The velocity at which freighter aircraft are bought, sold, leased and traded can be quite rapid, especially in a healthy market for air cargo. The past few months have been no exception, and there have been numerous freighter transactions that caught our attention.
But just what makes a freighter transaction stand out among the sea of aircraft exchanges? Today we selected five recent transactions that we find to be either groundbreaking, or indicative of broader market trends. This list is by no means comprehensive, and so we invite you to add to the list in the “comments” section of this post.
- Alaska Air Cargo takes redelivery of first 737-700F
Arriving at a new era for narrowbody freighter conversions
Earlier this month, Israel Aerospace Industries received an STC for its 737-700 passenger-to-freighter conversion program, and redelivered the first freighter-converted 737-700F (30794) to Seattle-based Alaska Air Cargo. With this transaction, IAI, through its MRO and conversion arm, Bedek Aviation Group, redelivered what was not only the first 737-700F, but also the very first of the new generation of narrowbody freighters — 737NGs and A320Family.
- China Air Cargo takes redelivery of second 757-200PCF
A new carrier launches
In July, all-cargo carrier, China Air Cargo Co. Ltd received its AOC and took redelivery of its first freighter – a Precision-converted 757-200PCF.The carrier’s second aircraft (27517, ex-Xiamen) is also fresh out of the paintshop in its new livery after being converted to PCF freighter configuration at HAECO Xiamen by Precision Aircraft Solutions. As for the carrier’s plans for the aircraft, nothing has been announced, but Cargo Facts believes China Air Cargo will, initially at least, fly in support of one of the big Chinese express companies, and that the first plane has already begun flying commercially.
- Intrepid Aviation delivers second 747-8F to ABC
An already sizable freighter fleet continues to grow
Last Friday, US-based lessor Intrepid Aviation acquired a 747-8F from Boeing (63781), and placed it on long-term lease with Russia-based AirBridgeCargo. Intrepid’s first 747-8F (63695) was delivered to AirBridge in April 2017, and last Friday’s delivery was the second, and final, aircraft included as part of the deal. Although Intrepid has no plans to deliver more -8Fs to ABC, the lessor said regarding its latest placement with AirBridge, “the delivery is in keeping with ABC’s plan to become an all-747-8F operator over the next several years.”
The order dates to October 2016, when Intrepid reached an agreement with Boeing to swap two of its existing orders for 777-300ER passenger aircraft for 747-8 freighters. It was later announced that the aircraft were destined for AirBridgeCargo as part of an MoU ABC’s parent, Volga-Dnepr Group, had signed with Boeing during summer 2016, under which it agreed to take twenty 747-8Fs, “through a mix of direct purchases and leasing.”
Just how much progress has Volga-Dnepr made towards taking delivery of these twenty -8Fs? According to our records, last Friday’s delivery (63781) would be number seven of twenty, meaning the group could potentially take delivery of thirteen more -8Fs. So far, six have gone to AirBridge, and one has gone to Volga-Dnepr’s UK-based affiliate, CargoLogicAir. Cargo Facts has long believed that Volga-Dnepr affiliate airlines would eventually take delivery of most of these aircraft, the majority of which are likely to end up in AirBridge’s fleet.
- Suparna adds fourth 747-400F
An airline suddenly resumes investing in its widebody freighter fleet
Last month, ASL Airlines Belgium returned a 747-400F (35235) to lessor Aircastle, and on 19 September the aircraft arrived in Hong Kong, where it is now on lease to Shanghai-based Suparna Airlines (formerly Yangtze River Airlines). After an extended period during which the airline made no additions to its widebody freighter fleet, Suparna has suddenly returned to growth. The carrier now has four 747-400Fs in its fleet. Apart from its owned-fleet, Suparna and Atlas Air Worldwide (AAWW) inked a deal in June for the ACMI-lease of a 747F.
Just how many 747Fs Suparna plans to add in the coming months remains to be seen, but there is reason to believe the carrier and its affiliates will continue to grow. In May 2017, Suparna’s parent, the HNA Group, launched a new logistics subsidiary, HNA Modern Logistics. Shortly afterward, HNA completed the acquisition of Hahn Airport, and both of the Group’s cargo airlines, Suparna and Hong Kong Air Cargo, began to show a renewed interest in freighter aircraft.
HNA Modern Logistics has expressed its desire to fortify its presence in western China and in Europe, and has already selected Xi’an Xianyang (XIY) and Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN) as its future regional air hubs.
- Suparna Airlines ACMI-leased a 752-200F from SF Airlines
A surprising ACMI partnership
Hainan Group (HNA) subsidiary carrier Suparna Airlines (formerly known as Yangtze River Airlines) ACMI-leased a 757-200PCF from SF Airlines, and launched twice-weekly scheduled service between Zhengzhou and Taipei.
The lease is for just one year, but, given that demand has long outstripped capacity at SF Express’ air arm, why would it reduce capacity by leasing out one of its freighters to another airline at all? According to a report from the Civil Aviation Authority of China’s news site, the two carriers teamed up to “overcome the difficulty of applying for take-off and landing slots,” and to counter growing competition from other carriers on traffic moving across the straits.
In other words, as well as being flown by an SF Airlines crew, the freighter will likely be carrying SF Express cargo, on a route SF would have had trouble acquiring rights for. This comes as no surprise – SF Airlines’ Zhengzhou operations are limited to 737F flights to domestic destinations within China, while Suparna, which has long carried freight on behalf of China’s express companies, already operates flights from Zhengzhou to international destinations in both Europe and North America with its 747-400Fs.
Although Suparna Airlines does not currently operate any 757 freighters of its own, Cargo Facts believes the airline could be evaluating plans to add 757Fs to its own fleet.
Once again, we invite you to share transactions that have caught your eye in the “comments” section below. For a more detailed list of freighter aircraft transactions, remember to checkout our FAT Database.
Finally, those interested in learning more about freighter aircraft deals as they break, are invited to join us in Miami 2-4 October, for the Cargo Facts Symposium. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactssymposium.com.