DHL AIRWAYS is targeting late 1997 or early 1998 to introduce widebodied freighters on to its European network, as it seeks to modernise and upgrade its fleet.

The US-based package carrier operates some 50 aircraft on its European cross-border network, including 24 Stage 3 Boeing 727-100/200 freighters. Two more -200Fs will be added by the end of September. Robert Kuijpers, chief executive of DHL's European and African operations, says that a decision has been taken to "-progressively modernise the fleet over the next five years to take advantage of new, quieter aircraft technology. ".

Although Kuijpers does not specify types, the company is believed to be focusing on freighter versions of the Airbus A300 and Boeing 767, with the acquisition of four to five aircraft planned for its intra-European express-package services. "We are considering new and used aircraft, and require a main-deck cargo door to be installed," says Kuijper.

New-build, side-cargo-door-equipped, versions of the A300-600 and 767-300 are on offer, and after-market conversions of the A300/ A310 are offered by Daimler-Benz and British Aerospace Aviation Services. An after-market freighter conversion of the 767 is not actively offered at present.

DHL envisages the introduction of its first widebodied freighter on European services by early 1998, adding one aircraft per quarter thereafter. The carrier has announced plans to develop a new "sub-hub" at Strasbourg, in France, which will be funded by an investment of $5 million. The new site is scheduled to open in October.

Source: Flight International