Ethiopian Airlines is set to grow its cargo fleet with six more freighters. The carrier told Cargo Facts it will be adding one new 777F directly from Boeing, three freighter-converted 767Fs, and two freighter-converted 737Fs, but declined to provide an approximate timeline for their arrival.
The 777F, Ethiopian’s eleventh, could be the third 777F involved in the dispute between Boeing and Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Group. In June, the court decided Boeing could remarket two 777Fs to China Eastern after Volga-Dnepr informed Boeing it wouldn’t be able to take three 777Fs originally scheduled for delivery in April, May and July this year.
Ethiopian said the three 767Fs will be converted from its own passenger 767-300ERs, of which there are five, excluding one (30565) chartered long term by the United Nations. Two (30563 and 30566) are leased and around twenty years old, while the others are between fifteen and seventeen years old. It is likely the conversions will be done by Boeing, given Ethiopian’s relationship with the manufacturer and the large backlog at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
As for the 737Fs, although Ethiopian didn’t specify the variant or whether they would also be converted from aircraft in its existing fleet, the 737-800F seems more probable. The airline became the first to operate the 737-800SF converted by Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) in 2019, taking two aircraft (29121 and 32613) on lease from GECAS. Last year, Ethiopian hinted it might be adding two more 737Fs but no announcements have been made since then. AEI, for its part, told Cargo Facts it wasn’t aware of whether any of the 737-400SFs or -800SFs it is working on will be going to the carrier. It wouldn’t be out of the question for Ethiopian to add 737-800BCFs, whether leased or owned.
With the addition of six aircraft, Ethiopian Airlines will consist of eighteen freighters, the number called for under the airline group’s “Vision 2025” strategy that aims to have a network of fifty-seven freighter destinations.
Ethiopian has operated around fifty of its passenger aircraft on cargo-only flights during the pandemic, including twenty-two that were reconfigured by removing seats, according to Cargo Facts’ Passenger-Freighter Database, making it the carrier with the largest reconfigured passenger-freighter fleet.
In April the Ethiopian government and the United Nations World Food Program designated Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport (ADD) as a humanitarian air hub, to act as a distribution site for COVID-19 supplies and equipment for more than thirty African countries.