Air Astana was described by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in January 2012 as having “performed better in its first decade than just about any other start-up carrier” (CAPA, Airline Analysis, 9 January 2012). Yet its origins represent one of the more intriguing and unlikely stories to have emerged from the airline industry in recent times. Originally conceived as purely domestic airline, BAE Systems agreed in mid-2001 to participate in the proposed start-up at the request of Kazakhstan's head of state, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in order to facilitate an air radar contract it was then negotiating with the Government of Kazakhstan. Sir Richard Evans, BAE Systems’ chairman at the time, was instrumental in and key to the deal. However, the radar contract never materialized, and subsequent senior management changes and strategic reviews at BAE Systems led to the closure of its offices in Kazakhstan. Additionally, notwithstanding the support of Nazarbayev and a number of close advisors, the start-up, initially seen as a foreign entity, was confronted with immediate and vocal opposition from many elements of Kazakhstan's media and political establishment.