The turboprop freighter fleet in 2017 – Part II

West Atlantic once operated almost 40 ATP freighters, but has gradually reduced that number to just 24.

In part I of this analysis, we began our examination of the current turboprop freighter fleet with some background, and then offered a breakdown of the fleet by type and operator. Today, in Part II, we look at the fleet in more detail by type, while in Part III, we will take a close look at the CRJ200F – a small jet that is increasingly seen as a competitor to the turboprops.

Now, a look at the individual aircraft types:

ATR 42F: A total of fifty-one ATR 42s have been converted to freighter configuration, all but one of which are in bulk-load configuration. Of the fifty-one, four have been written off, two have been scrapped, and two are in storage. Forty-three are in service. This total is up one unit from last year as DOT Lithuania returned a parked freighter to service.

ATR 72F: Sixty-eight ATR 72s have been converted to freighter configuration, and all but three of them are in service (with two of those three likely to enter service soon). Two years ago, Switzerland-based IPR Conversions acquired Alenia Aermacchi’s ATR passenger-to-freighter conversion STCs and has since converted five units – two in large-door configuration and three in bulk-load configuration. IPR tells Cargo Facts that there is now a strong demand for large-door ATR 72 conversions, and that it is ramping up capacity and expects to add new conversion centers in the near future.

The big change in the ATR 72F fleet over the past year has been in Africa, where Solenta Aviation has added six units (in operation for DHL Express), with a seventh likely to enter service shortly. Most of these were previously operated for DHL in Europe by airlines in the ASL Group. Also of note is the acquisition of an ATR 72F in bulk-load configuration by Latvia-based RAF Avia, following conversion by Aero Conseil (the only other source of ATR conversions)

ATPF: The in-service ATP Freighter fleet decreased by seven from last year, as Sweden-based West Atlantic continued to retire its older units. A total of sixty-five ATP aircraft were built, of which forty-five have been converted to freighter configuration – twenty-four with large cargo doors, and twenty-one as bulk loaders. Of these, twenty-six remain in service with just two carriers. Indonesia-based Deraya Air Taxi operates two, while the rest are with West Atlantic.

Saab 340F: Forty-four Saab 340s have now been converted to freighter configuration. Of these, thirty-seven are in active service, along with three 340AQCs operated full-time as freighters – two by Loganair, one by SprintAir. This figure is unchanged from last year, even though a few planes changed hands. Aloha Air Cargo ended turboprop freighter operation (it now operates jets), and parked its three Saab 340s. Loganair added two units, converted from its own passenger fleet. Estonia-based Airest upped its Saab fleet to eight with the acquisition of a freighter formerly at Lipican Air (which ended operations). Bangladesh-based newcomer Easy Fly Express and Poland’s SprintAir also added one each, while US-based IBC Airways reduced its fleet from eight to seven.

Fokker50F: Sixteen Fokker 50s have been converted to freighter configuration, unchanged from this time last year. Of these, twelve are now in operation (all at Sweden-based Amapola Flyg), down one from last year as Indonesia’s Asialink Cargo Express parked its single unit.

Bombardier Q400PF: In 2009, Sweden-based Nord-Flyg ordered two Bombardier Q400s converted to bulk-load freighter configuration, but the carrier ceased operation in early 2010 after taking only the first unit. That freighter then went to West Atlantic, but in early 2012 was acquired by Kenyan carrier Blue Bird Aviation, which operated a twelve-unit turboprop passenger fleet, including four Dash 8 Q400s. Blue Bird added a second Q400F in 2012, a third in 2014, and two in 2015. Since then, neither Blue Bird nor any other carrier or lessor has shown interest in this type, and the Kenyan carrier remains the only operator.

Interestingly, Bombardier’s new-build Q400 Combi, which was launched with a five-unit order from Japan Airlines’ regional subsidiary Ryukyu Air Commuter in 2014, has done as well as the package freighter conversion.

Bombardier Q300PF: On the subject of Bombardier’s Dash 8 series, we note that Canadian carrier Air Inuit developed a bulk-load conversion program for the Q300, and had it certified by the Canadian aviation authorities. Air Inuit converted two units from its own fleet, but then turned to B/E Aerospace to develop a large-door conversion. B/E has since been acquired by Rockwell Collins, and, as we were going to press, Rockwell announced receipt of a Canadian STC for an improved bulk-load conversion, and said it expected certification of the large-door conversion in late 2017 or early 2018. Launch customer Air Inuit will convert one of its passenger Q300s, plus its two bulk-loaders, to large-door configuration.

Dash 8-100PF: New this year is a passenger-to-package-freighter conversion program developed by Canada-based Voyageur Aviation for launch customer Wasaya Airways. Following conversion, the 37-seat passenger aircraft offers a 4.5 tonne payload, with a range at max payload of 800 nautical miles (1,500 km). The E-class cargo compartment features a reinforced floor and 9G cargo nets to separate it into zones. Loading is via the original 1.27 m x 1.52 m aft cargo door. Wasaya has taken redelivery of the first of the two units it ordered, but, as with the Q400 and Q300, no other customers have signed up.

Those interested in learning more about the worldwide demand for freighter aircraft over the next 20-years are invited to check out Air Cargo Management Group’s Freighter Forecastwhich for the first time, includes turboprop freighter demand. The report contains analysis of future prospects for fifteen aircraft types that will dominate the future freighter market, including production status, performance characteristics, and freighter conversion program availability.

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