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Vol. 39, No. 6A
Interest in A330P2F conversions grows

Turkish carriers MNG Airlines and ULS Airlines Cargo are both considering A330P2Fs to renew their Airbus freighter fleets and could introduce at least five of the freighter-converted aircraft to Turkey over the next few years – permitted they can secure suitable feedstock. EgyptAir Cargo, meanwhile, which already operates two A330-200P2Fs, is preparing to take delivery of a third A330-200 (610) in 3Q19 and beyond the three, plans to convert up to four additional A330s currently operating in its passenger fleet. 

Although there are no new firm orders to report, current operators of Airbus-family medium widebody aircraft are increasingly looking to A330P2Fs to modernize their fleets. On the sidelines of Air Cargo Europe 2019, executives from MNG told Cargo Facts the carrier is planning to acquire three A330 conversions to eventually replace its A300-600Fs. ULS, meanwhile, is planning to add a minimum of two A330-300P2Fs. 

Starting with MNG, having operated both conversion and production variants of the A300 family of freighters, the platform has formed the backbone of the carrier’s fleet for many years. In 2012, when MNG added its first A330-200F (1332), the carrier appeared to be on a trajectory to replace its five existing A300-600Fs with production A330-200Fs. Despite outstanding orders with Airbus for three additional A330-200Fs, it remains unclear whether the carrier still intends to take delivery of new-build freighters.  
Either way, replacement is inevitable for MNG’s five active A300-600Fs. Although the carrier told Cargo Facts that the aircraft are currently a good fit for its operations, the cost of operating them is getting higher as they get older. MNG’s technical teams are currently looking for the right aircraft and conversion slots. While the carrier hasn’t signed any firm agreements yet, it hopes to be able to finalize deals this year. Whether a renewed fleet of one production A330 freighter and three converted A330s is sufficient would depend on market conditions over the next few years, MNG said. 

Turning now to ULS, which currently operates three A310-300Fs on an ACMI basis for Turkish Cargo, like MNG, no concrete conversion orders have been signed. The airline will opt for the A330-300P2F because its higher capacity makes it “a very good aircraft for the e-commerce business.” ULS expects to finalize agreements by the end of next year, depending on feedstock availability. ULS said that initially, it plans to continue operating the A310s alongside A330-300P2Fs for six or seven more years before transitioning to an all-A330F fleet. The carrier’s focus on ACMI operations will not change. 

One obstacle preventing the two carriers from pulling the trigger on new orders today, however, is the current feedstock situation. The availability of half-life engines remains a persistent issue. Additionally, the ongoing grounding of 737 MAXs has pulled airframes of all types back into service. For a combination carrier like EgyptAir, which operates eight A330s in passenger service, feedstock is not the issue. Rather, the carrier simply needs to wait for its parent company to release aircraft from passenger service. 

EgyptAir told Cargo Facts the carrier will ultimately consider adding a total of five to seven freighter-converted A330s – likely a mix of the -200 and -300 variant. The carrier’s first three A330 conversions all rolled off Airbus’ assembly line as passenger jets around 15 years ago. As for the remaining four -200s EgyptAir operates in passenger service, each unit is over 13 years old. The four A330-300s, however, are all of a newer vintage and are under ten years old. It therefore may not be long before EgyptAir moves forward with additional conversions. For now, the third A330-200 is finishing up conversion at EFW’s Dresden facility and is on track to be delivered by September. 

Sichuan Airlines postpones launch of freighter ops
Chengdu-based Sichuan Airlines plans to put its first A330-200F into commercial service by September, the carrier tells Cargo Facts. Originally, the carrier had planned to launch thrice-weekly flights between Chengdu Airport (CTU) and Brussels Airport (BRU) by the end of April. Even though the carrier has registered its first aircraft (1406, ex-Qatar Airways) on lease from BOC Aviation, it will be a few more months before the aircraft enters commercial service [FAT 004908]. In the coming months, Sichuan Airlines plans to add a total of three A330-200Fs – all on lease from BOC Aviation. The freighters were originally leased to Qatar Airways, but were returned in January, February and March, respectively [FATs 004811, 4835 and 4904]. 

