Freighter high noon between Boeing and Airbus

For years, U.S. manufacturer Boeing has had a quasi-monopoly in freighter aircraft with a transport capacity of around 100 tons. This is likely to change by 2025 at the latest, as Airbus
wants to have a cargo version of its successful A350 passenger aircraft ready by then, offering the market a freighter capable of transporting 90+ tons. Probably a little earlier, there will also
be a new variant of the B777F; the Boeing 777X, though the relevant bodies have not yet given the go-ahead for the build program.


Boeing or Airbus? As in the passenger sector, there is likely to be an exciting race between the rival airframers for freighters in the near future. At least in the hotly contested segment of
long-haul aircraft with a transport capacity of between 90 and 110 tons. To date, Boeing has been the sole supplier in this segment. However, on Thursday (29JUL21), the European manufacturer’s
supervisory board gave the go-ahead to build a cargo version of the A350.

Airbus decided to offer the market a freighter version  -  photo: Airbus
Airbus decided to offer the market a freighter version – photo: Airbus

Entering service in 2025
Airbus Chief, Guillaume Faury said that the future A350 freighter would be based in large part on the A350-1000, the expanded version of the A350 jetliner. Built as a freighter, the aircraft will
have a payload capacity of more than 90 metric tons, he detailed. According to Faury, the cargo version is scheduled to enter service in 2025.
With this announcement, Airbus is flinging the gauntlet to its archrival Boeing – for the first time in the cargo segment. This is happening at a time where Boeing has maneuvered itself into an
extremely uncomfortable position due to the ongoing B737 MAX disaster, numerous management errors, and mounting financial troubles.

Still no smoke signals for the B777X
According to market experts, just how unsettled the U.S. company has become as a result of the many mishaps, is also shown by its hesitant behavior in the matter of the B777X. Instead of
announcing the program launch of the aircraft, which the market has been expecting for months, there are still no smoke signals from the headquarters in Chicago for a re-engined and re-winged
B777X compared to the passenger version.


Qatar Airways Chief, Akbar Al Baker expects Boeing to give the go-ahead for a modernized B777 freighter variant - picture: courtesy QR
Qatar Airways Chief, Akbar Al Baker expects Boeing to give the go-ahead for a modernized B777 freighter variant – picture: courtesy QR

Charming QR offer
Much to the displeasure of the influential opinion leader: Qatar Airways Chief, Akbar Al Baker. The extremely dynamic airline boss has been pushing for some time for Boeing to finally announce
construction of the freighter. As bait, Al Baker has offered that his airline would like to become a launch customer and buy 30 B777X freighters. “Mainly for the purpose of fleet
he says. Yet most of the First Generation B777 freighter models currently operated by QR Cargo are no more than 6 years old. According to the carrier’s website, 28 freighter
aircraft stand in QR’s books, among them 26 First Generation B777F and 2 B747-8F. Despite the Boeing advance, the Doha-based cargo carrier is also alternatively considering acquiring the

Only low-emission aircraft still have a chance on the market
If Boeing follows the Airbus example and announces the start of the B777X program, the airlines will be the real beneficiaries. They will then be able to choose between two similar products and,
in addition to the classic features such as range, load factor, or compatibility with the other aircraft in a given fleet, will be able to compare the environmental parameters of both models. The
latter is an increasingly important criterion in the fleet policy of carriers. ICAO is putting equal pressure on aircraft and turbine manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions. If they fail, it will
cost them much money, warns ICAO. According to the market-based Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), airlines must achieve neutral growth from the baseline
emissions of 2019 and 2020 onwards. Should they exceed this stipulation, they must offset emissions calculated on the basis of revenue ton kilometers (RTK), a measure of revenue generated moving
a metric ton by one kilometer. This puts the pressure on airlines to fly modern and fuel-efficient aircraft.

Heiner Siegmund

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Source: Cargoforwarder

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