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JUN 14
Vol. 39, No. 6B
Volga-Dnepr firms up order for nine 777Fs

Less than one year after expressing interest in the 777F platform, a UK offshoot of the Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Group has firmed up an order for nine 777Fs [FATs 004921-4929]. Although the deal was finalized in December 2018, the order from Volga-Dnepr UK Ltd. is only now surfacing in a recent update to Boeing’s order book.

While a 777F purchase has been expected from the group, the size and timing of the orders had until now remained undefined. Last year during the Farnborough International Airshow, the Group and its UK-based affiliate, CargoLogicHolding, inked an LOI with Boeing for the purchase of up to twenty-nine 777Fs. Not to be confused with a firm order for twenty-nine aircraft, we note that orders stemming from LOIs often appear in batches, and when Volga-Dnepr’s 777F LOI was first announced, no delivery timeline was provided. Volga-Dnepr could not be reached for comment ahead of publication, but Cargo Facts would not be surprised if more details related to the order emerge next week during the Paris Air Show.

As for the remaining twenty 777Fs included in the original LOI, whether those will materialize into firm orders and future deliveries for all twenty remain to be seen. Inevitably, Volga-Dnepr Group carriers will require more widebodies to replace aging 747-400Fs, or to add capacity. Replacement will not be an urgent issue in the near-term, however, as most of the 747Fs are quite young – the oldest, a 747-400F operating in CargoLogicAir’s fleet, is just under fifteen years old. Given that Boeing is widely expected to one day launch a successor to the 777-200F, batches of 777F orders linked to the LOI could span not only across time, but also 777 models.

NCA's 747F fleet to be fully operational ahead of peak season
Following a maintenance check in Taiwan, a Nippon Cargo Airlines 747-400F (36135) will be returned to commercial service, to be operated on a CMI basis by Atlas Air [FAT 004930]. A fifth 747-400F (36133) is not far behind, and NCA tells Cargo Facts that once the two 747-400Fs begin operating, which will occur ahead of this year’s peak season, the entire NCA-owned 747F fleet will be back in service.

Prior to June 2018 when NCA was forced to ground its own-operated fleet due to issues with maintenance records, NCA operated eight 747-8Fs and three 747-400Fs on its own AOC, while Atlas Air operated two other 747-400Fs owned by the Tokyo-based carrier on a CMI basis as part of a 2016 agreement [FATs 003591-3592]. Less than a month following the June 2018 grounding, NCA gradually began putting its eight-strong 747-8F fleet back into commercial service on an aircraft-by-aircraft basis. By January 2019, all eight 747-8Fs were once again operational.

As for the carrier’s 747-400Fs, it was decided that they would not be returned to service under NCA’s AOC. Instead, in an effort to streamline its operations, NCA decided in August 2018 to consolidate the aircraft operating on its own AOC to a single platform – the 747-8F. The three 747-400Fs previously operated by NCA, meanwhile, like the carrier’s other two 747-400Fs, would return to service on an Atlas AOC as part of an agreement for expanded CMI flying the two carriers reached in January [FATs 004760-4762].

Following the return to service of 36132 in February, Atlas today operates three 747-400Fs on a CMI basis for NCA. The fourth aircraft (36135), meanwhile, departed Victorville Airport (VCV) on 10 June, where the aircraft had been stored since fall 2018, and was ferried to Taipei (TPE), where it will undergo maintenance checks ahead of planned reentry into commercial service. NCA’s final inactive 747-400F (36133) remains in storage at VCV, but is on track to return to service later this fall. Regarding schedules for the remainder of the year, NCA says discussions with its customers are ongoing and that decisions will likely be made soon.

Emirates removes another 777F, charters more capacity from Etihad

Emirates this month withdrew from service another 777F (35607) which was on lease from Dubai-based DAE Capital [FAT 004911]. A senior executive with the carrier confirmed to Cargo Facts that the aircraft will be leaving the fleet shortly and that, effective from this summer, the own-operated EK freighter fleet will consist of eleven 777Fs. 

In a move that closely resembles a transaction which occurred in April when Emirates returned a leased 777F to Titan Aviation Holdings (35606), it appears that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways almost immediately began supplementing lost capacity with charter flights for Emirates. Based on data from Flightradar24, the recently parked 777F (36707) last flew on 3 June, operating a test flight around Dubai. This week, an Etihad-operated 777F (39682) began flying between Dubai (DWC) and Hong Kong (HKG), joining a 777F that Etihad already operates for Emirates (60509) [FAT 004913].  

Changes to Emirates’ 777F fleet follow the carrier’s 2017 decision not to keep two ACMI-leased 747-400ERFs that had been operated by TNT Airways for nearly a decade. Is this a sign more fleet changes are on the horizon? Emirates told Cargo Facts that, as leases on its own freighters start to expire, it would look at alternatives to renewing these dry leases, such as adding charter or ACMI-lease capacity instead. As it stands now, Emirates leases capacity on three aircraft – two Etihad 777Fs and one Cargolux 747F. 
ATSG readying recent 767 conversions for Amazon ops
Last week, Air Transport International began operating another freighter-converted 767-300BDSF (26915, ex-30 West) on a CMI basis for Amazon [FATs 004886-4887]. At least two more recently-redelivered 767-300BDSFs owned by ATSG affiliate Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM) were recently leased to Amazon (25200, ex-American Airlines and 26912, ex-Air New Zealand) and will soon follow 26915 into the ATI fleet for CMI ops for Amazon Air [FATS 004914-4919].

The three aircraft are part of a deal Amazon and ATSG reached in December 2018 to lease and operate at least ten more 767Fs, and up to twenty-seven additional freighters for Amazon. According to the original deal, ATSG affiliates will put at least five 767Fs into service for Amazon each year in 2019, and 2020, respectively. For more on the story, see our website here.
Recent freighter aircraft transactions: 
ANA Cargo took redelivery of a 777F (65757) from Boeing [FAT 004920].

Guam-based all-cargo carrier Asia Pacific Airlines took redelivery of a third freighter-converted 757-200PCF (25140, ex-OpenSkies) following conversion by Precision Aircraft Solutions [FAT 004931 ]. Touch labor for the conversion was performed by Flightstar Aviation in Jacksonville (VQQ). The aircraft is the third in a trio of 757Fs the carrier is gradually introducing to replace its aging 727Fs, the last of which (22462) will continue to fly until the latest 757 conversion commences service next month. 

Canada-based Avmax took redelivery of its first of two combi-to full-freighter converted 737-400Fs (25099, ex-Alaska Airlines) it has on order with PEMCO World Air Services. Avmax tells Cargo Facts that a second 737-400 combi (25100) has also been converted to full-freighter configuration and that it is considering full-freighter conversion as an option for the remaining three 737-400 combis in its portfolio [FAT 004932].
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