CAL upgrades its fleet

One of CAL's 747-200Fs. Photo: Luc Williams/Wikimedia

One of CAL’s 747-200Fs. Photo: Luc Williams/Wikimedia

CAL Cargo Airlines is an all-cargo carrier that operates a very small fleet of very large, and very old, freighters. In recent years, this has been a recipe for disaster, and we have seen one such carrier after another suffer financial losses and go out of business. Air Cargo Germany, Cargo B, Cargoitalia, DAS Air, Grandstar, Jett 8, MK Airlines, World Airways… The list could go on and on, but the point is that long-haul freighter operation has become difficult even for big combination carriers with strong balance sheets and large fleets of relatively modern freighters.

And then there is CAL. The Israel-registered, Liége-based carrier has just two freighters – fuel-hungry 747-200Fs, the youngest of which is now almost twenty years old – but it has somehow stayed in business since1976. However, while CAL will continue to operate, the flying days of its 747 Classic freighters are about to end. In mid-July CAL announced that it intended to lease a 747-400F with operation to start in September, and to buy a 747-400ERF with operation scheduled to start in November.

It now appears that both of those transactions have been completed, and while no announcement about the individual freighters has been made, Cargo Facts has learned that the leased -400F is likely ex-Singapore Airlines unit 26553, while the purchased 747-400ERF appears to be ex-Jade Cargo International unit 35172. Both of these freighters are currently in storage at Victorville (VCV).

CAL CEO Eyal Zagagi made an interesting comment on the acquisitions, and on the current problems in the main-deck freight business. He started with the expected platitudes: “Renewing our fleet with such improved freighters is a momentous event for us.  For a cargo airline of our size, this is almost like recreating the group.” But he went on to add: “We believe that the phenomenon of reduction in freighter capacity among the big players creates a unique opportunity for CAL to be a small yet extremely powerful and flexible all-freighter carrier.”

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