On 26 October, SF Airlines’ first 747-400ERF (35173) exited maintenance and took to the skies above Shenzhen’s Bao’an International Airport (SZX) where the aircraft successfully completed its Chinese airworthiness test. The airline affiliate of SF Express confirmed that the aircraft is ready to enter commercial service and will be active ahead of this year’s “11.11” shopping holiday.
The large widebody is the first of two ex-Jade Cargo 747-400ERFs the carrier won in a December 2017 auction that was hosted on Alibaba’s Taobao online marketplace. In June of this year, the aircraft was inducted for maintenance at GAMECO’s MRO facility in Guangzhou. The second 747-400ERF (35174), meanwhile, remains in storage at Shanghai Pudong (PVG).
Although this is the first large widebody aircraft operating in SF Airlines’ own livery, Atlas Air has been operating a 747-400F on an ACMI-basis for SF since the beginning of the month. At present, the Atlas aircraft is utilized on trans-Pacific routes between China and North America. Returning to SF’s own large widebody, the aircraft is destined for long-haul international service. In the near-term, however, the aircraft may operate domestically, within China. This week, the aircraft is scheduled for flights between SZX and Changzhou (CZX), according to Flightradar24.
Since launching air operations in 2009, SF Airlines has maintained the steady growth of its freighter fleet, and now operates the largest freighter fleet of any airline based in China. The SF Airlines fleet currently numbers currently 48 freighters, including five 767-300BCFs, twenty-five 757-200Fs, fourteen 737-300Fs three 737-400Fs, and the recently-added 747-400ERF, according to the airline.
Looking ahead, SF Airlines has more 767-300s and 757-200s in conversion and further out, has 737-800BCF conversions on order with Boeing. In parallel with the fleet expansion, SF is also planning a massive air hub near Wuhan, to serve as its global hub.