Mongolian Airways Cargo adds first 737-300F On 20 July, a 737-300F (25172, ex-China Postal Airlines) landed in Ulaanbaatar (ULN) on delivery to startup carrier Mongolian Airways Cargo [FAT 005072]. Long-term plans call for the conversion of at least two more 737-300s to support continued growth of the fleet, a source familiar with the startup’s plans told Cargo Facts.
The carrier has already acquired a second 737-300 (24328, ex-Belavia) in passenger configuration, which will eventually be converted into freighter configuration – likely after the Mongolian Civil Aviation Authority (MCAA) gives the carrier its approval to expand its fleet beyond the first aircraft. As for the identity of the conversion house, no deal has been announced but Cargo Facts believes PEMCO is working with the startup carrier. Feedstock units for further conversions have not yet been identified.
Once the first aircraft is operational, it will be the sole jet freighter operating on a Mongolian Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) but Mongolian Airways Cargo won’t be the first Mongolian carrier to foray into freighter operations. In 2013, Air Cargo Mongolia unsuccessfully tried to launch an operation built around a freighter-converted A300-600F where scheduled flights were to connect ULN with major hubs in East Asia and Europe. Although the carrier managed to add an aircraft in Air Cargo Mongolia livery (743, ex-MyCargo Airlines), no revenue flights were flown, and the aircraft quietly ended up in the Air Contractors fleet. Today, the A300-600F is operated on behalf of DHL Express by EAT Leipzig.
Turning to Mongolian Airways Cargo’s plan for a trio of 737-300Fs, with twenty tonnes of capacity – less than half the payload of an A300-600F – and eight pallet positions, it won’t be quite as strenuous to fill the aircraft with equipment, perishables, express parcels, or the myriad of other commodities that now move by air. A carrier operating on a Mongolian AOC will also find it relatively easier to secure flight rights to crowded airports in China, according to local media reports.
Air Hawaii Cargo prepares for launch Hawaii-based startup carrier Air Hawaii Cargo this week announced plans to launch twice-weekly trans-Pacific freighter services. Starting on 31 July, the flights will connect Los Angeles (LAX) and Hong Kong (HKG) on Wednesdays and Fridays via Honolulu (HNL) utilizing a 747-400F, according to a release from Air Hawaii Cargo. Given the company does not have a 747-400F on its own Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), another carrier will be providing the lift, but who?
Despite a softer air cargo market compared to previous years (see our “First Look” at June cargo traffic here), there is not yet a surplus of idled 747-400F production freighters. Luckily, Air Hawaii’s release provides a few clues as to who the operator might be – the most salient of which identifies the drop-off point for Los Angeles as Nippon Cargo Airlines’ warehouse. NCA, for its part, is in the process of bringing its 747-400F fleet back into service through a CMI deal with Atlas Air. Of the Japan-based carrier’s five owned 747-400Fs, three are already operating on an Atlas AOC, and a fourth (36135) is finishing up maintenance in Taipei (TPE) ahead of its return to service. Cargo Facts believes an NCA-owned 747-400F operated by Atlas Air will operate the route chartered by Air Hawaii Cargo. NCA’s fifth 747-400F is still in storage, but is expected to be operational before year-end.
Now that Ethiopian Airlines has successfully put the first of two 737-800SFs into regional service, the carrier is nearing an order for two more of the aircraft type, sources close to the carrier tells Cargo Facts.
Although a deal has not yet been inked, Ethiopian Cargo is expected to soon finalize a deal for two additional AEI-converted 737-800SFs to support the continued growth of its intra-Africa network. At present, ET’s 737-800SFs are used on short-haul routes that are within a four-hour range from the carrier’s Addis Ababa (ADD) hub – to destinations in East, Central and West Africa. Before the freighters were added, many of the routes now served with the -800SFs were limited to bellyhold capacity on narrowbody passenger aircraft. Increased demand for perishable exports, however, has justified freighter capacity to accommodate larger volumes.
As the launch operator for AEI’s 737-800 conversion program, Ethiopian Cargo took delivery of its first 737-800SF (29121) on lease from GECAS in March of this year [FATs 004794-4795]. Shortly after, it added a second, unit 32613 [FAT 004817]. Any additional 737-800Fs will likely be converted by AEI and leased from GECAS, which has outstanding orders and options for eighteen more 737-800SF conversions.
Further orders for additional freighters are expected in the coming years. The carrier previously forecasted as part of its Vision 2025 plan that its freighter fleet will grow to nineteen units over the next five years. Earlier this month, Ethiopian Airlines took delivery of its tenth 777F, which combined with the two 737-800SFs brings the fleet size to twelve units with no outstanding orders for more freighters. Cargo Facts expects ET Cargo to continue expanding its narrowbody freighter fleet beyond four units. Additional 777F orders are also likely under consideration.
Atlas Air begins operating 747F for Flexport after switch from Western Global On 7 July, Western Global Airlines (WGA) operated a 747-400BCF (26356) for Flexport’s own-controlled trans-Pacific operation for the last time. The following week, Atlas Air assumed control over the routes that bridge the forwarder’s Hong Kong (HKG) gateway with Los Angeles (LAX) and Chicago (ORD) using a factory-built 747-400F.
When the partnership between Western Global and Flexport was announced last year, the deal was originally supposed to last three years. Although there are a couple of sound arguments for switching to the production variant of the 747-400F – including up to ten additional tonnes of payload, and nose-loading capabilities – Flexport also said multiple “service failures” ultimately led to the switch.
As Air Cargo World reported, earlier this month Flexport filed a complaint against Western Global Airlines (WGA) in a U.S. District Court in New York, alleging that On Time Performance Reports submitted by Western Global indicated the carrier did not meet its contractually mandated 80% schedule reliability rate in March and April, which formed the basis for terminating the contract. For its part, Western Global disputed that it failed to meet its contracted schedule reliability threshold, telling Cargo Facts, “not a single delay was actually a carrier controllable delay and WGA’s performance was in fact 100% during the period raised by Flexport.” For more on the spat, see Air Cargo World’s story here.
As for Atlas, cooperation with Flexport is not new. In fact, when Flexport first dabbled in trans-Pacific freighter charters in November 2017, it chartered a 747-400F from Atlas. Moving forward, the Atlas-operated 747-400F will operate a schedule similar to that of WGA’s 747-400BCF, flying from HKG to LAX twice a week and from HKG to ORD once a week.
Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM) inducted a 767-300 (29228, ex-LATAM) for conversion to freighter configuration [FATs 005048-005049]. The aircraft was ferried from Wilmington (ILN) to Tel Aviv (TLV) via Shannon, after having been ferried from Miami (MIA) to ILN at the end of June.
Swiftair took redelivery of a 757-200PCF (24617, ex-American Airlines) on lease from Airwork [FATs 005069-5071]. The aircraft was converted by Precision Conversions at the AerSale facility in Good Year (GYR).
Vx Capital took redelivery of a 737-400SF (25773, ex-Yamal Airlines) following conversion to freighter configuration by AEI [FAT 005073].