Japan's Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) plans to replace its entire fleet of Boeing 747 "Classic" cargo aircraft with newer 747-400 freighters over the next eight years.
The airline has confirmed a deal with Boeing to have four 747-400 passenger aircraft converted into freighters under the manufacturer's Special Freighter (SF) programme. It has also taken options on four more conversions.
The converted aircraft will replace older 747 "Classic" freighters and will be in addition to three new-build 747-400Fs ordered recently. The new-build aircraft are due to be delivered in 2005 and 2006, while the first four SFs are due for delivery after conversions between the 2007 and 2009 fiscal years.
If the four options are firmed up as expected, then these deliveries will continue until fiscal 2012. NCA currently operates 10 747-200Fs and one 747-100F. NCA says it is still searching for used 747-400s to purchase for conversion into SFs, although it confirms that minority-owner All Nippon Airways (ANA) is a possible seller.
It is widely expected that a deal will be finalised with ANA. Several of NCA's 11 existing "Classic" 747 freighters were originally operated by ANA as passenger aircraft. Boeing will manage the conversions, which will take place "at a Boeing-approved modification facility". Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering in China was named earlier this year as the first modification facility.
In January, Cathay was named the first 747-400SF customer with a firm deal for six aircraft to be converted into freighters and options on six more.
NICHOLAS IONIDES / SINGAPORE
Source: Flight International