Southern Air Transport (SAT) plans to add another six Boeing 747 freighters to its fleet over the next three years, but has not yet established from where the aircraft will be sourced.

The US freight carrier, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, operates a fleet of 15 Lockheed L-100 Hercules turboprops, four McDonnell Douglas DC-8-70s and three 747-200Fs.

SAT says that the "future of our business" lies with the 747, and envisages building a fleet of nine aircraft by 2000. The airline will have at least four 747s in service by the end of 1997,with an agreement in place to acquire one more 747-200 this year, through a deal brokered by Babcock and Brown.

SAT is in the process of selecting a specialist to convert this aircraft from combi to full freighter, with Israel Aircraft Industries and Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering the front runners, says Hemperley.

SAT is focusing on the Pratt & Whitney JT9D-powered version of the Boeing 747-200, and in particular the most desirable -7Q engine variant. The airline also has a clear preference for pure production freighters. It acknowledges that these aircraft "-are very scarce at present".

A decision on the replacement of the DC-8-70s, which SAT operates on the aircraft, crew, maintenance, insurance market, is some way off. The airline says that it is "-just beginning to look at the possible candidates", which will probably include the Airbus A300 and Boeing 767.

Source: Flight International