HNA Group subsidiary Tianjin Air Cargo added a 737-800BCF (32602, ex-Hainan Airlines), on lease from Spectre Air Capital, following conversion to freighter configuration by Boeing at the STAECO facility in Jinan (TNA) [FATs 004944-4945].
When the aircraft commences operations, it could be symbolic for a number of reasons. Not only would it be the first 737-NG freighter to enter service with a Chinese carrier, but it may also be a sign of a coming inflection point for Tianjin Air Cargo, which has been slow to emerge from its startup phase. Despite launching own-controlled operations for JD.com last November and dabbling in other scheduled and charter business, Tianjin Air Cargo’s existing three-unit freighter fleet comprising two 737-400Fs and a 737-300F (29914, 29915, and 27362) hasn’t flown in at least the past few weeks, based on Flightradar24 data.
Looking ahead to the NG freighter, now that touch labor for the conversion is complete, the aircraft will undergo customary bridging checks ahead of being cleared by China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) to fly on the carrier’s AOC, a source familiar with the carrier’s plans tells Cargo Facts. Given the 737-800BCF was approved by the CAAC in December 2018, this process is not expected to be lengthy and a flight test is scheduled for next week. Tianjin Air Cargo does not have confirmed orders for additional freighter conversions, but remains bullish on long-term fleet growth.
Spectre, for its part, had previously signed an LOI with Shanghai-based Suparna Airlines, another HNA affiliate, for three IAI-converted 737-700P2Fs. Those plans seem to be on hold for the time being. As illustrated by the deal with Tianjin Air Cargo, Spectre continues to work with various HNA Group affiliates to facilitate its fleet rebalancing and modernization efforts. The lessor recently acquired two ex-Hainan Airlines 737-800s (30474 and 30475) which Cargo Facts expects will be Boeing conversions for operator SpiceJet [FATs 004939-4942].
Interested in how the global freighter fleet will develop over the next 20 years? The Cargo Facts Consulting 2019 Freighter Forecast is available now. Visit www.cfcinsights.com for more information. Those who purchase the Report prior to 17 June will also gain access to a live webinar with Cargo Facts Consulting Managing Director and report author, Frederic Horst.