747-8 Freighters — where are they now?

It has now been almost nine years since Boeing officially launched the 747-8, with Cargolux and Nippon Cargo Airlines signing on as launch customers with orders for ten and eight freighters, respectively. In a departure from the normal evolution of major aircraft programs, Boeing launched the freighter variant, the 747-8F, first, and it wasn’t until a year later that passenger variant, the 747-8 Intercontinental was launched with a nineteen-unit order from Lufthansa.

First delivery, to Cargolux, took place in October 2011, and the chart below shows our best guess at the current state of the 747-8F fleet, including orders, deliveries, aircraft built and awaiting delivery, and aircraft currently in production (both on the final assembly line and in the pre-assembly stage).

747-8F fleetWe say “best guess” because, as with most commercial aircraft programs, there are uncertainties involved. For example, Boeing shows two freighters ordered by, and delivered to, an unidentified customer. These two were originally built for Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, which exercised its contractual right to not take delivery, and are now flying in Saudia Cargo livery. We choose to show Saudia as the customer, but it may well be that the true customer is another entity and Saudia is only the end user.

And then there are the four “mystery freighters.” Two of them (60117 and 60118) have been built and are sitting at Boeing’s Everett facility, while two are still in the pre-assembly (Firing Order) stage. Boeing shows no order for these, but Cargo Facts believes they were built in anticipation of a firm order which did not materialize. Who was the anticipated customer? Cargo Facts believes, but has not been able to confirm, that it was Asiana Airlines, either directly or through a lessor. But whoever the customer, the freighters are real enough, and one of them will likely be delivered to AirBridgeCargo in November – We’ll know that for sure when it emerges from the paintshop, but AirBridge has confirmed that it is taking a 747-8F in November.

In addition to the orders for the 747-8 Freighter, Boeing has also booked firm orders for forty-two 747-8s in passenger configuration and nine in Business Jet/VIP configuration. Of these, twenty-two have been delivered, including fourteen in pax configuration and eight in BBJ/VIP configuration.

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