intended to start ticket sales in November and flights in December, though it did not give any details of schedules or destinations.

At the time, the company noted that the recent failures of a number of carriers meant that more used aircraft were on the market.

On 28 February 2020, WW announced on its social media that it would be “landing soon in Rome and Sicily” and commencing passenger and cargo operations in the very near future.

A few months later, WW was proud to announce the commencement of worldwide cargo operations from its US base at MRB.