Classic freighter transactions surge in January

Sigma Airlines will operate Kazakhstan's first 747 freighter. Photo: Aviation Administration of Kazakhstan

Of the sixteen freighter aircraft transactions (FATs) recorded by Cargo Facts in January 2020, more than half involved “classic” freighters, which are defined as aircraft models now dated by a modern alternatives.

Conversion orders for narrowbody freighters continued throughout 2019 amid feedstock disruptions stemming from the grounded 737 MAX. An uptick in the number of older widebody aircraft acquired last month, meanwhile, appears to be an opportunistic fluke.

Rarely seen in recent years, two Kazakhstan-based carriers each acquired a 747-200F. Sigma Airlines added a 747-200F (23737, ex-Kalitta), on lease from UAE-based EMW Aviation [FATs 005286-005287] while AZee Air added to its fleet a 747-200F (24399, ex-Air Georgia) [FAT 005288].

Turning to narrowbodies, despite the existence of conversion programs based on the 737 NG platform, interest in 737 Classic freighters persists. Vx Capital Partners, the largest lessor of 737-400Fs with a portfolio currently numbering forty, ordered three more 737-400SF conversions from AEI [FATs 005301-5303].

“We think the -400 is clearly a great value and has lease rates that are almost half of the -800. Of course, for certain missions the -800 is clearly the favored aircraft and the -400 just can’t compete with it,” said Stefan Kageman, senior vice president and head of aircraft marketing at Vx Capital, at Cargo Facts EMEA earlier this month in Frankfurt.

Although the conversion of 737-300s and -400s is expected to continue through at least 2021, future transactions involving aging 747Fs may center around trips to the desert. Atlas Air announced last week that it had taken four freighter-converted 747Fs out of charter service on softer demand. These aircraft could still be reactivated if charter activity surges, but likely reflect the continued sunsetting older freighter-converted 747-400Fs.

To see all January transactions, see Page 13 of our February 2020 issue.

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