Max Kingsley-Jones and Paul Lewis/WASHINGTON DC
Atlas Air expects to finalise its acquisition of around 20 medium-size freighters by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the cargo wet-leasing specialist is discussing a joint venture with International Lease Finance (ILFC) which could see the two companies place a major joint order.
"We are evaluating the 56t [payload] widebody freighters, specifically the [Airbus] A300-600 Freighter and the Boeing 767-300F," says Atlas Air chairman Michael Chowdry. "We will make a decision by year-end," he adds.
Chowdry confirms that Atlas is among the carriers that have pledged for the Airbus A3XX, but is still evaluating the type with rival Boeing's 747X Stretch freighter.
"We have been working with Airbus for 18 months, and we are part of that," says Chowdry, referring to the group of carriers that placed A3XX "expressions of interest" earlier this year.
"If we go ahead we will probably place an order for 20 firm plus 20 options... we expect to make a decision in the first quarter of next year," he adds.
Atlas currently operates 35 747Fs (including 12 -400s). Chowdry is not concerned by Boeing's claims that the A3XXF will not be able to interline as effectively as a 747X Stretch freighter with his current fleet, as it cannot handle 3m (10ft) high pallets. "The A3XX is the more efficient volumetrically, and has 1,200nm [2,220km] more range," he says.
Chowdry says that he expects Atlas' 747 freighter fleet to expand by another 35-40 aircraft by 2005, and acknowledges that Atlas is discussing a joint venture with ILFC, but declines to give any more details. It is understood that the two companies have tabled a proposal to Boeing for as many as 50 aircraft, though it is unclear if this is in addition to or includes Atlas' planned purchase of new twinjet freighters and 20 more 747-400s (Flight International, 26 September - 3 October). Atlas holds options on eight 747-400s and it is believed ILFC could take another 13.
The airline is also aiming to continue to expand its converted 747 freighter fleet, and is eyeing passenger -400s for conversion. It is believed to be targeting two General Electric CF6-powered -400 Combis operated by Malaysia Airlines.
Source: Flight International