Narrow Body Freighters Catching on While the Airbus A380 Freighter is Considered a Possibility

The future development of the freighter market is one which Boeing and Airbus have made into one of their favorite “future aircraft predictions.”
Both companies issue annual predictions on the future world demand for both passenger and freighter aircraft.
The figures both companies deliver go into the thousands for both types of aircraft. Mainly wide-body versions.

Hot candidate for future conversion – Boeing 737s  /  source: Boeing
Hot candidate for future conversion – Boeing 737s / source: Boeing

That’s nothing new however!
The music is momentarily being played around the need for narrow body aircraft conversions from passenger to freighter.
It seems that there is more of a demand for this type of freighter in the coming ten years.

The Boeing 737 family is seen to be the most preferred.
737 conversions into freighters have been quite strong for the past years. This started with converting ageing B737-300 and -400 series aircraft which have been used on regional routes in Europe as well as the Far East.
Much of the transport in these types has been night-time postal flights as well as supplementary flights into the hubs of DHL, UPS and FedEx.
The new generation of B737s, namely the B737-700 and B737-800 are seen to be very fuel efficient, especially on short to medium sectors and these aircraft will also soon come onto the conversion market.
This has become a profitable niche for companies such as PEMCO and AEI, both situated in the USA.
Boeing does not offer the 737 as a pure freighter, so whoever wants one has to acquire suitable passenger versions and hand them over for conversion into freighters.

… so is the A320 family built by Airbus  /  source: Airbus
… so is the A320 family built by Airbus / source: Airbus

Even Bombardier’s CRJ Series is a conversion candidate
The conversion lines at both PEMCO and Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) seem to be fully occupied until the end of 2015.
When one notes the number of aircraft on their conversion books, then it’s no wonder that the narrow body freighter market is much in demand.
Strangely enough, it seems that the B737-400, which is by all means now quite an old aircraft, is still in high demand

No wide body pax-to-freighter conversions
Boeing, who still does some B767 conversions of its own, has seen the profitability in this sector and is said to be looking to convert 737s themselves as of 2017.
It looks like they are waiting to see how the demand will be by then, before making a final decision.
Boeing 757 conversions have now become very few although there are many passenger 757s on the market, some of which are lying around unused and waiting for suitable buyers.
On the other side of the street, wide body freighter conversions are at a standstill as there is far too much wide body freighter capacity on the market, with many aircraft being stored in the desert.

Will there be a continuous demand for the narrow body 737s and suchlike aircraft after the present backlogs have been delivered?
Who knows!

Passenger-to-cargo conversions of the A380 cannot be excluded for all times  /  source: Airbus
Passenger-to-cargo conversions of the A380 cannot be excluded for all times / source: Airbus

Don’t laugh! The A380 as a converted passenger to freighter?
The UK-based lessor, Amedeo seems to think that within a decade there will be demand and a place in the market for a passenger-to-freighter (PTF) conversion of the mammoth Airbus A380.
This type of aircraft, which is presently only flying in the passenger version, will come back from carriers who have leased them up to about the year 2025.
So, what to do with them.


Amedeo who themselves have 20 A380s on order, see this period as one where the A380 could join the ranks of wide-body cargo aircraft.
Airbus did have plans to manufacture up to twenty seven A380s as freighters, specifically for FedEx, Emirates. ILFC and UPS, all of which cancelled their orders.
It seems that Amedeo would continue to target carriers such as FedEx and UPS for future conversions.
The problem with a (possible) A380F is how to load it.

Even Bombardier’s Q400 turboprops might see a second life as freighters  /  source: Bombardier
Even Bombardier’s Q400 turboprops might see a second life as freighters / source: Bombardier

It’s got a total of three decks including the belly.
Studies are going on as to whether they could use the present belly hold freight doors as main entrances and then install or incorporate internal cargo lifts in the forward and aft sections to carry containers onto decks two and three.
An interesting project, which by the way was also considered some time back for the A340 aircraft.

Even if this idea were to come to fruition, it is clear that the A380 can never be a freighter aircraft for the carriage of bulky and outsized cargo.
Therefore, the UPS, FedEx version carrying small parcels is probably the best and only variation.

A long time to go before the year 2025.

John Mc Donagh

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