Why AirBridge wants 20 747-8Fs

When AirBridgeCargo Airlines’ parent Volga-Dnepr Group ordered five 747-8Fs in 2006, a few eyebrows were raised. Did Moscow-based AirBridge really have enough business to justify the purchase of five of the world’s most expensive freighters? After all, this wasn’t a top-tier cargo carrier like Lufthansa or Cargolux or Air France. Did they really believe they were going to be able to fill these 140-tonne-payload monsters, day after day after day?

And if the order for five 747-8Fs seemed audacious almost ten years ago, what are we to make of Volga-Dnepr’s commitment for four times that many 747-8Fs last month at the Paris Air Show?

But almost ten years after that first order, it is Air France and Lufthansa that are having trouble filling their freighters, while AirBridge (which has since acquired a sixth 747-8Fs) seems to be going from strength to strength. The carrier today reported June cargo volume up 16% year-over-year. And this was not a one-time event, but rather right in line with the carrier’s performance for some time. For the first half of 2015, AirBridge reported cargo volume up 17% to 218,000 tonnes, and cargo traffic (in freight tonne kilometers flown) up 22%. No wonder they want more lift.

One can debate whether this kind of growth is sustainable, whether it is really enough to justify twenty more 747-8Fs, or, for that matter, just how many of those twenty 747-8F will make it from “commitment” to “firm order.” But this is Friday, the weekend beckons, and instead of debate and analysis, we have a few videos for you…

We start with this one from Boeing, showing the production of an AirBridgeCargo 747-8F, time-lapse style.

Here is a nice sunset-lit film of one AirBridge’s 747-400Fs (which will be replaced as more 747-8Fs join the fleet) aborting a landing at Groningen Airport in Eelde, Netherlands, at the last moment.

And finally, since part of the Memorandum of Understanding Volga-Dnepr and Boeing signed at Paris concerned making Volga-Dnepr’s An-124 fleet officially part of Boeing’s logistics support, here’s a short video of one of those An-124s taking of from Paine Field, home of Boeing’s main manufacturing facility.

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