SHANGHAI – China’s fastest-growing express carrier, SF Express, is planning to grow its widebody freighter fleet from just eight units today to more than 100 by 2022, according to remarks from George Li, VP, SF Express, during a presentation this morning at Cargo Facts Asia.
The expanded freighter fleet will play into SF’s three-tier aviation strategy that will eventually make thirty-six hour nationwide express service across China possible. SF’s freighters will connect the Ezhou “SuperHub” airport, which is being developed in the central Chinese city of Ezhou, near Wuhan, to SF’s regional hubs throughout the country, Li said. Detailed coverage on SF’s SuperHub development can be found on our sister site, Cargo Airport News. Regarding the third tier of the strategy, SF expects to use other aircraft types, including UAVs and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, to connect regional and city hubs.
In the eight years since SF Airlines flew its first 737-300F, the Shenzhen-based express carrier has quickly grown its fleet total to fifty-three units – the most recent addition being a 767-300BCF (35155, ex-Shanghai Airlines). Apart from its owned fleet, SF also charters sixteen freighters from other operators such as Longhao Airlines. Last year, SF’s airline operation handled some 1.2 million tonnes of parcels and cargo which, by SF’s measure, accounted for about 23% of the domestic cargo volume.
With SF’s Ezhou hub under construction, fleet growth was expected, but a more than ten-fold increase to its widebody freighter fleet within just a few years is quite a leap. Li did not elaborate on the source of the aircraft or the airframe types beyond noting that the large freighters would be at least as large as a 767F airframe.