Does the B767 Freighter Have a Future?

As the orders for new Boeing 747 freighters now dwindles, the question arises as to whether the venerable Boeing 767 will use ahead with a new career as a freighter. Conversions, especially for Amazon’s Prime Air product have been very much in the news during the past twelve months.

Pictured is a Cargojet operated Boeing 767F  -  credit: W8
Pictured is a Cargojet operated Boeing 767F - credit: W8

A good old workhorse
The 767 started its life back in the eighties when it was developed solely as a twin engined medium to long haul passenger aircraft. Various types were designed and produced and the 767 became a reliable and cost effective (at that time) aircraft for many carriers across the globe. Its passenger life has basically come to an end with more modern types such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, taking the front seat. There are still some in passenger service, mainly with U.S. carriers. These however are deemed to disappear as pax variants in the next couple of years. Originally, the B767 was brought to life through an order from United Airlines in 1979 as a replacement for the Boeing 707 which was costing too much on fuel expenditure. At the same time, Boeing was also busy developing the 757 passenger aircraft - also a twin engine variant, but geared more towards the U.S. domestic market.
The B767 passenger aircraft had a long and successful run and there are still many aircraft, now aging, which can be suitable as conversions to freighters.

Freighter conversions in high demand
Various conversion programmes have been initiated during the past couple of years and have met with much success.
Boeing even offered a brand new B767 pure freighter aircraft and has been busy for some time now with their Boeing 767 Converted Freighter Program - dubbed B767-300BCF. The demand in the meantime is enormous and Boeing, along with other conversion outfits, are scouring the market for suitable aircraft - or “feedstock” - as the official term is for these aircraft. Admittedly, the decision by Amazon to have their own Prime Air airline using only B767 freighters - started the ball rolling. They will get a total of forty aircraft which is tied in with their agreement with ATSG and Atlas Air.

In mid-2015, FedEx Corp. ordered 50 additional Boeing 767-300 freighters, the largest order ever for this Boeing all-cargo variant  -  courtesy FedEx
In mid-2015, FedEx Corp. ordered 50 additional Boeing 767-300 freighters, the largest order ever for this Boeing all-cargo variant - courtesy FedEx

However, others have seen the benefit of operating this type of freighter which in the -300BCF version can carry almost 53 tons of cargo. The -200F aircraft has just as much volume but almost 10 tons less payload. This aircraft is used for example by Canada’s well-known freight airline, Cargojet. But the shift is to the -300F version and Cargojet is also switching over to this higher payload variant. New engines, more streamlined bodywork and avionics, give the B767-300F good transatlantic and Trans-Pacific range at acceptable cost.

List of carriers is long
Apart from the famous Amazon Prime Air deal, the list of carriers now utilising the 767 freighter grows day by day. Fedex, UPS, Atlas Air, Kalitta Air, ANA Cargo are just some of the many who operate or have firm orders for converted 767 passenger aircraft.
It’s good to see that this aircraft gets a new lease on life - and, yes - it definitely has a long future ahead.

John Mc Donagh

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