Last week, we began our three-part analysis of the worldwide fleet of regional freighter aircraft in commercial service. Part I provides background on the fleet and major changes over the past year. Today in Part II, we examine the current regional turboprop freighter fleet. Part III will conclude with our first inclusion of regional jet freighters in the analysis, and how they stand to change the fleet composition in the years ahead.
Evaluating the turboprop fleet in more detail by type, we find the following:
ATR 42F: A total of fifty-three ATR 42s have been converted to freighter configuration, all but one of which are in bulk-load configuration. Of the fifty-three, four have been written off, two have been scrapped, and nine are in storage. Thirty-six are in service, down from forty-three last year, as operators are showing more preference for the ATR 72. The only ATR 42F with large-door configuration was previously in service with Bulgaria’s Bright Flight, but is no longer operating.
ATR 72F: Going forward, the introduction of an ATR 72-600 production freighter stands to shake up the turboprop fleet. In November, it was announced that FedEx had signed on as the launch customer for the freighter, with an order for thirty and an option for twenty more. The new production freighter line will also utilize Switzerland-based IPR Conversions’ licensed large cargo door and structural tube modifications.
Seventy-two ATR 72s have been converted to freighter configuration, nine of which are in storage or extended maintenance. As older ATR 42Fs and ATPFs are retired, the ATR 72F is increasingly becoming the favored turboprop freighter – Switzerland-based IPR Conversions, which took over Alenia Aermacchi’s ATR passenger-to-freighter conversion STCs in 2015, tells Cargo Facts that the increasing demand for the converted freighters has left all of its conversion slots fully booked.
It’s likely the regional freighter fleet will continue to see plenty of new ATR 72 passenger-to-freighter conversions in the near future, considering that feedstock is still plentiful, particularly in Southeast Asia, where Indonesia-based Wings Air operates more than fifty ATR 72s. Demand is especially strong for large-door conversions, thanks to the flexibility it gives to easily move containerized cargo between regional and larger jet freighters without returning cargo to warehouses for sorting. IPR expects to add additional conversion centers in the near future.
In addition to the FedEx order, the other major development in the ATR 72F fleet over the past year came from ASL Aviation Group, which ceased cargo operations in its ASL Airlines Switzerland unit and transferred its aircraft to ASL Airlines Ireland.
ATPF: The number of in-service ATP freighters fell again by eleven units over the past twelve months, to only fifteen, as Sweden-based West Atlantic continued to retire its older units. Forty-five ATP aircraft of the sixty-five total produced were converted to freighter configuration – twenty-four with large cargo doors, and twenty-one as bulk loaders. Of the fifteen remaining in operation, Indonesia-based Deraya Air Taxi operates two, while the rest are with West Atlantic.
Saab 340F: Forty-five Saab 340s have been converted to freighter configuration. Of these, thirty-five are in active service, declining by two from this time last year. Two Loganair 340AQCs are also operated full-time as freighters. Estonia-based Airest, US-based PenAir, and Poland-based SprintAir reduced the number of 340Fs in their fleets, while Ryan Air Alaska began operating two 340Fs.
Fokker50F: Nineteen Fokker 50s have been converted to freighter configuration, an increase of three from this time last year. Of these, sixteen are now in operation, up from twelve last year – thirteen at Sweden-based Amapola Flyg, two at Kenya-based Jetways Airlines, and one at SKYAIR.
Bombardier Q400PF: The Q400F fleet remained unchanged over the past year. All five of the aircraft operating have been in Kenyan carrier Blue Bird Aviation’s fleet since its most recent addition of two of the Q400Fs in 2015, and the carrier remains the only operator.
Bombardier Q300PF: Canadian carrier Air Inuit added a third Q300 freighter to its fleet, up from the two it operated at this time last year. Air Inuit, in cooperation with Bombardier and B/E Canada, developed a passenger-to-freighter conversion program for the turboprop aircraft in 2016, and was awarded a new STC from Transport Canada. Air Inuit has since added one freighter converted under the new program to the two it had previously converted on its own STC.
Dash 8-100PF: After last year’s introduction of a new passenger-to-package-freighter conversion program, developed by Canada-based Voyageur Aviation for launch customer Wasaya Airways, the number of Dash 8-100 freighters in operation has increased from one to two. In addition to the unit operated by Wasaya last year, Papua New Guinea-based PNG Air converted its Dash 8-100 passenger aircraft to freighter conversion last year.