Boeing parks another 747-8F in long-term storage

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Boeing flew another 747-8 Freighter directly into long-term storage from final assembly on 1 July as demand for new main deck cargo aircraft continues to struggle.

The 747-8F assigned to Nippon Cargo Airlines completed the 2h flight from Everett, Washington to the Pinal Airpark in Arizona, where it joined a fleet of at least three other 747-8Fs -- each with a list price of $350 million -- in long-term storage at the location.

It was the second 747-8F assigned to Nippon Cargo Airlines that was flown directly to storage in the Arizona desert. The Japanese freight airline is operating two of the 14 747-8Fs it has on order, but has passed on receiving the last two scheduled deliveries.

Another 747-8F is scheduled for delivery to Nippon Cargo Airlines in September, but it is not clear if the carrier will be in position to receive the aircraft.

Flightglobal Ascend senior aviation analyst Rob Morris notes that the 747-8F assigned to Nippon Cargo Airlines still wears a Boeing registration, perhaps implying that the carrier has not obtained financing to complete the purchase.

The growing fleet of parked 747-8Fs reflects larger trends in the struggling air cargo sector, he says.

As demand for air cargo struggles, capacity continues to grow as belly cargo holds in passenger-carrying aircraft enter the global fleet in record numbers.

"With demand weak and capacity growing then yields can only be getting worse, which challenges main deck freighters," Morris says.

As a result, Nippon Cargo Airlines likely has no requirement to increase capacity with new aircraft, despite the improved fuel economy offered by the 747-8F over previous models.

"I'm surprised they haven't accepted the aircraft as replacements for a couple of 747-400Fs, but those are still relatively young and they probably can't get out of the leases without substantial cost," Morris says.

Boeing has responded to the plight of airlines such as Nippon Cargo by reducing monthly output of 747-8s by 13% to 1.75.

But the company remains optimistic that the air cargo market will rebound in the coming months. Boeing believes that the weakness in the air cargo sector reflects only a decline in world trade, not a structural shift in the modes that customers choose to move goods around the world.