The regional freighter fleet in 2018 – Part III

The first large-door CRJ200 freighter, converted by AEI, during a test flight. AEI has now redelivered two CRJ200Fs to launch customer IFL Group.

Last week, we began our three-part analysis of the worldwide regional freighter fleet. Part I reviewed historical information on the fleet and significant developments over the past year, and In Part II yesterday, we examined the turboprop fleet in detail by type. Today in Part III, we will review regional jet freighters and their growing importance in the regional freighter fleet.

Examining the regional jet fleet by type, we find the following:

CRJ200F: This year’s freighter fleet analysis also considers regional jets, as the freighter-converted CRJ200 begins to make inroads into the regional freighter fleet. Of the fifteen CRJ200s converted to freighter configuration, eight are currently operating – one each with Estonia-based Airest and Gulf & Caribbean Cargo, four with Mexico’s MCS Aero Cargo, and two with West Atlantic.

In addition to those currently operating, Mexico-based Aeronaves TSM has taken redelivery of two CRJ200Fs converted by Aeronautical Engineers, Inc. (AEI), but it isn’t clear that either is in revenue service yet. Gulf & Caribbean Cargo also has two CRJ200s currently in conversion, and Airest took redelivery of its CRJ200 SF in June, thereby becoming the first European carrier to operate a CRJ200SF.

The question Cargo Facts asked in last year’s analysis and that is still relevant today is how the growing success of the CRJ200 passenger-to-freighter conversion program will affect the turboprop freighter fleet. While the large-door freighter was initially envisioned as an addition to the charter market, many of the units are instead operating in support of express companies alongside turboprop freighters. Increasingly, it appears the jet freighter will exist alongside turboprop freighters, with each type filling a specific niche. AEI told Cargo Facts that most of its CRJ200SF customers also operate turboprop freighters on routes of 500 miles or less, while customers prefer the CRJ200F for longer routes due to its greater speed.

BAe 146-300QT: Only six of the BAe 146-300 freighters British Aerospace launched under its Quiet Trader (QT) conversion program are currently operating – three with ASL Airlines Spain, and three with Australia’s JetEx. ASL is in the process of winding down its Spanish subsidiary carrier’s operations, and recently sold one of its BAe 146-300QTs to UK-based Jota Aviation. Jota now has three of the units in its fleet, none of which are operating yet, and is expected to acquire a fourth soon.

As we look ahead, the most plausible regional freighter landscape is mostly unchanged from last year’s view, with a high likelihood that demand for large turboprop freighters will continue to increase at a relatively low single-digit rate annually. Considering IPR’s fully booked conversion capacity, and FedEx’s thirty unit launch order for the new production ATR 72-600F, the ATR 72F with large-door configuration will increasingly dominate the fleet.

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