Gemini Air Cargo is talking to Boeing about a potential deal to acquire new MD-11 freighters, but is also examining possible secondhand aircraft acquisitions as it awaits a decision from the manufacturer on the tri-jet's production future.

The Washington Dulles-based supplemental cargo carrier, which has just introduced its eighth McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 freighter, was close to a deal last year to acquire four MD-11s from LTU, before losing to a last-minute bid from Swissair/FedEx. Gemini's president, Bill Stockbridge, says he is now looking at new and used MD-11 acquisition possibilities. "We have discussed with Boeing a minimum order for six MD-11s, plus additional options, for delivery from either 1999 or 2000," he says.

Boeing, however, is re-examining its strategy on continued MD-11 production at Long Beach and evaluating whether to make a long-term commitment to production for the freighter market, or cancel the programme. This could see a decision later this year to cease production of the tri-jet if Boeing does not foresee a continuing high level of demand for the freighter model from air cargo carriers.

It is understood that Douglas Aircraft Products is studying a commitment for the production of a further 200-300 MD-11Fs, with freighter-specific developments being incorporated to boost performance and reduce weight and production costs.

Stockbridge says that other MD-11 fleets are being considered for acquisition and that further DC-10-30 purchases are also planned. The deal to acquire a ninth DC-10 could be announced soon to add to the seven ex-Lufthansa and one ex-Finnair aircraft operated wet-lease contracts with Air France, Asiana, Challenge Air, FedEx, Qantas, Sabena and Swissair.

Source: Flight International