The changing freighter fleet

EVA 747-400F for websiteIt’s been a busy month for freighter aircraft transactions.

Regular visitors to this site will have seen a steady stream of reports chronicling the resurgence in demand for medium widebody freighters. Amerijet International, Cargojet, Star Air, and Uzbekistan Airways have all ordered or acquired freighter-converted 767-300s. And while there have been no recent orders for either production or conversion A330 freighters, Cargo Facts’ parent, ACMG, expects that will change in the future, particularly with respect to the freighter-converted A330-300

And although we haven’t been writing about it as much in the last month, orders and deliveries for narrowbody freighters continue at a blistering pace. And more than just orders and deliveries of freighters converted under existing P-to-F programs, we have also seen the launch of a 15-pallet 757-200 variant by ST Aero, and the launch (announced at the Cargo Facts Asia event in April) of the first 737 NG conversion program by AEI. We expect this to be followed by competitive 737 NG and/or A320 Family P-to-F program launches from other conversion houses and possibly from the manufacturers.

At the opposite end of the freighter spectrum, older types like the MD-11F and 747-400F/BCFs/BDSFs continue to be retired in increasing numbers as the far more fuel-efficient 777Fs and 747-8Fs enter the fleet. In just the last few weeks, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have parked 747-400Fs and Lufthansa retired an MD-11F.

However, with demand for international air freight beginning to pick up after a prolonged period of weakness, carriers are once again beginning to think about orders for new freighters.  EVA Air recently confirmed its intent to replace all of its MD-11 and 747-400 freighters with 777Fs, Lufthansa Cargo is contemplating more 777Fs, and AirBridgeCargo boss Dennis Ilin recently said his carrier was negotiating with Boeing about a potential move to an all-747-8F fleet. Granted, none of these have materialized into firm orders yet, but at least carriers are thinking about future fleet needs again, rather than just trying to survive for another quarter.

For the immediate future, there will not likely be any drastic changes. But before long we expect orders to start flowing in for newly-available A330-300Fs and 737-800Fs, and if not flowing in, then at least trickling in for 777Fs and 747-8Fs.

We will take a closer look at the current state of the large widebody fleet here on in the coming days, but for those interested in an in-depth analysis of the long-term trends affecting the worldwide freighter fleet of all types, ACMG has just published the 2014 edition of its annual Twenty-Year Freighter Forecast. The forecast details the future for all types of freighter aircraft, including production and converted freighters that are not yet available; the rate at which they will enter and leave the fleet over the twenty-year period; and the changing composition of the fleet over time.

For more information on the ACMG Twenty-Year Freighter Forecast, go to


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