Freighter fleet numbers set to grow

28 / 05 / 2014

  • A Boeing 747 freighter

    A Boeing 747 freighter

FREIGHTER FLEET numbers look set to grow by 2033 despite the rise in bellyhold cargo capacity, according to a new range of demand forecasts by the specialist aviation consultancy ACMG.

According to Seattle-based ACMG, the air freight market will need about 100 new freighters per year over the next twenty years in a “low-growth” scenario, which is based on 3% annual growth in demand. This is equivalent to a 50% increase in the number of freighters by 2033.

A “high growth” scenario, which assumes 5% annual growth in demand for air freight services, would result in more than a doubling of the quantity of freighters in the global fleet by 2033.

This means that an average of 150 added freighters per year for the next twenty years, compared with the historic trend during 1990-2013 in which around 80 freighters (production units and passenger-to-freighter aircraft conversions) were added annually.

Even under the “extreme case” where there was no growth in air cargo demand over the next twenty years, ACMG states that there would be a need for about 60 added freighters per year, to offset freighters that would be retired from the existing fleet.

“Some vigour is returning to the air freight market, and when looking over the long term, the outlook for freighters is healthy,” said Robert Dahl, ACMG managing director, and one of the forecast’s authors.

The release of this year’s ACMG forecast comes soon after the recent launch of the first freighter conversion programme for the 737NG aircraft family in the narrow body market, and amid a period of increased preference by operators for new production freighters in the wide body segment.

Added Dahl: “The robust market for narrow body freighter conversions stands in stark contrast to the wide body freighter segment, where there is a strong preference for production freighters.

“We also found a strong belief by industry participants that belly capacity in passenger aircraft will threaten future demand for freighters in non-express applications.”

Commenting on the bellyhold versus pure freighter debate, Alan Hedge, ACMG’s senior director and a co-author of the latest forecast, said: “Belly capacity remains a key variable in the market for freighter aircraft. We expect that to remain the case.”