Northwest Airlines has emerged as a potential launch customer for Boeing's 747-400 Special Freighter (SF), as it evaluates the aircraft as an alternative to converting more 747-200s.

Jim Stanley, vice-president of finance and strategy at Northwest Airlines Cargo, says the converted 747-400F is seen as "a leading candidate" if it decides to acquire a longer-haul freighter.

Although Stanley says its 12 747-200Fs will form the backbone of the airline's fleet because of the type's low operating costs, he says there could be a need for a longer-range freighter. "If the economics of 747-400SF conversion become more suitable, the type's greater range would be compelling," he says. Boeing has told Northwest Cargo that it could have a freighter-conversion programme for the 747-400 available by 2005.

Source: Flight International