“If you look at our Commercial Market Outlook, we’re predicting a 70% increase in freighters post-pandemic compared to pre-pandemic,” said Ted Colbert at the Dubai Air Show. Putting that into figures, the US airframer calculates that the 2019 fleet of 2,010 freighters will expand to 3,435 by 2040.
BGS converts both Boeing 737s and 767s to cargo configurations. Cargo space became a critically needed commodity during the pandemic, when bellyhold capacity – which makes up the great bulk of space for air freight – evaporated when thousands of airliners were grounded as passenger numbers evaporated.
Since then, demand for cargo space has grown significantly – initially to move medical supplies around the world. However, that growth seems certain to continue to handle the insatiable demands of the e-commerce sector.
“It’s all driven by the e-commerce boom,” Colbert said. While the current peak in demand may subside slightly, “it’s going to continue to be strong”. Older freighters will require replacing, he added and “we see that growth in the market continuing in 10 years”.
An indicator of the confidence Boeing has in the freighter conversion market can be seen from the fact that in the past year the company has announced no fewer than six additional conversion production lines for the 737-800BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter) in Canada (two), Costa Rica (two), China and the UK. All but the UK site will be operated with external partners.
Colbert described the companies as “really strong partners” that had the capabilities for sourcing feedstock aircraft, strong engineering skills and the ability to get the conversions done and delivered.
“We’re helping all our partners figure out the path to getting feedstock in place,” said Colbert.
With the upsurge in demand for repurposing passenger aircraft, “Getting [conversion] slots is not simple, which is why we’re adding capacity around the world.”
Boeing currently has around 200 orders and commitments from 19 customers for the 737-800BCF.
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