Chinese carriers to need more freighter conversions than initially forecasted

China’s rapidly growing express carriers currently operate fleets of freighter conversions, but could they eventually introduce production freighters as well?

Boeing has released an updated version of its Current Market Outlook, which provides a more nuanced look at its expectations for the freighter market over the next twenty years, compared to the CMO released at this year’s Paris Air Show. The updated report is more upbeat regarding the Asia Pacific region’s projected demand for freighter aircraft, especially compared to Boeing’s 2016 CMO.

While forecasted demand for the number of production freighters Asia Pacific-based carriers will need over the next two-decades remains unchanged from last year’s forecast at 320, Boeing now estimates that the regional market for converted freighters will be 8.6% larger compared to figures published in its 2016 forecast, with Asia Pacific-based carriers expected to need 630 conversions instead of 580. Boeing also notes that about 38% of all freighter deliveries over the next twenty years, will be to airlines based in the Asia pacific region.

Carriers based in the region’s most populous country, China, are expected to take delivery of most of these freighters. Although Boeing does not provide an estimate for the number of freighter conversions Chinese carriers will need, it forecasts 57% of deliveries for production freighters in the region, some 180 units, will end up in Chinese fleets.  We can expect an even higher proportion of freighter conversions redelivered to carriers based in the Asia Pacific region over the next twenty years to end up in the fleets of Chinese carriers.

One caveat to keep in mind, is that Boeing does not break down freighter demand by carrier type — express, all-cargo, combination carrier. Based on historical orders from Chinese carriers, however, we expect the majority of freighter deliveries to end up in the fleets of express carriers. At present, none of China’s express carriers operate new-build freighters, but, as finances improve post-IPO, and as networks expand to include routes which enable higher aircraft utilization, this could change. Chinese combination carriers, meanwhile, have in recent times favored new-build freighters.

Source: Boeing 2017 Current Market Outlook

Turning to the global market for freighters, Boeing expects carriers will take delivery of 920 new-build freighters, and 1,560 passenger-to-freighter airplane conversions over the next twenty years. The CMO projects the global freighter fleet will increase by more than 50%, from about 1810 at the end of 2016, to 3,030 by 2036.

The chart at right further breaks down this figure by aircraft size. Note that Boeing expects the possibility of both 787 and A350 production freighters entering the market over the next twenty years.






Source: Boeing 2017 Current Market Outlook

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