If boxes and pallets could speak, every freighter flight would have a story to tell. Many narratives are straightforward and can be inferred by connecting the dots between origin and destination – a 747F flight between Oslo Airport (OSL) and Seoul (ICN), for example, reflects Asia’s growing appetite for fresh seafood out of the Atlantic. Sometimes, however, even an empty freighter has a narrative of great import to tell. Today we look at what three recent plane sightings tell us about the long-term fleets plans of freighter-oriented carriers.
1) A 777F in DHL livery
With more than 260 freighters operating on behalf of DHL Express, there’s nothing significant about a 777F in DHL Livery, right?
Quite the opposite, in fact. Although DHL Express is familiar with the 777F platform, the aircraft was the first unit delivered in DHL’s only order with Boeing for the 777F. Last year, DHL Express placed an order for fourteen and up to twenty-one 777Fs during the Farnborough Air Show. As the express carrier takes delivery of 777Fs, ageing 747-400Fs – likely freighter conversions, will gradually be phased out.
2) Unpainted widebodies at Paine Field
FedEx 777F line 1608 on the Everett flightline. Also, six Growlers and one F-16 landed at Paine Field this morning. You may have heard the noise when they left about 2 PM pic.twitter.com/0Z8UhFBotV
— Paine Airport (@mattcawby) May 29, 2019
The majority of the world’s production freighters pass through Boeing’s Everett, Washington, assembly plant. Although much of the magic happens behind closed doors, inside the factory, glimpses of aircraft in transit to paint hangars or undergoing flight tests can be a great indicator of progress.
Recent sightings of unpainted widebodies at PAE from Matt Cawby on Twitter (@mattcawby), are foretelling of future 777F and 747-8F deliveries to FedEx and UPS. While Boeing’s 777F backlog remains sizable (see 2018 production freighter orders for more), there are only a handful of carriers with remaining 747-8Fs on order and most future deliveries are destined for UPS. Volga-Dnepr Group affiliate carriers are also expected to add five additional -8Fs as part of an order firmed up last summer, but, beyond that, it’s unclear if other carriers have secured future orders for the aircraft. In January, an order for four aircraft from unidentified customers did appear on Boeing’s order backlog. Cargo Facts believes these orders are likely linked to lessors or intermediaries that will ultimately lease the aircraft to VDG affiliates.
UPS’ backlog for the 747-8F stands at seventeen units.
3) An EVA Air 777F test flight
EVA Air Cargo 777 B-16786 landing at Paine Field after a test flight today. pic.twitter.com/B3CNHQRbrp
— Jennifer Schuld (@JenSchuld) May 25, 2019
Earlier this week, an EVA 777F was spotted in Everett near Boeing’s delivery center, and Jennifer Schuld posted a photo of it on Twitter (@JenSchuld). Shortly after the photo was snapped, the aircraft was ferried from Boeing’s Paine Field (PAE) to Taipei (TPE) where EVA Air took delivery of the 777F (62828) [FAT 004895]. The aircraft is the fifth and final 777F the Taiwan-based carrier had on order with Boeing and was the only thing preventing the retirement of EVA’s last remaining 747-400BDSF. EVA is expected to bring its 747 ops to an end in June now that a replacement aircraft – the 777F has been delivered.
If you’ve spotted a freighter lately that tells a story, please tell us about it on our LinkedIn discussion here.