DHL Expresses faith in new freighters

The boom in e-commerce is fuelling fleet growth at parcels carrier DHL Express MENA.

Improvements: The new Boeing 767-300 freighters offer considerably improved range and payload over their predecessors. Picture: DHL Express MENA.

The global pandemic has had many effects on the international business community. One of them is huge growth in e-commerce as consumers increasingly order goods online.

Moving those goods is a major factor behind a leap in the capacity at DHL Express MENA.

The carrier started the year with six Boeing 767-200SF freighters based at its Bahrain hub. By October, that fleet will have shrunk to three, but it will have been joined by seven 767-300s.

The average age of the newcomers is 18 years, less than half that of the aircraft they are replacing and supplementing, “thereby offering operational continuity into the next decade”, noted Richard Gale, head of DHL Aviation Middle East and Africa. On top of that, he added, they offer considerably improved range and payload.

“The freighter type is one of the world’s most efficient, and boasts the lowest direct operating costs and best payload configuration, making it an ideal fit in the midsized cargo market,” said Gale.

The three -200SFs leaving the fleet will return to US-based lessors ABX and CAM.

The first of the new aircraft arrived in March and the remaining six will be in place by late October. All are ex-American Airlines passenger aircraft.

Of the six, three were converted by Boeing as 767-300BCFs, while the others went through IAI’s conversion process in Mexico, becoming 767-300BDSFs.

The new freighters have glass cockpits and their later-generation engines, together with winglets that give around a 4% improvement in fuel efficiency, add up to much more capable aircraft. These factors will also help DHL achieve its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

The 767-200s’ maximum operating net weight was around 35 tonnes. The new aircraft top out at around 55 tonnes. Payload is up 46% and, whereas the older aircraft “would start running out of steam at four hours, these are seven to eight hours”, said Gale.

The aircraft currently largely operate routes around the Middle East, with the longest sector being a four-hour run south to Nairobi.

However, Arabian Aerospace understands that the new aircraft could, potentially, fly to destinations as far afield as China or the UK.

Alan Dron reports.