The past year 2021 has seen record sales of Boeing freighters. After getting to eighty on December 21 thanks to an order for nineteen 767-300Fs from UPS, Boeing announced on January 6 that it had received another order before the end of the year from Atlas Air. The logistics company has bought four 777Fs. Boeing’s freighter deals get to 84 in 2021.

“This latest order for nineteen jets bookends an incredible year for the Boeing Freighter family,” Ihssane Mounir, Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales and Marketing, said in December after the UPS order. Unless the Atlas order was listed before as from an undisclosed customer (which Boeing hasn’t communicated), Boeing sold 84 new freighters in 2021 compared to 23 in 2020 and 28 in 2019. 

FedEx ordered eighteen 767-300Fs in June, while Air Tanzania bought one in July. But Boeing sold 42 777Fs in the past year, including five to Silk Way West Airlines, four to FedEx between June and September, two each to Maersk, CMA CGM Air Cargo, Emirates, one to Lufthansa, plus another 22 to undisclosed customers. The 747-8F, going into its final year of production, sold four to Atlas Air. The latest 777F order from Atlas is its first direct purchase for the type and brings the triple seven fleet to eighteen. 

UPS placed a follow-on order for nineteen 767-300Fs on December 21. (Boeing)

For UPS, the latest 767 order will bring the total number of this type to 91. The express carrier has been the launch customer of the 767 freighters back in 1995. Since that year, UPS has taken delivery of 132 freighters from Boeing, of which this year until December 1 five 747-8Fs, and two 767-300Fs. The airline has three more -8Fs and a single 767 from a previous order on the backlog.

The order is part of the company’s capital expenditure plan outlined in June during its Investor and Analyst’s Day when it said it will acquire 27 aircraft in the next three years. At the end of this period, UPS will start replacing its Boeing MD-11s, of which it has some forty with the oldest over 27 years. The newly ordered 767s will join between 2023 and 2025.

ST Engineering delivered its 50th 767-300BCF this week, This freighter is going to LATAM Cargo. (Boeing)

Boeing’s freighter backlog as of November 30 consists of seven 747-8Fs for UPS and Atlas, 45 767-300Fs for Air Tanzania, UPS, FedEx, and undisclosed customers, and 65 777Fs for Maersk, Air China, UPS, FedEx, Lufthansa, CMA CGM, DHL, Emirates, Hong Kong International Aviation, LATAM Cargo, Silk Way West, Volga Dnepr, and undisclosed customers.

The key question for 2022 will be how Boeing will address the market for new(er) generation freighters. In its latest commercial market outlook, it expects demand for 440 medium and 450 large widebody aircraft until 2040. The freighter market itself is set to grow from 2.010 to 3.435 aircraft, but this includes conversions of both single-aisle and widebodies. Boeing has a significant share here with its own Boeing Converted Freighter lines and that of other companies like IAI and Etihad. This week, ST Engineering delivered the 50th 767-300BCF, an aircraft destined for LATAM Cargo. In our feature last month, all agree that the demand for freighters will continue.

When will Boeing launch the 777-8F?

But while Airbus launched its A350F this summer as in steadily announcing orders for the new-generation type, Boeing is undecided when it will launch the 777-8 Freighter. As reported here, Boeing wasn’t ready yet to launch the program in November at the Dubai Airshow as it is still fine-tuning the design specifications.

Ihssane Mounir said there is plenty of time to launch until new and stricter environmental and noise guidelines become effective in 2027, making the current freighters unsellable. He didn’t exclude that Boeing would seek an exemption to the new rules, but this would mean a defeat over Airbus which has been able to launch a new generation freighter in time and will start delivering the type in 2024. Another option Mounir mentioned in Dubai was going for a new engine program on the 767. There has been speculation that Pratt & Whitney would offer the Geared Turbofan, but even at its uprated thrust version of 34.000 pounds on the recently announced GTF Advantage this engine still falls short of the 62.100 pounds that are needed for the 767.

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