Kalitta told Cargo Facts the 777-300ERSFs will initially be used for growth, but in the long term will serve as replacements for the carrier’s older converted 747-400Fs.
Kalitta Air has been evaluating the 777-300ERSF since the conversion program was launched in October 2019. The carrier, which introduced the 777 platform in June 2019 with a 777F returned off lease by Emirates (35607), said it saw the advantage of the 777F and thinks the -300ERSF will be superior for its increased volume capability.
Kalitta currently has nine 747-400BCFs that will be at least thirty years old by 2023. The company said it will continue to look at adding more 777-300ERSFs.
Apart from unit 35607, flown on an ACMI basis for DHL, Kalitta also operates two 777Fs on a CMI basis for the integrator and confirmed that it will be adding two more DHL frames: unit 66087 in early November and another in February 2021.
Kalitta’s announcement was made while panelists at Cargo Facts Symposium 2020 were discussing the widebody freighter market.
Looking ahead to a future without newly built 747-8 freighters, there are few options on the table for freighter aircraft in the large widebody segment of 100+ tonnes, apart from the 777. There is still room for additional variants to complement the current production freighter, based on the 777-200LR, and IAI’s 777P2F program based on the -300ER. While the COVID-19 crisis has increased feedstock availability for other variants of the 777, IAI said it was not looking to convert other variants of the airframe. Boeing, which does not currently have a 777 conversion program, said it continues to evaluate options for such a program.
Although Boeing’s primary focus for its forthcoming 777X remains the passenger variant, Boeing continues to explore a freighter version of the aircraft. “We will continue to talk to customers in the market, and try to understand the needs of the freighter space for a freighter variant of that program,” said Darren Hulst, vice president, commercial marketing of Boeing.
Additional options are welcomed by the industry. “I would argue that there’s definitely a requirement for a replacement of the -8F in some form,” said Michael Steen, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Atlas Air Worldwide. For now, the 777F and 777-300ERSF remain the dominant options for large widebody freighter additions in the medium term.
Atlas-affiliated Southern Air operates the 777F platform, and will watch the 777-300ERSF program with interest as it develops, according to Steen.
Deliveries of the 777-300ERSF are expected to commence in 2023, according to the current schedule.