ANALYSIS: Ageing 777-200s set to soldier on in Asia Pacific

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The average age of Boeing 777-200 aircraft in service with Asia Pacific operators is 12 years, but the venerable type will remain a key workhouse until replacements start to arrive at the middle of the decade.

According to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets database, Asia Pacific operators have 203 777-200s divided among seven variants. Among these, the most numerous is the 777-200ER powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines, with 65 in service in the region, and one in storage.

This is followed by 46 -200ERs and 41 -200s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines. The average age of these latter aircraft is 15 years.

The Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER that disappeared on 8 March while operating a Kuala Lumpur-Beijing service, bearing registration 9M-MRO, is typical of the region’s 777-200ERs. Powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 800s, the aircraft was delivered in 2002. At the time of its disappearance it was among the carrier’s younger -200ERs at 12 years old, against an average of 15 for the airline’s 777 fleet.

The biggest user of the type in the region is Singapore Airlines, with 29 -200ER examples in service powered by Trent 800s, and an average age of 12 years. It has also moved six examples to budget unit Scoot, which have an average age of 16 years.

Asia Pacific 777-200 operators

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Other major operators of the type are All Nippon Airways with 28 (16 -200s and 12 -200ERs), Japan Airlines with 26 (15 -200s and 11 -200ERs), and Korean Air with 18 -200ERs..

Flightglobal Ascend analyst Rob Morris says that despite the 777-200’s age, it still offers attractive seat mile economics, particularly on dense domestic and regional routes. He notes that there has been some parting out of 777-200ERs, mainly by SIA and MAS, but that there appears to be limited support for the type in the after sales market.

“At present there is a relatively limited secondary market for these aircraft,” says Morris. “There is potential for freight conversion, but with the current state of that market and reported conversion costs in the $30 million range, that market may take some time to eventuate. So in light of this it seems likely that a significant element of the fleet will remain in service with the current operators for some time to come. We may see more limited part-outs but that market will soon saturate.”

Boeing is studying a freighter conversion programme for legacy -200s, but the collapse of the widebody conversion market in 2013 and a poor order flow for new build maindeck freighters, such as the 777-200F and 747-8F, suggests the airframer will be leery of investing in a conversion option for ageing -200s.

Asia Pacific 777-200 fleet by powerplant

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Eventually the type will be replaced in Asia by newer aircraft such as the 787-9 and A350-900, which boast identical cargo capacity for six pallets. When this happens, the 777-200s future of as a viable passenger aircraft will look bleak.

Hugh Ritchie, of Aviation Consultants International, believes some examples now operating in the region could end up with smaller airlines in South America or perhaps Africa. He notes that the type will also get increasingly difficult to maintain as the average age rises to 15 years and beyond.