Which aircraft will dominate the world’s freighter fleet in 20 years?

This is the second of three posts on the future freighter fleet based on the 2019 Freighter Forecast, published by Cargo Facts Consulting.

Last week’s post focused on the key numbers of the latest Cargo Facts Consulting 20 year freighter forecast, which foresees the addition of 2380 jets and 421 new turboprops to cater for growth and retirements. This week’s post looks at the firm’s predictions as to which aircraft types will be the most popular.

The future fleet composition will depend very much on the aircraft available in each segment. There are some major uncertainties in this regard which will change the relative share of different types but not the overall fleet size.

  • The narrowbody segment is in transition from older to new generation types. The freighter options in this segment are well defined with the future belonging to 737 NG and A320/A321 conversions. While initial order activity has been tepid for the A321, Cargo Facts Consulting (CFC) predicts that over time demand will be shared equally between 737s and A320/A321s. The most popular types are expected to be the 737-800 and A321 which would make up over 80% of the 2038 fleet.
  • In the medium widebody segment that has come to be defined by the A300-600 and later the 767-300, there are no new developments on the immediate horizon. The 25 year old 767-300 production freighter program has no end date, but the age profile of passenger 767s will eventually limit the number of conversions. A330 conversions will be available throughout the forecast period, and it is expected that Airbus with launch an A330-900F within the next five years and Boeing a 787-9F within the next 5-10 years. CFC predicts that the A330 will account for half of all aircraft in this segment, with the 767-300 and 787-9 accounting for the remainder.
  • The greatest deal of uncertainty about future aircraft choices is in the large widebody segment. While CFC believes that the 777-200 production freighter will continue to be extremely successful, there has been no firm commitment from Boeing how long a 747-8F will remain in production. If the program ceases to exist beyond the current order backlog there will be only 130 or so nose door capable aircraft in 2038 compared to 235 today. This will have profound implications for the outsized freight market. A 777 conversion has also been a long time waiting. CFC believes that a 777-300ER conversion program may be launched in the next five years, but the design density of the aircraft implies that it will be more popular with express than general cargo carriers. Within the next 10 years the consultancy also foresees the launch of an A350 freighter program which could eat into the dominance of the 777 in the large widebody segment. CFC predicts that the 777 will account for two thirds of the 2038 fleet, with the remainder split more or less equally between the A350 and the remaining 747s.
  • In the feeder segment, the ATR 72 is set to become the dominate aircraft of choice, followed by Dash 8-Q400 conversions with upside for both types depending on how demand for the CRJ-200 develops and whether a CRJ 700 conversion becomes available.

The Cargo Facts Consulting 2019 – 2038 Freighter Forecast contains detailed predictions for four key freighter segments, as well as an assessment of the airfreight demand environment and the supply of passenger aircraft for conversion to freighter aircraft, known as feedstock. CFC offers both near- and long-term outlooks for the freighter market. The report is supplemented with analytical tools that allow users to make their own predictions and analyze how the feedstock situation evolves for 21 different passenger aircraft with active or potential conversion programs.

See www.cfcinsights.com for more information.

The next post on the future freighter fleet will discuss how the feed stock of passenger aircraft available for conversions will drive fleet additions in the short and medium term.

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