Taking centre stage

The big news this past month was the announcement from express delivery giant, FedEx that it placed an order for 50 B767 Freighters (and options for another 50) and 18 B777 Freighters.

The B767 production line won’t end with the delivery of FedEx’s last freighter either. A US$35 billion US military contract to supply aerial refueling tankers based on the B767 will keep it going until at least 2027, making it a 46 year life span for the production of that particular aircraft type – surely a record unlikely to be broken for quite sometime, if ever.

But what remains an open and curious question is whether Boeing will develop a freighter version of its popular new B787 Dreamliner. Effectively a direct, modern, replacement for the B767 on the passenger side it offers far greater benefits in terms of efficiency than its earlier incarnation. Typically a freighter variant doesn’t happen so soon in an aircraft type’s lifespan and many factors shape the ultimate decision to introduce a new freighter type including conversion potential etc.

Right now there’s not a huge amount of enthusiasm for talking freighters – at least the big freighters – although having said that there’s been a steady trickle with Chinese, Asian and Middle East carriers ordering Boeing’s big freighters. And it should be pointed out that obscured by all the talk of the substantial B767 order, FedEx also ordered 18 B777Fs which is pretty signficant order in its own right.