Future of parked 747-400 freighter fleet uncertain

Barcelona
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

Financiers have mixed views about the fate of the 34 Boeing 747-400 freighters that are currently parked.

"I think the market for 747 freighters will come back," said Aerolease Aviation partner Jep Thornton at the International Society of Aircraft Trading conference today. "If the price of fuel goes down, and the economy rebounds, then a number of those aircraft, albeit the younger ones, will return."

Thornton describes the 747 as a "killer play" in the aircraft trading market, if done properly.

"If you buy it for $20 million... and the demand goes up, you can double, or more than double, the value of the aircraft in a matter of a year or 18 months," he says, adding: "But if you get it wrong, it could sit in the desert for 18 months and you are done."

"It is the price of oil, man," says Adam Pilarski, senior vice-president of Avitas, summing up what he believes is having the most impact on whether the parked fleet returns to the skies.

Pilarski believes that if the US enters a "big" recession, interest rates stay low and oil prices stay high, "these planes are dead".

GA Telesis says a lack of competition in the freighter aircraft market is benefiting the 747.

"You have to look at what is the replacement for the 747 and currently there isn't one. When the market stabilises, I think supply and demand will take over... and that will bring back some aircraft," says Abdol Moabery, president and chief financial officer of the company.

He believes the "new manufacturing cycle" is also influencing 747 demand.

"You have more time to get products to market, ships are faster, you sell things closer to your point of distribution, and as a result,you are not filling a 747 with Nokia phones... and that is having an impact."

He also echoes the importance of oil prices: "Fuel absolutely is a big hindrance, and as long as fuel is where it is, four-engined aircraft will struggle."

Bill Cumberlidge, executive director of KV Aviation, is optimistic about the return of the freighter.

"I think 35-50% of those aircraft will go back into service. Some will have issues and won't go back, but there are good aircraft there that will fly again," he says.

Cumberlidge stresses each aircraft needs to be looked at in its entirety: "Some are parked because they need a D-check, or the engines need to be overhauled. There is good reason why airlines put them down."