NEW FREIGHTER deliveries will remain sluggish over the next ten years as used-aircraft conversions and belly-hold capacity absorb the bulk of cargo traffic growth, according to latest predictions from McDonnell Douglas (MDC) and Boeing.

MDC predicts that cargo traffic will continue to average annual growth of about 7.4% through to the year 2004, led by a boom from the Asia-Pacific region. Boeing is more conservative, forecasting an average 6.6% growth over the next 20 years to 2014, slightly up on its previous projection.

To cope with this traffic growth, MDC predicts that the world freighter fleet will grow by more than one-third over the next decade, to nearly 1,600 aircraft.

It forecasts, however, that the bulk of the growth will come from converted passenger aircraft and only one-quarter will come from new freighter deliveries.

Boeing predicts that the freighter fleet, will more than double to 2,080 aircraft, over the next 20 years. It estimates a need for 1,809 freighter deliveries, but suggests that two-thirds of the requirement will come from used aircraft.

New freighter demand is expected to create a relatively modest market, worth $65 billion, through to the year 2014.

Boeing points to the increasing use of belly-hold cargo capacity in passenger aircraft and a continuing decline in cargo yields, which will make cheaper, used aircraft look more attractive.

Both studies predict that the biggest growth will come from large-capacity freighters carrying more than 50t, which include, MDC's DC-10-30 and MD-11, as well as the Boeing 767-300 and 747. MDC expects this sector to more than double in size over the next ten years.

Boeing also predicts, that more than 600 large-capacity freighters, will be needed over the next 20 years, as they become the mainstay of the world fleet.

The medium-sized sector will also increase by around 150 new aircraft, largely replacing aging Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s.

Source: Flight International