The 747-400 Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) will give Asian operators the ability to meet fast-growing demand for cargo services and an opportunity to phase out older 747 models.

Launch customer Cathay Pacific Airways is already using its first of at least six 747-400BCFs on routes within Asia as well as to Europe and the USA. “The aircraft is on the same routes as the other 747-400Fs,” says Cathay engineering director Derek Cridland. “The aircraft is just like any other -400F from an operating standpoint. It’s doing great.”

Cridland says there are only slight performance differences between the 747-400F and 747-400BCF, which has a capacity of 113,490kg (250,200lb), maximum take-off weight of 394,625kg and range of 7,600km (4,100nm). The BCF also has a side cargo door identical to that of the 747-400F.

Cathay now operates five 747-400Fs and Cridland says its January 2004 launch order for six 747-400BCFs, plus six options, will satisfy its demand for cargo expansion for at least the next four years. Three of the 747-400s Cathay is converting are former SIA passenger aircraft, two are coming from South African Airways and the prototype aircraft came from Cathay’s own fleet.

“Our cargo expansion is based on the 747-400BCF for the next several years,” Cridland says. “We have enough firm orders and options for conversions to satisfy us through 2009. We won’t look at any new freighter types until then.”

Korean Air (KAL) says it will operate its fleet of at least five 747-400BCFs into every region except Europe, where it already has sufficient capacity. KAL already operates 16 747-400 freighters, including 10 standard and six extended-range versions, and has two more 747-400ERFs on order. The 747-400BCF will be used initially to replace its fleet of two 747-200SFs and one 747-300F. At the same time the BCF programme is a natural outlet for KAL’s fleet of 24 747-400 passenger aircraft, all of which are owned, and some will be phased out as KAL takes delivery of at least five Airbus A380s. KAL so far has only committed to converting five of its 747-400 passenger aircraft, but is considering phasing out another 15.

Japan Airlines (JAL) will mainly use the 747-400BCF to replace its 10 747-200 freighters, which the carrier says will be retired by the end of fiscal year 2009. “Due to the greater fuel efficiency and reduced noise levels of these aircraft, we plan to use them on Europe routes first. As more are introduced, we sill start using them also on Asia routes,” JAL says.

The carrier also operates two 747-400Fs. All nine of JAL’s 747-400BCFs are coming from its own 747-400 passenger fleet.

Dragonair says it plans to operate its five 747-400BCFs on new routes to the USA, “an important market for us that we plan to explore further”. The carrier, which launched cargo flights to New York last year and plans to add Chicago and Los Angeles services after 747-400BCFs are delivered, now operates one 747-200F and three 747-300SFs.

SIA Cargo will use its fleet of three 747-400BCFs to supplement its 747-400F fleet, which includes 15 aircraft, with a 16th set for delivery later this year. All three BCFs will come from SIA’s 747-400 passenger fleet, which now consists of 27 747-400s. SIA says it will gradually decommission its 747-400 passenger fleet, including six aircraft this year, as it takes delivery of at least 19 new Boeing 777-300ERs and at least 10 new A380s. Both new types will be introduced by SIA at the end of this year and will “progressively replace the 747-400 as the high-capacity long-range aircraft in our fleet”.


Source: Flight International