Last week we began a three-part analysis of the worldwide narrowbody freighter fleet with a look at who is operating the 546 freighters of nine main types in the fleet. Today we continue by breaking down the fleet in three ways: type-by-type, by end user, and by geographical region. Tomorrow, we will conclude with look at who has converted what in 2014, and offer a forecast of the conversion scene for 2015. For reference, we include below the chart used in last week’s post showing the fleets of those carriers with five or more narrowbody freighters in their fleets.
We also encourage those interested in the conversion and operation of narrowbody freighters to join us at the Cargo Facts Aircraft Symposium in Miami next week, 22 – 24 October, where senior executives from three conversion houses (AEI, PEMCO, and Precision), a lessor (Kahala Aviation), and an operator (Northern Aviation Services) will participate in a session titled “The Narrowbody Freighter Boom.” For more information, or to register, visit the Symposium website.
Looking at the fleet on a type-by-type basis: The active narrowbody fleet is dominated by four types: The 757-200F accounts for 44.3% (242 of the 546 total), followed by the 737-300F (19.4%), 727-200F (13.2%), and 737-400F (11.7%). However, while the numbers of 757-200s and 737-300s and -400s will increase significantly in the next few years, the 727-200s – which once dominated the narrowbody fleet – will be retired. Retirement will also be the fate of the few remaining 727-100Fs, DC‑9Fs, 737-200Fs, and BAe146QTs. The number of MD-80Fs in operation will grow steadily for at least the next few years, but probably only at a rate of three-to-five per year.
Looking at the fleet on an end-user basis: Who operates narrowbody freighters? It doesn’t take more than a quick glance at the chart on the facing page to see that a lot of narrowbody freighters are carrying express packages. FedEx, UPS, DHL:, China Postal, SF, TNT… But that first glance actually under-represents the importance of the express business to the narrowbody fleet, because many of the smaller airlines in the list (and on the extended list of carriers with less than five narrowbodies) actually operate their freighters for one of the express companies.
The 757-200F leads the way in this respect, with 96.3% (233 of 242) operated by or for express companies. From there, the percentage declines to 75.0% of the BAe146QTs, 57.8% of 737‑400Fs, 29.2% of 737-300Fs, and 20.8% of the 727-200Fs. Overall, over 60% of narrowbody freighters in service today are operated by or for the express companies.
Looking at the fleet on a regional basis: Well over 90% of the narrowbody freighters are operated in the three major geographical regions. Of these, almost half, 46.0%, are in North America – which is hardly surprising, given the huge 757‑200F fleets operated by FedEx and UPS in their US domestic networks. The rapid growth of e-commerce in China has boosted the share of narrowbodies in the Asia-Pacific region to 25.1%, while Europe, where DHL and TNT have a big presence is home to 21.8%. The remaining 6.3% are split among the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa.