Boeing’s latest forecast for the next 20 years issued annually suggests that world cargo will expand by 100% between now and 2033. 91% of all cargo by air freight will be in the northern hemisphere, between the US and Asia and Europe and Asia. 70% of all freighters will be large aircraft. By which Boeing means 744/748 and 777F. Airbus has no really efficient cargo aircraft operation although a few A330 are built, they represent a very small inventory.
Despite the growing belly cargo market made possible by huge underfloor areas on 748i’s, 777-300ER, 787, A380 and A350, Boeing claims that it would take a mix of ten of these aircraft to carry the freight of just one 777F.
When it comes to long range intercontinental cargo, only the large aircraft will do. They estimate 1360 aircraft will need replacing up to 2033 – especially the older 744 and MD-11F never mind the fast vanishing A300 series, 757’s and older smaller aircraft.
They predict annual growth of 4.7% so that by 2033 508 billion kilometres will be flown just by freighters annually. Over 1200 older aircraft will be refitted for cargo use as they leave passenger service – mostly 744, 737 and possibly older A321’s and A320’s.
30% of all freighter deliveries will be to East Asia, where intra-Asian cargo will grow dramatically but they will want control over what is being shipped from Asia to Europe/N America.
All in all the vast increase in air cargo and freighters Boeing predict is staggering. One might also say unsustainable. The amount of air freighter pollution this will generate is very significant as the freighters are rarely re-engiend, chugging along with engines long considered unsustainable by passenger airlines and frequently maintained to a much lower standard in non EASA/FAA regulated countries.
Yet we also have to bear one more thing in mind. As the only effective purveyor of large aircraft for cargo purposes it’s very much in Boeings interest to overstate the market while making it seem at least believable. In the end it’s the only way those 748F, 777F’s and 767F’s are going to get sold. Only one is selling well – the 777F – the 748F lurches along from one small order to another, the 767F probably has a couple of years production left in it but new orders are unlikely.
So with such a buoyant market where does Airbus sit? The A330Neo may prove a potential freighter if Boeing believe the market to be so strong and Airbus agree. There was always the original intention to produce the A380 freighter but Airbus stopped that in development, though it wouldn’t be difficult to restart it if the market exists for it. Now that would be one big freighter!! Yet it still wouldn’t have the nose loading capacity of the 748i, which is its biggest selling point.
All in all while from a commercial point of view and an enthusiasts point of view I think the cargo aviation industries growth is a good thing, the environmental damage and problems caused by such vast amounts of traffic as well as the likely huge increase in passenger traffic, well it seems more than a little worrying. Where is it all going to go and how are we going to cope with the gargantuan pollution problems it will create? More efficiencies, better engines and tighter regulation will be needed to ensure freighters are working at better than peak efficiency and every opportunity to reduce damage has to be taken. If not then it truly is unsustainable. The world doesn’t need freight by air that desperately surely? Is it that we’ve all became so impatient we have to have it now or never?
It’s hard being an aviation enthusiast who also sees the damage that can be done if the industry isn’t managed properly – so on the enthusing side, a dossier on my much much loved freighter collection. In truth it would be much larger but I just don’t have the space at RLSI for a freight terminal until the entire thing is revamped next year, and even then it will be small. On top of that freighters occupy a lot of prime real estate in the storage and shelving departments!