Dedicated freight operator Cargolux is one of several targets for Aviation Exposure Management (AEM) as it seeks to place 15 former British Airways Boeing 747-200Bs.

AEM has the option to purchase the Rolls-Royce RB211-524D4-engined machines for conversion to cargo configuration.

The first conversion is under way at Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering (HAECO). Three passenger/freight combies will be converted first because incorporating full reconfiguration kits takes longer. China's Taikoo Aircraft Engineering (TAECO) in Xiamen will use the supplemental type certificate developed by Boeing to convert the 12-passenger aircraft. The US firm owns nearly 10% of HAECO, which partners TAECO parent Cathay Pacific in ownership of the Xiamen-based company.

Retirements began in February and will continue over the next year, according to AEM technical advisor Stewart John, a former Cathay Pacific engineering director. Airframe age varies from less than 13 years to 24.

"There are few good 747 freighters around, and new aircraft cost up to $180 million each," says John. "There's little future for these [ex-BA] aircraft in passenger use, and at the high gross weight of 378t and with the later wing they make good freighters."

BA is reducing capacity to increase yield by raising the proportion of premium traffic carried. This year it is also expected to release a number of RB211-powered 747-400s.

Source: Flight International