CAAC approves Wuhan hub for SF

Wuhan hub mapThe Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) approved SF Express’ application to build a new airport in Yanji, a small town near Wuhan. Assuming SF goes ahead with the project, it will have an express air hub that is within two hours flying time of a billion people.

Draw a line on a map of China, from Beijing in the north to Guangzhou/Hong Kong in the south. Then a second line from Shanghai in the east to Chongqing in the west. The lines cross in Wuhan, and a circle around the outer ends of the lines encompasses about 1 billion people — all of them within 1,000 km of Wuhan, and most of them completely mad about online shopping.

Which makes Wuhan pretty much the best site in the world for an air express hub. Except for one detail: the Wuhan metropolitan region is home to 20 million people, but is served by just one airport, Tianhe International (WUH). So, while the geography was right, SF had little chance of developing a major express facility and air hub at an airport that was already the busiest in central China.

What to do? Why, apply to the CAAC to build a new airport, of course.

And this week, the CAAC gave its blessing to the project.

The site chosen is near the town of Yanji, about 75 km east of Wuhan. As is often the case with new airport projects, there are grandiose plans, including that the new airport will eventually have annual capacity to handle 5 million tonnes of freight and become the fourth-largest cargo airport in the world. That is not likely to happen, but with explosive growth in e-commerce fueling double-digit growth of express traffic in China, the airport could certainly become one of the busiest express hubs in the world.

SF Airlines currently operates a thirty-one-unit freighter fleet, including two 767-300BCFs, sixteen 757-200Fs, three 737-400Fs, and ten 737-300Fs; and has at least ten more P-to-F conversions (including 767s, 757s, and 737s) on order.

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