Top 5 Cargo Facts stories during the first half of 2019

Russian freighters continue to fly after Bermuda revokes airworthiness

Russian Aircraft face registration crisis following Bermuda's airworthiness directive. (Photo/Volga Dnepr)

With the first half of 2019 now behind us, the move into the second half of the final year of the decade presents a good opportunity to reflect on those stories that struck a chord with our readers. As you’ll see when looking through those stories that were most popular during the past six months, developments in the large widebody freighter fleet were of the most interest to Cargo Facts readers, with the 777F and 747F capacity news taking the spotlight.

The question that these stories seem to point to is, with the upcoming transition to a new decade, will we soon see a subsequent move to a new generation of large widebody freighter aircraft? During 1H19, Boeing unveiled its new 777X passenger aircraft. With a new generation of 777s emerging, might we soon see a 777 P-to-F program?

Stories about 747 freighters are always popular, and none more so than our top story of the year so far, regarding more 747-8F orders that appeared early in the year in Boeing’s order book. There are relatively few outstanding 747-8F orders remaining, leaving the industry to wonder what may be next for widebody freighters able to load oversize cargo. Perhaps the second half of this year will provide more answers to what to expect for the next decade of large widebody freighters.

And now, to examine the Top 5 Cargo Facts stories during 1H19:

No. 5: Lockheed Martin expects certification and first delivery for LM-100J before year-end

While the 777 and 747 dominated the news during the first half, Lockheed Martin’s in-development LM-100J, the commercial variant of the C-130J “Super Hercules,” made a splash with the news that it is closing in on the final phases of Federal Aviation Administration-specific flight tests and subsequent delivery to launch operator Pallas Aviation.

For the LM-100J, although the aircraft has a clear target market, customers have yet to surface in large numbers. Texas-based Pallas Aviation placed a firm order for five units, and Lockheed has previously announced tentative commitments from Ireland-based ASL Aviation Group and Brazil-based Bravo Industries. Looking ahead, Lockheed expects an LM-100J flight simulator under construction adjacent to its Marietta, Georgia, assembly line to make it easier for prospective operators to train future flight crews.

Like its predecessors, the LM-100J is capable of operating in rugged terrain unsuitable for other commercial freighters – its “sweet spot” remains in outsized cargo transport for the oil & gas, mining and other heavy industries, said Tony Frese, VP of Business Development for the program. Current operators of the L-100 and niche carriers involved in outsized cargo transport are considering the new variant, which boasts refreshed engines and updated avionics that are ADS-B compliant, Frese said.

To read the full story, click here.

No. 4: Former Jade Cargo 747-400ERF auctioned on Taobao ready to join CAL Cargo fleet

Three 747-400Fs auctioned on Taobao late in 2017 have continued to hold the attention of the air freight industry – most recently, the ex-Jade Cargo 747-400ERF (35169) acquired by Israel-based CAL Cargo Airlines. Early this year, CAL told Cargo Facts the aircraft was preparing to join its fleet, and indeed flight tracking software shows unit 35169 currently operating between Liège (LGG), New York (JFK), Oslo (OSL) and Tel Aviv (TLV).

To read the full story, click here.

No. 3: With today’s 777X rollout, when will 777 P-to-F programs arrive?

Boeing discretely unveiled the first 777X earlier this year at the company’s Everett, Wash., assembly plant. What would have normally been presented as a global media spectacle aimed at capturing the world’s attention was instead a small event limited mostly to employees and non-media guests. Following the loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the company decided to postpone the “external debut,” but confirmed there have been no changes to the plane’s progress, and that the program remains on schedule.

Once deliveries begin, Boeing’s 777 assembly line will produce both the current generation 777 and the 777X for at least a few years. In the near-term, carrier choices for widebody freighters will remain limited to what’s currently available today. Further out into the future, however, the 777 platform is expected to offer the air cargo market some fresh options – either a passenger-to-freighter conversion program for existing 777s, or a freighter variant of the 777X.

For more on the story, click here.

No. 2: Emirates removes another 777F

The second most popular story during the 1H is also the most recent. Only last month, Emirates SkyCargo withdrew from service another 777F (35607), which was on lease from Dubai-based DAE Capital [FAT 004911]. Effective from this summer, the own-operated EK freighter fleet will consist of eleven 777Fs.

If Emirates’ first two expired 777F leases are representative of the remaining eleven freighters in the SkyCargo fleet, it would suggest a proclivity for a ten-year lease. Unit 35607 was delivered to Emirates in June 2009 and is, therefore, being taken out of the fleet upon expiry of a ten-year lease, just as 35606 was in March 2019. The oldest remaining 777F operating in Emirates’ fleet rolled off the assembly line less than eight years ago, meaning that no further lease expiries are expected for a few years.

During a media briefing at the recent Air Cargo Europe 2019 event in Munich, Nabil Sultan, divisional senior vice president of Emirates SkyCargo, said that the carrier needed to be vigilant given the headwinds the industry is currently facing and reassess its capacity. “We had already reduced our capacity last year from fifteen to twelve freighters,” he said. “We need to probably reevaluate some of that capacity once again, looking at some of the changes that are taking place.”

For more on this story, click here.

No. 1: 4 new 747-8F orders on Boeing’s order book

The top story of 2019 was a January report that an additional four orders for 747-8Fs appeared in Boeing’s backlog of orders, destined for “Unspecified Customer(s).” While there are a few possible operators for the four 747-8Fs, given past known orders that were previously not reflected in the order book, it’s likely the freighters are part of the order placed by Volga-Dnepr Group at last summer’s Farnborough International Airshow.

As noted in the recent Cargo Facts look at 2018 production freighter orders, Boeing’s order backlog for Volga-Dnepr Group showed only one outstanding 747-8F order at the end of 2018. As of today, UPS is the only customer specified as still awaiting deliveries, but all four of the unspecified orders are still outstanding. Keep watching for updates as more information is eventually revealed about these aircraft orders.

For the full story, click here.

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