Executive Briefings

Airfreight Industry Moves to Smaller Freighters

In recent years there has been a slimming down, as it were, regarding freighters – a turning away from the jumbo 747s and 777s and toward the squat 737s and svelte 757s. The e-commerce revolution, especially in Asia, requires smaller freighters to make more frequent stops. But because there are no current programs to build narrowbody freighters from the factory, customers must rely on companies providing passenger-to-freighter conversions.

The type of conversions being ordered depends on the lanes of travel, said Rich Corrado, chief commercial officer with aircraft lessor Air Transport Services Group. "Express freight needs quicker service with more frequencies of flight," he said. "With a 747, you typically see three-times-per-week service. But for DHL's jets, they operate on a hub-and-spoke model and fly about three hours or less. You're just not going to fill a whole 747 for express shipments in a three-hour flight."

Today, there are more widebody freighters flying than narrowbodies by a factor of nearly two to one. But demand for new-build widebody freighters is decreasing, and widebody freighter conversion programs are all but dead. Take a trip to the aircraft purgatories of Victorville and Marana in the American Southwest and you're likely to see plenty of perfectly adequate 747-400Fs parked in the desert sun.

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The type of conversions being ordered depends on the lanes of travel, said Rich Corrado, chief commercial officer with aircraft lessor Air Transport Services Group. "Express freight needs quicker service with more frequencies of flight," he said. "With a 747, you typically see three-times-per-week service. But for DHL's jets, they operate on a hub-and-spoke model and fly about three hours or less. You're just not going to fill a whole 747 for express shipments in a three-hour flight."

Today, there are more widebody freighters flying than narrowbodies by a factor of nearly two to one. But demand for new-build widebody freighters is decreasing, and widebody freighter conversion programs are all but dead. Take a trip to the aircraft purgatories of Victorville and Marana in the American Southwest and you're likely to see plenty of perfectly adequate 747-400Fs parked in the desert sun.

Read Full Article