New forecast predicts need for 3,000 freighters by 2037

The new 20-Year Freighter Forecast, released this week by Cargo Facts Consulting (CFC), comes at an exciting time for the air freight industry.

After more than 15 years of mostly unimpressive performance, global air freight demand registered nearly double-digit growth in 2017. Furthermore, during the past twelve months, passenger-to-freighter (P-to-F) programs have been certified for the 737NG and A330-300 models, signaling the beginning of a shift within the freighter fleet to these newer types.

There have also been important developments in the production freighter segment, including the news that Airbus is considering the launch of a freighter variant of the A330-900 model. And at the smaller end of the production freighter continuum, we have seen the launch of the ATR 600F and Cessna 408 SkyCourier models in the turboprop segment.

The CFC forecast covers both the jet and turboprop/regional jet (RJ) segments of the market.

Starting with fleets of roughly 1,700 jet freighters and 250 turboprop/RJ freighters today, the forecast predicts growth through 2037 of the jet freighter fleet to about 2,800 units, and growth of the turboprop/RJ freighter fleet to 500 units. In addition to growth, over three-quarters of the freighters in today’s fleet will be retired over the next twenty years, leading to an overall requirement for the addition of 3,000 freighters (an average of roughly 150 added units per year). The 150 units will consist of approximately 30 turboprops/RJs, 60 narrowbody jets and 60 widebody jets. The totals include both production freighters and P-to-F conversions.

The forecast shows the development of the future freighter fleet by size category (turboprop/RJ, narrowbody, medium-widebody and large-widebody jet) in five-year increments, taking into account an assessment of new-build freighter production, passenger-to-freighter (P-to-F) conversion activity, and the retirement of freighters from the existing freighter fleet.

In addition, Cargo Facts Consulting predicts the composition of the 2037 fleet by model, based on assumptions that are discussed in the report regarding when existing freighter programs will be terminated and new programs will be introduced.

The new forecast is based on average annual growth in air cargo demand of 4% per year. That figure is significantly below the impressive, but unsustainable, 9.0% growth reported by IATA for 2017, but it is well in excess of the roughly 3% annual growth in demand registered since 2000. Assumed air cargo demand growth is the primary factor impacting growth in demand for freighter aircraft.

Uniquely among other publically available freighter forecasts, the Cargo Facts Consulting forecast includes sensitivity analyses showing the impact of different input assumptions. For example, if demand growth averaged 5% per year (not 4%), the global fleet of jet freighters would grow nearly 20% more, to almost 3,400 units in 2037. The report also shows sensitivity of future freighter demand to changes in assumed freighter productivity, and to shifts in the portion of air cargo carried on freighters versus the share carried in the belly compartments of passenger aircraft.

Another unique feature is the revamped online interactive Forecast Analysis Tool for the jet freighter segment, which accompanies the report, allowing users to select their own assumptions regarding the three input variables noted above, and to view how various scenarios impact future growth of the jet freighter fleet.

Cargo Facts Consulting (formerly known as Air Cargo Management Group) is the premier aviation consulting firm specializing in the freighter aircraft, air freight and express businesses. For more information, please visit CargoFactsConsulting.com.

The Cargo Facts Freighter Forecast has been the fundamental resource for strategic analysis of the current and future freighter fleet since 2005. For more information or to order the newly released edition, please visit FreighterForecast.com.

Robert Dahl

Managing Director, Cargo Facts Consulting

rdahl@cargofacts.com

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