“Over the last 18 to 24 months, we have seen industrial production come back. We’ve seen trade come back. We’ve seen a very strong and resilient cargo market,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes VP-marketing Randy Tinseth said. “We see strong demand potential for our freighter product line as we move forward.”
The upswing, which included a 9% year-over-year increase in global freight-ton kilometers in 2017, IATA data show, has breathed life into Boeing’s 747-8F and 767-300ERF programs.
Boeing has increased 767 production rates twice in the past two years, primarily to meet FedEx Express’s demands. The cargo carrier’s 46-aircraft order in July 2015 is the largest in 767 program history, and one of 11 it has placed. FedEx has taken delivery of 51 767-300ERFs and is scheduled to receive 54 of the 99 767s in Boeing’s backlog. UPS Airlines last month ordered four 767Fs to join the 59 it has in service.
UPS’s recent order included 14 747-8Fs, more than doubling Boeing’s 2017 747-8 order book of six aircraft and boosting the backlog to 25. The carrier, which had a 14-aircraft 747-8F order on the books from October 2016, has taken delivery of four.
Tinseth suggested that a comparable boost to the 777F order book may not be far off. “As we look at the 777 product line, we have a number of things in the pipeline around 777 freighters,” he told attendees at the recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Industrials Conference.
Boeing said it has booked just 13 777F orders since July 2015, including a single, three-aircraft commitment this year from an undisclosed customer. It has sold a total of 171 777Fs and started March with a backlog of 33.
Interest in Boeing’s factory freighters could grow if demand persists and the pool of viable used aircraft grows more shallow. Atlas Air Worldwide recently added six 747-400Fs to its fleet, and said it would not rule out an order for more 747-8Fs if the freight market continues to show strength and the timing of deliveries makes sense. Atlas operates 10 747-8Fs.
(Sean Broderick - ATWOnline News)