After lagging the general recovery for several years, the air cargo market picked up strongly in the first half of 2017 and is expected to grow a nearly 5% annually through 2025. That is happy news in Seattle and at Boeing cargo-conversion sites, as the OEM provides more than 90% of freighter capacity.
Over the next 20 years, Boeing is projecting a need for 1,100 narrowbody freighters, all of which will be converted from passenger models. And it sees a need for 460 widebody conversions, including converted 767s.
“Boeing sees continued strong interest in the 767BCF and continues to invest in providing this great product to our customers,” says spokesperson Teresa Kuhn. “We are actively working with customers to identify and obtain feedstock.” The OEM is also looking at other candidates for widebody conversions, including a possible 777BCF offering, depending on future market demand.
Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing cargo market, and Boeing should be well-positioned here. Boeing Shanghai, a joint venture between Boeing, Shanghai Airport and China Eastern Airlines, is a center of excellence for converting 737NGs into freighters. But the facility need not rely on freighter demand entirely. It is also a center for 787 heavy maintenance and modifications and supports 737s, 767s, 777s and 747s with major and minor checks as well as modifications.
Airbus and other airframe OEMs are entering the cargo-conversion market of course. But Boeing’s strengths in conversion experience and in widely operated candidates for conversion, both twin-aisle and narrowbodies, will likely preserve its dominance of this again very robust market.