Hong Kong-based airline's search ends with deals for aircraft operated by SAA and SIA

Cathay Pacific Airways has finalised a long-planned expansion of its Boeing 747-400 fleet with deals to acquire eight second-hand aircraft, four to be converted into freighters.

Deliveries of the aircraft will start this year and continue through 2006. Six of the -400s are now operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), while the two others are flown by South African Airways (SAA) and owned by other parties.

The six SIA aircraft are powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines and the two SAA aircraft by Rolls-Royce RB211-524s, like the 19 747-400s and five 747-400 freighters already in Cathay's fleet.

Cathay has been searching the market for used 747-400s since late last year and is known to have held talks with British Airways and United Airlines about acquiring some of their aircraft.

SIA has been progressively retiring older 747-400s as additional 777s have been added - many through trade-in deals with Boeing. As of 30 June it had 29 747-400 passenger aircraft still in its operating fleet, which also comprised 52 777s and five Airbus A340-500s.

SIA last traded in a 747-400 to Boeing on 22 July as it took delivery of an additional 777-200ER. It plans to take delivery of another four 777s and decommission two more 747-400s this financial year ending 31 March, bringing its operating fleet to 89 passenger aircraft.

Seven of the eight used 747s for which Cathay has now signed deals will be purchased and one will be leased. Two will be delivered this year, one in 2005 and five in 2006. Cathay also has one new-build 747-400F on order with Boeing.

The 747 additions, combined with orders and leases agreed this year for six new Airbus A330-300s and two new Boeing 777-300s, will increase the airline's operating fleet to 103 widebodies in just over three years.

In January, Cathay announced a deal with Boeing to be launch customer for the manufacturer's 747-400 Special Freighter programme, with a commitment for six firm conversions and six options. Cathay plans to have some of its existing aircraft converted into freighters, as well as four of the eight used 747-400s it will be acquiring.



Source: Flight International