TNT Express Worldwide is aiming to introduce its first large freighter aircraft in 1998, if a strategic analysis of the market which it is now undertaking concludes that such a move is required.

The express-parcel company, acquired by Dutch postal company KPN late in 1995, is timing the proposed introduction of Airbus A300 or Boeing 757 freighters to coincide with the opening of its new, purpose-built, European hub in Liège, Belgium, early in 1998.

The company launched European freight operations in 1987 with the BAe 146-200QT freighter, and now operates a fleet of 17 on its European network, along with five hushkitted Boeing 727-200Fs. The 146s are operated by Air Foyle, while Hunting and Sterling European Airlines fly the 727s. TNT also has a Asian network with a hub in Manila, Philippines.

TNT Express Worldwide vice-president of network operations John Fannon says that the company has "-a need for a larger, more economical, aircraft to replace the 727, and we have shortlisted the A300 and 757". He adds: "We are also aware of the environmental issues, and aim to retire the 727s by 2002, with the first aircraft due to leave the fleet in 1998."

TNT has been discussing the acquisition of converted A300s, as well as 757-200PFs (package freighters) and converted ex-airline 757s, using Pemco's proposed conversion.

The decision to move into the large-freighter market is dependent upon various issues, and TNT has not ruled out chartering other carriers' capacity for its expansion, such as that of Channel Express' soon-to-be delivered A300 freighter. "It could be difficult to maintain schedules with the higher-volume aircraft on our multi-sector routes," says TNT aviation division managing director Tom Storey. "It would nice to try it out before we commit to our own fleet," he says.

Fannon envisages that TNT would introduce one large freighter in 1998, and then possibly up to three a year. Fannon says that the company's growth plans will mean that the 146s will be kept for the foreseeable future.

Source: Flight International