Single Aisle Freighter Demand is Soaring

Are the days of the large freighter aircraft really over? It would seem so!
There are hardly any orders on the Boeing books for the B747-8F’s and the backlog of deliveries is for orders placed some time ago.
This, however does not by any means signal an end to freighter aircraft orders as a whole.

Cargojet converted Boeing 757-200PCF  /  courtesy: Precision Aircraft Solutions.
Cargojet converted Boeing 757-200PCF / courtesy: Precision Aircraft Solutions.

There is a distinct shift towards the so called “narrow body types” for the future.
Airbus and Boeing are still in the market with new “slim” freighters.
These being the Airbus A330-200F and the Boeing 777F.
Here, Boeing continues to be the market leader with an aircraft which can carry just over the 100 tons while Airbus offers less capacity.

The future seems to be in conversions.
And - here again, Boeing takes the lead.
Long-serving Boeing 757 and 737 passenger aircraft are being snapped up for conversion into medium sized, medium range freighters.
Carriers such as Fedex are parking their older DC-10Fs and Airbus A310Fs in favour of converted Boeing 757 aircraft.

Flightglobal‘s Ascend Fleets database shows some interesting trends in this area.
In 2014 there was a 10% increase in global passenger to freighter (P2F) conversion with a total of 70 aircraft going through this process.
On the other hand, conversions of larger types came almost to a standstill with only five conversions. These were all B767 passenger types and no B747s.

Conversions centre almost totally around the Boeing 757 and Boeing 737-300/400 series aircraft.
Many of the B737 conversions completed last year went to Chinese courier and freight carriers as well as to African regional outfits.
The 737 conversion program is also partly due to demand created by the necessity of some carriers to phase out expensive types such as the ageing B727 freighter.

Wide-body conversions will come to a near standstill
Some 20 Boeing 757s were converted in 2014, of which fourteen aircraft went to Fedex, three to Air China Cargo and the others to Canada’s Cargojet and India’s Blue Dart Aviation.
This trend is expected to be picked up by other airlines during the coming years.

Increased long-haul passenger aircraft belly capacity is doing away with the need for many carriers to operate large freighters alongside their long distance passenger fleets.
In this respect there will be hardly any wide-body conversions coming up within the future.
Converted freighters generally offer less tonnage capacity than pure freighters. Therefore fuel burn and operating cost factors are ruling out decisions to go for the wide-body variants.

Possibly the end of an era.

John Mc Donagh

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