Overheard at Cargo Facts Symposium

MIAMI – A bustling crowd of senior executives from all links in the air cargo supply chain gathered at the Mandarin Oriental for the 23rd annual presentation of the Cargo Facts Symposium. Delegates were delighted to be greeted with news that worldwide air freight volumes for the month of August were up double-digits (12.9%) y-o-y, according to WorldACD. With this in mind, many of the panels and presentations explored the factors driving demand for airfreight, expectations for the future, and the types of freighter aircraft that will be necessary to supply this lift.

We will be providing more coverage of the Symposium in the coming days, but for a now, here are few highlights:

IAI/Bedek to formally launch the 777BDSF conversion program, has a launch customer. At the tail-end of a session on narrowbody freighter conversions, a question from the audience directed the conversation towards widebody freighters and whether Bedek had made progress towards the development of a 777 passenger-to-freighter conversion program. Rafi Matalon, Senior Director, GM Marketing & Business Development at IAI-Bedek confirmed that Bedek not only intends to move forward with the program, but that it also has a launch customer, and will formally announce its plans to move forward with the program in a matter of months. 

This raises the question of which of operators might ultimately purchase a freighter-converted 777-200ER when the performance economics of the aircraft are inferior to the 777 production freighter. At an earlier trends panel, Polar Cargo’s COO, Rob Hyslop said his carrier, which operates widebody production freighters, would likely always favor production freighters over conversions, because of payload and reliability.

On the sidelines of the conference, delegates were more optimistic that a 777BDSF might appeal to operators heavily exposed to the express industry where freight densities are lower, and the payload of a 777 production freighter is not required.

But do not forget, A330 conversions may also be attractive option, even for Atlas. The buzz surrounding A330 passenger-to-freighter conversions at the 2017 Cargo Facts Symposium confirmed general optimism about the program as an alternative to 777 freighters. During a fireside chat on the first day of the conference, Atlas Air World Wide Holdings CEO Bill Flynn said “the A330 from our perspective shows a lot of promise” for conversion. Other panelists later in the event see the converted A330 as strong competition for the 777F, either new or converted, with Oriel cofounder and senior ISTAT appraiser Olga Razzhivina noting the significant initial cost of the 777 makes the converted A330 an attractive alternative. But it all depends on the mission, and intended purpose of the aircraft.

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