Re: Are cargo planes generally old ?

Date:         12 May 99 02:49:09 
From:         Lukas Lusser <>
Organization: Europainstitut Basel
References:   1
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Hi Frank,

true - many dedicated cargo planes have been converted from passenger planes
after they already had a rather long career carrying people with the big
lines. This is especially true for numerous Boeing 727s and the many surviving
DC-8s of the -60s (and the CFM conversted 70s) series that serve with the well
known integrators in the US. Small fleets of "preowned" Jets of the first and
second generation (i.e. Boeing 707 / DC-8 up to DC-9-30s, Boeing 737-200s)
early Widebodies such as the L-1011, DC-10, Boeing 747-100/200 do also fly
with cargo companies around the world, i.e. in the Caribbean, in South
America, in Africa.

On the other hand, there definitely are large numbers of "new" freighters
flying - new meaning aircraft that were built and delivered as cargo planes.
Just to give you some examples:

Integrators also use large fleet of newly built freighters along the converted
former passenger planes:
- FedEx: Airbus A300-600s, MD-11s
- UPS: Boeing 757s, Boeing 767s

Many freight forwarders also use "state-of-the-art" equipment, mostly Boeing
747-400 Freighters (which have a short upper deck comparable to earlier Boeing
747s, but winglets and all the other features of the dash 400), MD-11s, Airbus
A300-600s, Boeing 757s. Examples:
- Singapore Airlines: Boeing 747-400F (commonality with large fleet of
Passenger 747-400s!)
- Cargolux: Boeing 747-400F, with some just up for delivery within the next
- CityBird (Belgium) Airbus A300-600F
- Cathay Pacific: Boeing 747-400F
- Air France: Boeing 747-400F (along with some -200F that were already built
as freighters)
- Lufthansa: MD-11 (just being delivered)
- Challenge Air Cargo: Boeing 757
- Asiana: Boeing 767-300F, Boeing 747-400F

The reasons behind the operators choice are numerous:
a) Converted passenger planes
Older, converted passenger planes might be less economic to operate in terms
of fuel consumption, at least if they are really used up to their maximal
gross weight. If they fly "light", i.e. if they fly on relatively short
sectors compared to the transcontinental or intercontinental range the planes
were initially built for, or if they just carrying voluminous, but light cargo
such as garments, cigarettes, they might well be competitive enough to earn
their living.

In addition to operating cost, do not forget capital cost: A thirty year old
Boeing 727 can be acquired or leased for a much lower price than a shiny new
Boeing 757 freighter. In addition to the lower cost of acquiring the aircraft,
the low price tag means that the owner won't go broke if it has the plane
sitting idle for a few days while it waits for new contracts. This is
especially true with the real oldies such as Douglas DC-3s, DC-6s and Convair
Liners (yes, some of them still fly!) which might still pay off even if they
only have one flight a month or so.

b) New freighters
Factors that speek for an acquisition of a brand new freighter can be:
- Commonality with an already existing fleet of passenger aircraft of the same
- Possible use of the aircraft as convertible passenger/freighter or as combi
- Need for large fleets of a common aircraft type (integrators!)
- Requirement for the long range or high payload of state-of-the-art aircraft.

- Noise and pollution regulation (an issue especially in Europe).

So you see, we cannot easily say that freighters are always old aircraft.
Depending on the need and the structure of the operator, of the type of
service intended and of capital available, a carrier may choose pre-used,
converted old passenger planes or newly built high-tech freighters.

Hope it helps

Lukas Lusser
Editor, Jetstream Swiss Aviation Magazine at
Bird Publishing's Ultimate Aviation Marketplace at
A Guide to Russian Airliners at