NCA to offload 747-400Fs, focus on 747-8F platform as part of restructuring plan

Nippon Cargo Airlines plans to return all eight of its 747-8Fs to commercial service, but will likely retire the three remaining 747-400Fs in its fleet.

On 17 August, Nippon Cargo Airlines submitted an improvement plan to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) that centers around “revising the flight scale to match the size of the staff” and, according to a statement released by the carrier’s parent NYK Group, will include consolidating the fleet and maintenance operations to a single platform based on the 747-8F.

The detailed improvement plan was in response to a mandate for a Business Improvement Order NCA received from MLIT on 20 July. Two-months prior, an investigation by Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) discovered the airline had omitted multiple incidents involving its aircraft, and subsequently launched an audit of the airline which prompted NCA to ground its entire eleven-unit 747F fleet on 17 June. A single 747-8F was returned to scheduled service on 5 July, and since then, a second aircraft has resumed operations.

NCA’s investigation places the blame for the improper maintenance records on an understaffed maintenance department that failed to add adequate resources back in 2012 when the airline began adding 747-8Fs to its existing fleet of 747-400Fs. Although the carrier’s fleet had increased by a factor of 1.6 between 2011 and 2016, maintenance resources were only added incrementally.

Moving forward, in an attempt to “rebuild from scratch,” the airline will focus on the 747-8F platform and will streamline its fleet and maintenance operations. This likely means offloading the three 747-400Fs currently in its fleet. It should be a seller’s market for the carrier’s three relatively young -400Fs – all of which are 2007/2008 vintage.

Meanwhile, as NCA works to bring its fleet back up to standard, the company will continue to leverage its strategic partnership with All Nippon Airways (ANA) to bolster its internal maintenance resources while outsourcing structural repair work its own maintenance facility can’t accommodate to Hong Kong-based HAECO and Taiwan-based EGAT. In April of this year, NCA received five maintenance experts from ANA, and three more personnel will be added in September.

Bearing the responsibility for the improper maintenance records are at least three senior executives. Two executives will receive pay reductions during the final three months of 2018, while Kiyohji Matsuda, SVP, engineering & maintenance, will retire in August.

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