Update, 21 September 2017: Cargolux confirmed to Cargo Facts that there is in fact, no connection between Henan Cargo Airlines and Suparna’s recent 747-400F acquisition.
Last month, ASL Airlines Belgium returned a 747-400F (35235) to lessor Aircastle, and today the aircraft arrived in Hong Kong, where it is now on lease to Shanghai-based Suparna Airlines (formerly Yangtze River Airlines). Although the duration and terms of the lease are not known, the aircraft is rumored to be ultimately bound for Cargolux’s Chinese jv, Henan Cargo Airlines.
In June of this year, Cargolux delivered its latest public update about Henan Cargo Airlines, saying it expected the jv airline to take its first revenue flight during 4Q18. Since the announcement, Cargolux has been actively recruiting flight crews to staff the new venture – fleet planning decisions are surely occurring in parallel, though in a less-public manner.
If the -400F, which today joined Suparna’s fleet, were on a one-year lease from Aircastle, it could join HCA in late-2018.
Cargo Facts believes this 747-400 production freighter (35235) is likely a top candidate for consideration when it comes to assembling HCA’s initial fleet of three-to-five -400Fs. This particular unit was one of the last -400Fs to roll off the assembly line just ten years ago, when it was delivered to TNT Airways. It therefore has a very long lifespan remaining.
It could also be the case that there is no relation to Henan Cargo Airlines, and that Suparna is simply expanding its freighter fleet to fulfill ambitious growth plans outlined by its parent organization, the HNA Group. In May 2017, the Group launched a new logistics subsidiary, HNA Modern Logistics. Shortly afterward, HNA completed the acquisition of Hahn Airport, and both of the Group’s cargo airlines, Suparna and Hong Kong Air Cargo, began to show a renewed interest in freighter aircraft.
With today’s acquisition, Suparna now has four 747-400Fs in its fleet. This is in addition to a deal Suparna and Atlas Air Worldwide (AAWW) inked in June for the ACMI-lease of a 747F. Then, last month, AAWW announced a similar deal to operate three 747-400 freighters for Hong Kong Air Cargo Carrier Ltd., the cargo arm of HNA-controlled Hong Kong Airlines. The first of the three will enter service in later this month, joining Hong Kong Air Cargo’s existing fleet of five A330-200Fs. It will serve routes between Asia and the US, and the second and third aircraft to follow in 2018.
As for other destinations, HNA has expressed its desire to fortify its presence in western China and in Europe, and has identified Xi’an Xianyang (XIY) and Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN) as its future regional air hubs.
Those interested in learning more about the demand for freighter aircraft, are invited to join us in Miami 2-4 October for the Cargo Facts Symposium. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactssymposium.com