Air China Cargo’s first 777F has returned from the Portland paint shop and is now in pre-delivery testing at Boeing’s Everett Facility. The aircraft (msn: 44678) is the first of eight the carrier will receive through 2015.
The new 777s were ordered in March, 2013, as part of a massive re-alignment of the fleets at Air China Cargo and Cathay Pacific Cargo. At the time, Cathay Pacific cancelled an order for eight 777Fs while acquiring options for five 777Fs at a later date and ordering a trio of additional 747-8Fs. Air China Cargo, a 50/50 joint venture between Cathay and Air China, simultaneously placed an order for eight 777Fs. Boeing agreed to take back 747-400BCFs from both carriers, four from Cathay and seven from Air China Cargo.
Air China Cargo has since been shedding other converted 747s, with the last of its 747-400BDSFs parked in October. The carrier’s current 747 fleet is comprised of four 747-400BCFs and three 747-400Fs. As the 777Fs arrive, the BCFs will depart.
As we recently reported, Air China Cargo is changing rapidly.
In August, the carrier added another type for a different kind of mission, ordering four 757-200PCFs from Precision Conversions, intended primarily for express duty on behalf of China Postal Airlines. The first of these aircraft entered service this month. Air China Cargo CEO Titus Diu recently indicated that the carrier may eventually use its additional 757s and feeder aircraft to support its long-range freighter hub in Shanghai.
The 777F is scheduled to begin service for the carrier in early January, initially on routes to Osaka and Frankfurt. The initial focus on Shanghai-Europe (with some stops in Chengdu, Chongqing, and Zhengzhou) dovetails well with Air China’s ample belly capacity (in the form of the 777-300ER) available from Beijing to both Europe and North America. Eventually, the 777F will be deployed network-wide.
In addition to the new types, Air China Cargo has upgraded its IT systems and will base future products and services “on Cargo 2000 principles.”
© Photographer: Alex Kwanten