As the first week of 2020 draws to a close, we look back and reflect on some of the most important and newsworthy developments affecting freighter aircraft types in 2019, starting with widebodies. To begin with, we note that while stories involving the 747 are consistently among our most popular, in 2019 this seemed to hold particularly true, given the heightened uncertainty as to the future of the -8F program.
In November, Triumph Group began parting out its California factory, which has been the exclusive manufacturer of 747 fuselages since 1966. Boeing now has just seventeen 747s left on firm order, consisting of thirteen -8Fs for UPS and four for Volga-Dnepr UK. Coincidentally, 2019 also marked the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the very first 747.
However, even as the backlog for production -8Fs continues to fall, 2019 saw renewed interest in older 747s. Air Atlanta Icelandic picked up two 747-400BDSFs after they were withdrawn from service with Taiwan-based EVA Air. In September, a Thai Airways 747-400BCF was ferried after four-and-a-half years of storage to Jakarta (CGK) for heavy maintenance, presumably ahead of onward redelivery to another operator. In October, we also reported that a 747-400F that had been parked in Victorville (VCV) but brought out of storage in August would be leased from China Airlines to ASL Airlines Belgium.
The 777 finally got a conversion program in 2019, with GECAS and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) jointly launching the 777-300ERSF at Cargo Facts Symposium in October. GECAS told Cargo Facts that it was positioning “The Big Twin” as a good replacement for the 747-400BCF.
The 777-300ERSF doesn’t directly compete with the production 777F, which is enjoying robust demand from a range of operators. Qatar Airways took delivery of its twenty-first 777F in November and has five more due to arrive this year, while German carrier Lufthansa Cargo ordered two more in November, after deciding to retire all its MD-11Fs by the end of this year.
Another major 777 story was Emirates’ removal of two leased 777Fs, leaving the Dubai-based carrier with eleven 777Fs. The second off-lease 777F subsequently became the first 777F for Kalitta Air. Emirates confirmed to Cargo Facts that it would look at alternatives to own-operated freighters as dry leases expire and as its belly capacity expands. The carrier currently makes use of ACMI capacity provided by Cargolux and Etihad.
In September, we learned that Amazon would be transferring two 767-300Fs being flown on a CMI basis from Atlas Air to ATSG affiliate carrier Air Transport International (ATI). These two aircraft, which continue to be leased from Atlas Air’s leasing arm Titan Aviation Holdings, have already begun flying with ATI.
Join us Feb. 3-5 for Cargo Facts EMEA 2020, the event serving as an international platform providing attendees with a direct connection to leading EMEA innovation executives. To register and for more information about the event, visit www.cargofactsemea.com.