By Scott Hamilton
Oct. 28, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing yesterday gave its clearest indication yet that it’s moving closer to launching the 777X Freighter.
In a message to employees in conjunction with its third quarter earnings release Oct. 27, CEO David Calhoun said, “We’re progressing in development across several key franchise defense programs, and on the 737-7, 737-10 and 777X development and certification efforts. We’re also evaluating the timing of a freighter version of the 777X and are beginning to lay the foundation for our next commercial airplane development program.” News reports earlier suggest Boeing may launch the XF at the Dubai Air Show.
On the earnings call, Calhoun was slightly more expansive. “Given the continued robust freighter demand and the compelling economics of the 777X, we are currently evaluating the timing of launching a freighter version of our 777X airplane.”
Calhoun said that cargo traffic is 8% higher year-to-date through August compared to 2019.
“With limited belly cargo capacity on passenger airlines, more dedicated freighters are being utilized to transport cargo. This is resulting in healthy demand for our freighter offerings, with 24 additional freighter airplanes ordered in the quarter and strong demand for Boeing converted freighters. In fact, our converted and new freighter orders through the first nine months of this year have already surpassed our highest annual freighter tally in history,” Calhoun said. “With sustained demand for air cargo tied to expanding e-commerce and air freight’s speed and reliability, we project the global freighter fleet in 2040 will be 70% larger than the pre-pandemic fleet.”
Airbus launched the A350F in July. But it didn’t announce launch customers or specifications. These are expected soon.
In an interview during the IATA AGM Oct. 3-5 in Boston, Christian Scherer, Airbus’ chief commercial officer, said the A350F is being offered to all-cargo and combination carriers. The latter are airlines that operator passenger and cargo services. These include airlines such as Air France, Korean Air Lines and Singapore Airlines.
The A350F, which is based on the A350-1000, has the same MTOW as the A350-1000, but it’s slightly shorter. It has the same engine, same wing, and same landing gear. There is some structural reinforcement, Scherer said.
“What matters to us is that we get good input from the customers that have convinced us to develop an airplane and introduce competition to a market that lacked competition. That we get input from those to finalize the specification, the capabilities of the airplane, the cargo loading system, the exact dimensions of the linings, and this and that,” said Scherer.
At Airbus’ third quarter earnings release today, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said “The decision to launch the A350F freighter is an available market decision. The freighter market is growing and we want to participate. With changed environmental rules from 2028, there is a large replacement market that we want to participate in from 2025.”
Airbus hasn’t had a lot of success with freighter aircraft. The end-of-life A300-600R became a dedicated freighter and some A310s were built with cargo doors. Airbus whiffed with the proposed A380F for technical reasons and a realization that loading from at the upper deck in a high wind wasn’t going to work well. The industrial delays also helped kill the A380F.
The new-build A330-200F also flopped. Only 38 were sold. Scherer, who participated in the decision to launch this aircraft, said Airbus should have used the larger A330-300 with its greater volumetric payload as the basis for a new production airplane. The aftermarket conversion has more than 100 slots reserved at EFW, a joint venture of Airbus. Most are for the -300. IAI Bedek recently launched its own A330ceo conversion program.