New JV suggests HNCA angling for narrowbody operator Longhao Airlines

Late last month, a delegation from “a large state-owned enterprise” visited Longhao Airline’s parent company in Guangdong and agreed to establish a joint venture company, according to a statement from the carrier. The two companies will “promote the construction of the two bases in Zhengzhou and Guangzhou,” and will expand airport development and the launch of domestic and international routes. Sources familiar with the airline tell Cargo Facts the deal will likely stretch beyond a local JV and will include investment in the Longhao Group.

As for the identity of Longhao’s new JV partner, there are few candidates apart from the state-owned investment arm of the provincial government, Henan Civil Aviation Development & Investment Co (HNCA). Although details regarding the size and scale of the investment are slim at this point, Cargo Facts believes more information will surface next week, when Longhao is expected to launch scheduled freighter flights between Guangzhou Airport (CAN) and Zhengzhou Airport (CGO). 

Those familiar with HNCA may recall a 2013 deal between the conglomerate and Luxembourg-based Cargolux, under which HNCA acquired a 35% stake in the all-cargo carrier. For some time now, the pair was expected to launch a JV carrier, to be based out of CGO. Though Cargolux has gradually fortified its presence at the hub under the Cargolux and Cargolux Italia AOCs, plans for a new JV carrier, “Henan Cargo Airlines,” have been postponed multiple times. In contrast, Longhao already possesses a Chinese AOC and with adequate backing, should be able to grow its fleet rapidly. Up until now, much of Longhao’s business has focused on operating charter flights on behalf of SF Express. With new investment and CGO as a springboard for international flights, Longhao has become an airline to watch.
For more on Longhao’s expansion, see our story here.
Atlas confirms contracts with Asiana, DHL Express
On Wednesday, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings announced its carrier subsidiary Atlas Air would begin flying a third 747-400F on behalf of Asiana Cargo, the cargo arm of South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines [FAT 004909]. The company also confirmed its Southern Air affiliate had secured a contract with DHL Express to operate the first two of at least fourteen, and up to twenty-one, 777Fs the express integrator has on order with Boeing [FATs 004505–4525].

For Asiana, this is the third 747-400F Atlas has added for the carrier in as many years, following an initial trans-Pacific ACMI deal between Atlas and Asia made in February 2017 and a second, similar deal inked in September 2018. In addition to the Atlas-operated 747-400Fs, Asiana Cargo’s fleet includes seven 747-400BDSFs, four 747-400Fs, and one 767-300ERF.

As for the incoming DHL Express 777Fs, following the second 777F delivery, which is expected shortly, Southern Air will operate a total of eight 777Fs on a CMI basis for DHL Express. Cargo Facts reported on the first delivery to DHL Express, and the subsequent handover to Southern Air last month. Photos of DHL’s second aircraft (66080), currently undergoing assembly at Boeing’s Everett plant, suggested the unit was bound for the Southern Air fleet. A few weeks after the first 777F delivery, when DHL Express confirmed the aircraft’s placement with Southern Air, there was mention of a gradual phase-out of older 747-400s. Atlas Air confirmed in today’s announcement that two 747-400Fs currently operating for the express integrator will soon stop flying for DHL Express. Regarding the remaining twelve 777Fs DHL Express has on firm order with Boeing, Atlas says its affiliate carriers have an “opportunity” to operate additional 777Fs as they are delivered, but that DHL has not yet designated an operator.
Recent freighter aircraft transactions: 
Taiwan-based EVA Air retired a 747-400BDSF (27899), the final 747 in the carrier’s fleet [FAT 004910]. Last week, EVA took delivery of a fifth 777F (62828) from Boeing and has no additional freighters on order. 
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