BOEING AND McDonnell Douglas (MDC) are forecasting strong growth in the air-cargo market, with the world's freighter fleet expected to double over the next 20 years.

MDC's predictions are slightly more optimistic than Boeing's, with an annual growth rate in air cargo of 7.9%, compared with Boeing's assessment of 6.6%. Aircraft numbers are similarly adjusted. Boeing predicts the total world freighter fleet will grow to 2,261 aircraft by 2015, of which some 1,400 will be converted passenger aircraft. MDC, which forecasts to 2014, believes that the fleet total will rise to 2,720 aircraft. Both estimates start from a base of 1,200-1,300 aircraft in the current world fleet.

The manufacturers also agree that large freighters in the Boeing 747/MDC MD-11-size category will account for some of the biggest growth. Boeing predicts that, if it includes its 767 in this category, demand will be for 600 additional aircraft. MDC puts the figure at a more optimistic 820.

"We're upbeat because the whole market has turned around," comments Bruce Dennis, Boeing vice-president of marketing. He adds that the biggest growth is expected to be in the international-express part of the business. Companies such as FedEx, DHL and UPS are expected to account for up to 37% of the market (in revenue tonne-kilometres) by 2015, compared to around 5% now.

Source: Flight International