Executive Briefings

Freighter Aircraft Forecast Is Surprisingly Upbeat

Seattle-based Air Cargo Management Group has released the 2010 edition of its annual Twenty-Year Freighter Aircraft Forecast, and the news isn't half bad.

This year's report contains three separate forecasts in recognition of the ongoing debate regarding how airfreight demand will grow over the long term after the recession which depressed the market beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008.  Fortunately, the situation improved steadily from mid-2009, including a stronger than expected fourth quarter peak season. "To the surprise of most observers we find that air cargo traffic levels entering the second quarter of 2010 have nearly returned to their 2007 peak," said Robert Dahl, ACMG's managing director and lead consultant on the freighter forecast project.

Despite such positive developments it is important to recognize that the industry has lost three years of growth, and there is considerable concern about future traffic levels.  Optimists suggest that the airfreight industry is set to resume its historic 6-percent annual growth rate, although many observers question such an assumption, saying that the market has matured to the point that traffic is unlikely to increase much faster than global GDP growth (estimated to average 3.0 percent to 3.5 percent per year going forward).

"Given uncertainty regarding future growth in airfreight demand, ACMG this year examined three growth scenarios, and developed separate freighter forecasts for each." Dahl said. "Our 'high-growth' case is based on 6-percent annual growth in airfreight demand, while our 'low-growth' case assumes 3-percent annual growth."  The former matches the industry's historic growth level, while the latter case would be consistent with a mature market.  While most would agree that the airfreight industry is approaching maturity, the jury is still out as to whether we have reached the mature phase. Accordingly, ACMG also examined a scenario which assumes growth during the first years of the forecast period comes in at 6 percent per year, but that the growth rate gradually falls to a level of 3 percent in the final years of the 20-year period.

"In all three cases the freighter fleet begins with a global fleet of 1,560 units, a total that is down about 13 percent from a peak of 1,800 units in 2007," Dahl noted.  Under the high-growth scenario, the freighter fleet will grow to nearly 3,900 units at the end of 2029. Widebody models are expected to increase their share of the total fleet in continuation of a trend that has been evident for several years.

Taking into account growth requirements, and the need to replace a significant number of existing freighters that will be retired, there will be a need for 3,399 freighters over the next 20 years. ACMG predicts that 1,030 will be production freighters (mostly large capacity widebodies), while nearly 2,300 will be P-to-F conversions (split about 60:40 between narrowbody and widebody types).

Under the low-growth scenario the freighter fleet expands significantly, but to a lesser degree consistent with a growth rate that is 50 percent lower than in the high-growth case (3 percent per annum versus 6 percent).  The low-growth fleet total in 2029 is 2,535 units of all sizes, indicating the need for roughly 2,300 freighters to meet growth and replacement needs. The variable-growth scenario, not shown, falls between the other two cases, predicting a global freighter fleet of 3,111 units in 2029, and the need for 2,700 freighters for growth and replacement.

Visit www.acmgreports.com for information on pricing of the 50-page report, or contact Robert Dahl at rdahl@cargofacts.com.

Source: Air Cargo Management Group

Seattle-based Air Cargo Management Group has released the 2010 edition of its annual Twenty-Year Freighter Aircraft Forecast, and the news isn't half bad.

This year's report contains three separate forecasts in recognition of the ongoing debate regarding how airfreight demand will grow over the long term after the recession which depressed the market beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008.  Fortunately, the situation improved steadily from mid-2009, including a stronger than expected fourth quarter peak season. "To the surprise of most observers we find that air cargo traffic levels entering the second quarter of 2010 have nearly returned to their 2007 peak," said Robert Dahl, ACMG's managing director and lead consultant on the freighter forecast project.

Despite such positive developments it is important to recognize that the industry has lost three years of growth, and there is considerable concern about future traffic levels.  Optimists suggest that the airfreight industry is set to resume its historic 6-percent annual growth rate, although many observers question such an assumption, saying that the market has matured to the point that traffic is unlikely to increase much faster than global GDP growth (estimated to average 3.0 percent to 3.5 percent per year going forward).

"Given uncertainty regarding future growth in airfreight demand, ACMG this year examined three growth scenarios, and developed separate freighter forecasts for each." Dahl said. "Our 'high-growth' case is based on 6-percent annual growth in airfreight demand, while our 'low-growth' case assumes 3-percent annual growth."  The former matches the industry's historic growth level, while the latter case would be consistent with a mature market.  While most would agree that the airfreight industry is approaching maturity, the jury is still out as to whether we have reached the mature phase. Accordingly, ACMG also examined a scenario which assumes growth during the first years of the forecast period comes in at 6 percent per year, but that the growth rate gradually falls to a level of 3 percent in the final years of the 20-year period.

"In all three cases the freighter fleet begins with a global fleet of 1,560 units, a total that is down about 13 percent from a peak of 1,800 units in 2007," Dahl noted.  Under the high-growth scenario, the freighter fleet will grow to nearly 3,900 units at the end of 2029. Widebody models are expected to increase their share of the total fleet in continuation of a trend that has been evident for several years.

Taking into account growth requirements, and the need to replace a significant number of existing freighters that will be retired, there will be a need for 3,399 freighters over the next 20 years. ACMG predicts that 1,030 will be production freighters (mostly large capacity widebodies), while nearly 2,300 will be P-to-F conversions (split about 60:40 between narrowbody and widebody types).

Under the low-growth scenario the freighter fleet expands significantly, but to a lesser degree consistent with a growth rate that is 50 percent lower than in the high-growth case (3 percent per annum versus 6 percent).  The low-growth fleet total in 2029 is 2,535 units of all sizes, indicating the need for roughly 2,300 freighters to meet growth and replacement needs. The variable-growth scenario, not shown, falls between the other two cases, predicting a global freighter fleet of 3,111 units in 2029, and the need for 2,700 freighters for growth and replacement.

Visit www.acmgreports.com for information on pricing of the 50-page report, or contact Robert Dahl at rdahl@cargofacts.com.

Source: Air Cargo Management Group