The number of passenger aircraft that have been used as freighters on cargo-only flights and recorded by Cargo Facts in our recently launched passenger-freighter database has now surpassed 1,000.
While the type of operation varies widely, from one-off charters to regularly scheduled networks, the sheer scale of the utilization is unprecedented, much like the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted upon the aviation industry — and the world.
In Cargo Facts’ first-ever passenger freighter analysis, we take a closer look at the types of aircraft being flown as makeshift freighters, the evolving nature of how space on passenger aircraft is used, and the extent to which different regions have adopted the practice. We note that, despite our best efforts, our records do not cover every instance of an aircraft being used as a passenger freighter, but rather represent a rough estimate, in part due to a lack of information from some carriers, and in part to the daily changing situation.
Across all carriers and regions, some thirty different passenger aircraft types have been used, according to Cargo Facts research. Although a number of airframe types are being utilized, there is clearly preference for just a few types.
The most commonly utilized airframe for cargo-only operations is the 777-300ER, with thirty carriers operating 325 777-300ERs in cargo-only configuration. This is perhaps not surprising; the 777-300ER, capable of carrying up to 25-30 tonnes, is well known for being an excellent cargo hauler even in regular passenger operations. It is also the backbone of many airlines’ long-haul fleets. Without passengers, the aircraft has allowed airlines to carry significant loads on long intercontinental flights.
For a comprehensive analysis of the passenger-freighter fleet, and to continue reading this feature, please go to Page 11 of our April 2020 issue.