This year has been unusual in many respects, but as it relates to freighter aircraft, one peculiarity is that the industry saw four major narrowbody types being certified and entering service. Meanwhile, as passenger fleets are parked worldwide, new lessors and operators are diversifying into converted freighters; this has been particularly evident with 737NGs.
As the year draws to a close, here is a look at the most interesting and significant narrowbody aircraft transactions recorded by Cargo Facts in 2020.
After Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) received the supplemental type certificate (STC) for its A321-200P2F conversion program from EASA in February 2020 and obtained FAA approval in late May, the company finally redelivered the first ever A321P2F (835, ex-Onur Air) to Vallair, which then leased the aircraft to Qantas in October [FATs 005661-5662].
Qantas began flying unit 835 in late October, officially marking the entry into service of the first Airbus narrowbody freighter.
The ATR 72-600F — the first factory-built ATR freighter — made its first flight in September 2020 and obtained European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification at the end of November.
The prototype aircraft (1653) was delivered to FedEx Express in mid-December and will soon enter CMI service with ASL Airlines Ireland [FATs 005792-5793].
In July, Bahrain-based Chisholm Enterprises took redelivery of its first 737-700FC (30293, an ex-Yakutia), destined for subsidiary Texel Air [FATs 005502-5503]. The aircraft is also the first FlexCombi produced by PEMCO, and can be configured to seven different layouts including a full-cargo mode with eight positions.
Chisholm Enterprises acquired a second 737-700 (34170, ex-Transavia) in October and ferried the aircraft from Amsterdam (AMS) to Tampa (TPA) in November, ahead of induction for conversion into a FlexCombi [FAT 005816].
- DHL places first 737-800BDSFs with iAero
In May, DHL Express became the first carrier to put 737-800BDSFs into service, with two units (30498 and 28619) acquired from Spectre Air Capital around the beginning of the year. The two aircraft were given to iAero Airways for CMI operations in the U.S. [FATs 005414-5415].
These were the first DHL jets to be operated by iAero, but the airline later also began flying two 737-400Fs (26455 and 26334) on behalf of the integrator.
iAero wasn’t the only airline to become a new CMI operator of DHL-owned aircraft this year.
In July, the express integrator announced it had appointed Mesa Airlines to operate two of its 737-400SFs, representing both a new line of business as well as a new aircraft type for the Arizona-based airline.
The two aircraft (27157 and 27674), previously operated by Southern Air, began service with Mesa in October and November, respectively [FATs 005648 and 005702].
For Sun Country Airlines, announced by Amazon at the end of 2019 as the eventual operator of its next batch of 737-800BCFs, the foray into cargo operations couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. The airline brought the first aircraft (32348, ex-Pegasus) to its base in Minneapolis (MSP) on April 22 and put it into service in early May [FAT 005393].
Within the short space of three months, Sun Country quickly took on nine more Amazon 737-800BCFs, making up for the downturn in the passenger market.
Amazon handed over one more 737-800BCF to Sun Country in October and another in November.
- Lessors begin 737-800 conversions
At least five lessors new to 737NG conversions began sending their 737-800s for conversion in 2020.
Together, these lessors placed orders for 14 737-800 conversions this year: four -800SFs from Aero Capital Solutions; two -800BCFs from Aircraft Finance Germany; four -800SFs from BlackRock; two -800BCFs from BoComm Leasing; and two -800SFs from GA Telesis.
Cargo Facts believes there are at least a couple more lessors that have not yet disclosed orders.
- AerSale acquires 757-200 feedstock for conversion and part-out
Florida-headquartered AerSale announced in September it would purchase twenty-four 757-200s, with a view to converting at least some of them into freighters.
Cargo Facts believes all twenty-four are part of the thirty-four 757-200s retired by American Airlines earlier this year. So far, AerSale has acquired seven of these frames (29594, 30886, 29593, 30548, 30887, 27808 and 32448) [FATs 005754-5759 and 005817].
AerSale itself carries out touch labor for Precision Aircraft Solutions’ 757-200PCF conversions at its facility in Goodyear (GYR).
Precision Aircraft Solutions completed the conversion of its 120th 757-200PCF this year, redelivering the aircraft (29942, ex-TUI Airways) to SF Airlines in April [FAT 005386].
The 757 was also SF Airlines’ first addition in 2020, and the carrier’s thirty-second 757-200F and fifty-ninth freighter overall.
With additional retirements from passenger fleets, Precision told Cargo Facts it expects an uptick in 757 conversions in 2021.