The recent announcement by the Miami based aircraft lessor, Aviation Capital Group (ACG) to place a firm order for fifteen Boeing 737-800 passenger-to-freighter conversions have given added impetus to the medium narrow body freighter market.
ACG has placed their order for the conversion of the fifteen aircraft with Aeronautical Engineers Inc (AEI). The order also has an option for a further fifteen conversions.
AEI made it known at this year’s Paris Air Show that they were going to open a 737-800 P2F conversion line and signed a launch deal with GECAS for up to 20 conversions of the type.
Other aircraft conversion specialists have also made it known that they’ll open up lines for the newer versions of the Boeing 737s in the near future.
One of them is Bedeck Aviation Group, a daughter company of Israel Aerospace Industries.
Boeing as manufacturer has so far not officially announced that they will also offer conversions although they did sign an agreement with China’s YTO Express Airlines for fifteen conversions. This will only come about if Boeing launches the program themselves.
Wide body freighters no longer being needed!
It would seem so when one compares the number of orders for large freighters to those being requested for small and medium sized fleets.
Two different worlds of course
The wide body freighter orders these days more or less center around the Boeing 777F, with a few Airbus A330s and Boeing 747-8F orders on the manufacturer’s books.
New narrow body freighters are also very rare, but conversions from passenger to cargo have been good business over the past few years and seem to have been given a further life extension with the availability of good longer narrow body aircraft types from the 737 and the A320/A321 fleets.
Conversion programmes started many years back with Boeing 727, DC-9 and the older 737 generation aircraft. Most of these types have or are disappearing from the market although it is estimated that about 16% - 17% of conversions still flying are of these types.
The future lies with the newer generation Boeing and Airbus passenger aircraft which are becoming available.
The 737-700/800 series and the A320/A321 types are still relatively new passenger aircraft but airlines are also starting to replace these with the so called New Generation (NG) types.
Therefore, the market for well maintained and quite new medium sized aircraft is opening up.
There is a strong demand
Integrators continue to have interest in updating their medium haul fleets. Figures recently published by the renowned Cargo Facts journal show that there are around 250 converted Boeing 757Fs operating around the world and there is need for more.
That represents almost 50% of the total worldwide narrow body freighter fleet.
B737-300 and -400 freighter conversions are starting to reach the end of their life span and the newer generation will give operators good value for money as they are more fuel efficient and offer considerably more volume and weight for their clients.
An interesting development which shows that narrow body freighters are slowly leading themselves to overtake the number of larger wide body freighters in the market.
Narrow body cargo aircraft, with the exception of those used solely as feeders for UPS, DHL, FedEx, also rely somewhat on feed from larger freighter services as distribution aircraft.
This is especially apparent in the African market.
So, it’s not the end of the large freighter market yet.
John Mc Donagh