New-build 767 freighters for SF Express? And who else?

Will SF Airlines’ freighter-converted 767-300BCFs be joined by new-build 767 freighters?

Cargo Facts has learned that the long-rumored negotiations between China-based SF Express and Boeing regarding an order for new-build 767-300Fs may have finally borne fruit, with SF placing a five-unit order.

SF Airlines, the air arm of SF Express, has made no secret of its plans to expand its widebody fleet, and has so far taken redelivery of five freighter-converted 767-300BCFs from Boeing. But as long ago as mid-2015, rumors began circulating that what SF really wanted was new-build 767-300Fs, and was in talks with Boeing about an order. Neither Boeing nor SF ever confirmed or denied the reports, and Cargo Facts’ view has always been that SF would almost certainly take production freighters if it could.

Nor was SF the only carrier rumored to be knocking on Boeing’s door ready to place a firm 767 freighter order. Amazon was said to want to order as many as 100, and UPS to want “a large number.” On top of which, both Delta Air Lines and American Airlines began to show interest in the passenger variant, the 767-300ER.

The problem was that Boeing had officially ended -300ER production, and had its hands full on the freighter side meeting the demands of FedEx (which had recently ordered 100 units) and the US Air Force (to which Boeing had committed to supply 179 767-based aerial refuelling tankers. Add in the fact that one of the lines Boeing was using for 767 production was shared with 747-8Fs, and it seemed the manufacturer was unwilling to take further orders.

But that changed on 1 February, with the announcement that UPS had placed a firm order for four 767-300Fs (as part of a larger order that included firming fourteen 747-8F options). At that time, we wondered whether the four 767s were just a one-time sweetener for the 747-8F deal, or whether Boeing had decided to open the door to 767-300 orders – freighter or passenger – from other carriers.

If the reports that SF Express has placed a firm order are true, it looks like the door is open. And with Amazon apparently about to enter the express market in competition with FedEx, UPS, and the USPS, we wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon were the first to walk through the door.

Want to learn more about the express industry and its need for freighter aircraft? Then join us at this year’s Cargo Facts Asia, to be held 23-25 April at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong in Shanghai. To check out this year’s agenda, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com.

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