A couple of months ago we reported that Saudia Cargo had agreed to purchase two 747-8Fsfrom Boeing. The first of these to break cover in public is seen here returning from an hour long test flight along the Pacific coast over the weekend. This aircraft, wearing a test registration on this day, will become HZ-AI3 (msn: 37562) on delivery to the Saudi Arabian flag carrier. The rumored delivery date is March 21, 2013, earlier than anticipated – but it is likely much of the refurbishing needed to get the aircraft ready for delivery was done late in 2012.
Both of Saudia’s 747-8Fs (the second will be msn: 37563, delivery expected this summer) were originally built fairly early in the 747-8F production program for Atlas Air, but Atlas exercised their right to terminate three aircraft for their own business reasons in 2011. For some time it was unknown where these aircraft would go (one aircraft – msn: 37564 – is still all white). It should be noted that Atlas did begin accepting deliveries of the 747-8F not long after this, and has taken seven aircraft thus far, including two seen previously on CargoFacts.net in Atlas and Polar liveries. Another Atlas Air 747-8F delivery is expected soon.
Saudia Cargo had a very good year in 2012, with its traffic up 19% and revenue up by a similar or larger amount year over year – but the carrier also operates a somewhat older fleet, including two 747-200 freighters. Saudia Cargo (the branding was changed from Saudi Arabian back to the older Saudia in 2011) leases a considerable amount of its capacity from other carriers, primarily Air Atlanta Icelandic, and other than the 747 classics operates one A310F (leased from ULS Cargo), a mixture of leased 747-400F and BCF aircraft, and four owned MD-11Fs, one of which was featured on CargoFacts.net earlier this year.
Saudia itself has a long history with the 747 and, upon delivery of the -8F, will become the only carrier to have flown every 747 type (-100, -200, -300, -400, -8, & SP). The carrier is still just now phasing out five 747-300 pax aircraft and continues to operate one VIP-configured 747SP for Saudi Arabian Royal Flight. On the passenger and belly side, recent developments at the carrier include the delivery of six 777-300ERs with additional deliveries (the carrier has 14 more on order) expected soon.
The new -8F freighter also sports a slightly revised, somewhat simplified livery, which will likely eventually be applied to the entire fleet.
©: Photographer: Alex Kwanten