Soaring fuel costs boost A330-200F, says Airbus

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Airbus believes the increasing cost of fuel will help draw demand for its A330-200 Freighter from operators of McDonnell Douglas DC-10Fs, a target replacement market for the new cargo widebody.

The airframer's freighter marketing manager Jonathan Lesieur concedes that in a low fuel-cost environment the $190 million, 70t payload A330-200F was a hard sell as a DC-10F replacement, but the picture is changing as oil prices rise and cargo yields become more challenging.

"When fuel was at $1 a US gallon, it wasn't that easy for A330-200F's lower operating costs to compensate for its higher acquisition costs compared with a DC-10F, which is around the same size in terms of payload," he says.

Lesieur says that as fuel prices rise with no clear idea where they will end up, the A330's lower fuel burn and associated operating cost savings over the three-crew, DC-10 trijet are making it a much more attractive proposition.

"When fuel was at $1 per US gallon [$0.26/litre] it required an annual utilisation of 4,000h for the A330-200F's higher capital costs to be offset by its lower operating costs over a DC-10F," Lesieur says. "But now when fuel is at around $2.50/$3 per US gallon, this utilisation is halved to 2,000h."

Flightglobal's ACAS database lists around 90 DC-10Fs in service, with eight operators. The largest of these is US express package carrier FedEx Express with 66 aircraft, but Airbus is pitching the A330-200F more at general cargo operators, says Lesieur. "A lot of these DC-10 operators easily do 2,000h a year," he adds.

The express package carriers - which generally have lower cargo densities and a greater focus on volume than on payload/range capability - are a target of the proposed passenger-to-freighter conversion of the larger A330-300. "This could carry 26 containers on the maindeck," says Lesieur.