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Editorial comment - December 2017

This issue contains a feature on freighter conversions. In the process of compiling the article, differences emerged between the various interviewees on the importance of e-commerce to the cargo industry
 

This issue contains a feature on freighter conversions. In the process of compiling the article, differences emerged between the various interviewees on the importance of e-commerce to the cargo industry. A figure of 10% of the total market was quoted, while growth was attributed to general cargo. Someone else suggested that belly freight could be important to e-commerce, especially as it uses standard LD3 containers.


Certainly, there was one important element missing in the market. The Boeing 737 seems to be the bottom line in freighters but e-commerce needs to deliver packages to customers in as short a time as possible. Surely there should be smaller freighters operating into smaller airports to extend the delivery chain? While there are some turboprop freighters, the numbers are not that significant, suggesting that online retailers were not that interested in adding the extra link.


Just before MRO Management went to press, ATR announced that FedEx was purchasing 30 ATR 72-600F aircraft with options to purchase up to 20 additional ATR 72-600Fs. These aircraft will have a forward large cargo door and structural tube from IPR Conversions plus a rear upper-hinged cargo door. They will have a capacity of 74.6m³ and accommodate up to seven LD3 containers, or five 88in x 108in pallets, or nine 88in x 62in pallets. FedEx pointed out that the more than 300 FedEx feeder aircraft currently in service do not carry containers or palletised freight, so these new features will help the company better serve customers in the air freight market where palletised shipments are the norm.


Delivery of the first aircraft is expected in 2020, with subsequent deliveries of about six aircraft per year over a five year period. That timing matches the appearance of the first A321 freighters, where the ability to carry LD3 containers in the belly is seen as an advantage.


Perhaps the e-commerce drift down has started?


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