Shahe Ouzounian/FRANKFURT

Lufthansa Cargo says it will need to replace its fleet of Boeing 747-200Fs early in the next decade, with the 747-400 freighter the prime candidate, even though the German operator considers the aircraft "too expensive".

Wilhelm Althen, chairman of the executive board, says that its fleet of 10 747-200Fs, which is between 10 and 20 years old, is still "good for trunk routes", such as those between Lufthansa Cargo's hubs, although rising maintenance costs are a concern. The airline revealed last October that it was evaluating the 747-400F for its future fleet needs (Flight International, 15-22 October 1997).

"We are looking seriously at what can replace the 747-200 freighter, but the type will go on for at least another five years with us," says Althen. "Ideally, Boeing would have continued to build the -200 freighter. Instead we have to look at the 747-400 freighter, but it's way too expensive," he adds.

Despite the capital investment required, Althen feels a decision to order new generation 747 freighters will have to be made.

"By 2002, we will need to do something about the older 747-200s for replacement between 2003 and 2005," he says, discounting any possibility of taking the 747-400F on wet-lease from a supplemental carrier. "Wet-leasing is more expensive than our own operation. If we operate the 747-400 freighter, we will own them," he says.

The airline is to introduce the Boeing MD-11F in June, initially to Latin America and the US West Coast. "Longer, non-stop routes are what make this aircraft ideal," says Althen. The carrier is preparing an innovative financing package for its eight MD-11s, in the form of US tax leases.

Althen says that Lufthansa Cargo is also on the Airbus working group for the A3XX freighter, but does not see a requirement for such a freighter until "after 2010" adding that he would like to see ther aircraft break the Boeing monopoly on large freighters.

Source: Flight International