Cargo Facts Asia, the hugely successful first instance of what will become an annual event, took place in Hong Kong this week. It drew a capacity crowd, and featured great presentations and plenty of valuable networking time. We offer our sincere thanks to the sponsors who helped make it possible, the speakers who made it interesting and informative, and the delegates who made it successful.
We'll post a recap on the event website (www.cargofactsasia.com) next week, but for now I'll just share some of the more interesting news items that emerged during the course of the three days, as they appeared in yesterday's issue of Cargo Facts Update. Those of you who do not already subscribe to the weekly emailed Cargo Facts Update, and its companion the monthly printed Cargo Facts newsletter can click here for more information.
SF AIRLINES is planning a massive fleet expansion.In a presentation at the Cargo Facts Asia event, George Li Dongqi, President of Shenzhen-based SF Airlines (and VP of parent SF EXPRESS) said the carrier planned to expand its fleet from the current 25 narrowbody freighters (owned, chartered, and ACMI-leased) to over 60 units by 2015 and over 150 (including widebodies) by 2021. SF’s own fleet currently includes six 757-200Fs (with one more awaiting conversion) and one 737-300F (with a second unit awaiting conversion). Mr. Li did not specify which freighter types would be added to the owned fleet, but Cargo Facts believes the carrier intends to convert several more 757-200s to freighter configuration in the immediate future.
A new freighter type is about to take its first flight: At the Cargo Facts Asia event, Robert Convey, VP Sales and Marketing at AERONAUTICAL ENGINEERS Inc (AEI), reported that flight testing of the prototype AEI MD-80 converted freighter will begin in early May. He also disclosed that Alaska-based Everts Air Cargo will acquire the prototype unit (49470, ex-American Airlines) following completion of certification [FAT 000232]. In addition to Everts, AEI has firm orders for fifteen MD-80SFs from four undisclosed customers. Everts currently operates a thirteen unit freighter fleet, made up of two C-46s, eight DC-6s, one DC-9, and two EMB 120s.
Cathay will park at least one freighter: In his keynote address at Cargo Facts Asia, CATHAY PACIFIC Cargo Director Nick Rhodes said that in response to continued soft air freight demand, Cathay had decided to park one of its 747-400BCFs, and was considering parking a second if the market did not improve by the end of the second quarter. Regarding the soft demand, Cathay reported that although March cargo traffic was up over January and February, it was down 6.7% on a year-over-year basis to 853 million RTKs. For the first quarter, Cathay’s cargo traffic was down 8.0% to 2.20 billion RTKs, and with five high-capacity 747-8Fs joining the fleet in the last six months, it is not surprising the carrier would look to cut capacity elsewhere. However, despite the near-term concerns, Mr. Rhodes said he is upbeat about the long-term prospects cargo market.
BEDEK AVIATION GROUP (the conversion and MRO arm of Israel Aerospace Industries) completed a feasibility study on the development of a passenger-to-freighter conversion program for the Boeing 777. Speaking at Cargo Facts Asia, Bedek’s Corporate Deputy VP & GM, Marketing & Business Development Jack Gaber said the study results were positive, but that parent IAI had not yet authorized full-scale development of the program. Assuming that authorization is granted, Mr. Gaber said service entry for the 777BDSF would be in 2016 or 2017. Bedek currently offers passenger-to-freighter conversion programs for 737-300/-400, 767-200/-300, and 747-400 aircraft.