Etihad’s Main-Deck Expansion

Etihad Cargo 777F

Seen here getting ready to head out on a test flight, Etihad Cargo’s second 777F (A6-BBD, msn: 39692) is just about ready for delivery. While you may have heard last week that Emirates has expanded its fleet of 777 Freighters, crosstown rival Etihad is also adding capacity in the form of the 777F.

While the trio of successful Gulf startups (Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad) are all relatively young carriers, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is a particularly new and fast-growing company, having started operations in November of 2003 and now being a major player with a 69-strong aircraft fleet.

Etihad Crystal Cargo commenced operations in early 2005 with A300-600 and A310-300 equipment leased from Islandsflug/Air Atlanta Icelandic. Additional leased equipment followed as operations expanded, from Maximus Air Cargo (also Abu Dhabi based), World Airways, and most recently Atlas Air.

Etihad Cargo (the “Crystal” was dropped in 2012) was the launch customer for the Airbus A330-200F in 2010, taking delivery of two of the new freighters that year, the first at the 2010 Farnborough Air Show. The carrier is quite pleased with the A330-200F, but in 2008 also placed an order for a single 777-200F. When that aircraft was delivered in June of 2011, Etihad became the first (and thus far only) operator of both of these new types. A subsequent order for two additional 777 Freighters came in December, 2011. A6-BBD seen here, is the first of those to be delivered. The carrier also has two additional A330-200Fs on order with Airbus.

If mixing the 777F and A330-200F sounds somewhat eclectic, consider that Etihad also still ACMI leases two A300-600Fs from Maximus, two 747-400Fs from Atlas, and a single MD-11F from World, though that MD-11F will be replaced by another 747 from Atlas Air in February.

Etihad’s cargo expansion hasn’t been as rapid as that of its passenger network, but the airline is aggressively pursuing cargo opportunities. The carrier recently commenced a new cargo service between Abu Dhabi and Guangzhou using the A330-200F, which complements its existing main-deck services to Shanghai and Beijing and belly service to those two destinations and Chengdu.

Update: A6-BBD was delivered on Jan. 30, 2012, on ferry flight ETD9050 PAE-AUH.

© Photographer: Alex Kwanten

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