Shenzhen-based SF Airlines ordered a ninth 757-200 passenger-to-freighter conversion from Precision Aircraft Solutions.
To meet the exploding demand for express package delivery, Chinese express giant SF Express has been rapidly expanding the fleet of its airline subsidiary, SF Airlines, from a single Precision-converted 757-200PCF redelivered in October 2009, to the mixed fleet of four 737-300Fs, three 737-400Fs, and eight 757-200PCFs it operates today.
The new order with Precision comes as something of a surprise, given that SF’s fleet expansion was accelerated late last year with an order by SF for five more 757-200 P-to-F conversions – not from Precision, but from ST Aerospace. Under that agreement, SF became the launch customer for ST Aero’s 15-pallet 757-200 conversion program. ST Aero has converted close to one hundred 757-200s for FedEx, but those were all in a 14-pallet configuration, and SF wanted its new 757 freighters to match the 15-pallet configuration of its Precision-converted units. The first of these five entered conversion at ST’s Seletar Airport (XSP) facility in January 2014, with redelivery planned “by the end of the third quarter in 2014.”
SF Airlines now placing even more 757 P-to-F orders is another indicator of the growth of the express business in China. The driving force behind this growth in demand is the rate at which Chinese are switching to the internet to do their shopping. While much of the B2C volume moves by road, The country’s growing middle class has taken to online shopping with a passion, and according to reports in the Chinese media and the State Post Bureau, express deliveries in China were up 51.9% in the first quarter, to 2.6 billion. Express companies combined revenue for the quarter was up 45.6% to US$6.6 billion.
The demand for package delivery is growing so rapidly that it far exceeds available capacity:
- The existing players – China Postal Airlines and SF Express – are expanding their fleets as fast as they can.
- Last year, in major change of focus, Air China Cargo ordered four 757-200 P-to-F conversions from Precision, and is now operating them in overnight service for China Postal Airlines.
- Shanghai-based YTO Express applied for, and has now received, authority to operate its own airline, and has ordered several narrowbody conversions.
- STO Express, another Shanghai-based express company, is awaiting authority to operate its own airline.