Freighter aircraft are built to give their operators many years of reliable service, as is the case with their passenger versions. It can be said that freighters enjoy a longer life period than their passenger counter-parts and are not phased out of service as quickly.
Conversions are the in thing
In the past most passenger aircraft which had served their time ended up in some desert somewhere which were aptly named as aircraft boneyards. They either sat there for many years or were gutted whereby usable parts were taken out and sold to carriers or maintenance outfits around the world.
This has changed somewhat during the past few years. Medium-sized and short-haul aircraft such as the Boeing 757, 767 and 737 models are in high demand from freight carriers and are being converted at a steady rate into Passenger to Freight (P2F) versions which are then put into service, among others, with Chinese express and postal services as well as with DHL. The price of such an aircraft after conver-sion is still much lower than that of a new freighter.
Boeing is now looking at setting up a conversion facility for their 777-passenger aircraft which is in demand from secondary carriers as a freighter. Here are quite a few of these models now coming of age as passenger variants and a successful conversion program could bring many customers to the table.
How about a 63-year-old freighter!
It’s no joke!
Montreal, Canada based Nolinor Aviation which among others operates a fleet of seven aging Boeing 737-200 freighters on regional Canadian routes. The average age of the 737s is listed as being 37.5 years.
One would think that they’d be on the “phase out” list.
On the contrary - Nolinor has decided that the aircraft still have a future in their fleet and they plan to invest up to C$10 million in upgrading the aircraft with more modern avionics and
cockpit glass displays. By doing this, Nolinor reckons that they can keep the freighters safely in the Canadian skies for some further decades. They say that once the updates are complete that at
least some of the aircraft can operate for a further 25 years or more.
There is however another reason why Nolinor are going for upgrading their B737-200 fleet instead of investing in newer versions of the 737F. The carrier operates into remote regions where some of the runways are gravel and not tarred. The B737-200 is approved by the Canadian authorities to operate onto gravel runways. Something which later versions cannot do. Hence the investment.
Boeing built a total of 1,100 B737-200 aircraft, of which there are today only 77 still in service with 44 carriers situated in Africa, Latin America, North America, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Nolinor has the largest fleet with its seven aircraft which they may very well increase to ten aircraft.
With the present 37.5 years plus another 25 years - then Nolinor will have a venerable 63-year-old freighter on their hands by the mid-2040’s.
John Mc Donagh