Carry that weight

BEIJING — I’m back in Asia again, this time in China. While I’m here, I’ll be talking about the China market and the incredible growth that this nation’s air transport industry will see over the next 20 years. But that’s a story for another post.

Today, I want to discuss the cargo market. At the World Air Cargo Forum in Amsterdam, my colleagues released our 2010-2011 World Air Cargo Forecast. And that forecast is pretty amazing. What a change from our last forecast, which was released in 2008 while the world was in the grip of the Great Recession.

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Strong air cargo traffic growth this year is bringing the industry back onto its long-term trend line.

At that time, there was a lot of gloom on the horizon — air cargo is a leading indicator of economic activity, and the news was anything but good — declines in air cargo as great as 30 percent by mid 2009.

How times have changed. In the first eight months of this year, cargo traffic has grown 24%. By the time the year is over, air cargo traffic should equal the peak in traffic the industry reached in 2007 before it slid — with the rest of the economy — into recession.

That’s significant because earlier forecasts had expected that cargo traffic would not equal 2007 levels until 2011.

The picture’s bright in the long run as well — air cargo should triple over the next 20 years, growing an average of 5.9 percent a year.

As in the broader aviation market, Asia is driving growth. China’s air cargo will grow 9.2 percent per year, while other intra-Asia markets will grow at 7.9 percent per year. Growth in other regions, while still robust, will stay more in line with the worldwide average. As I told media today in Beijing, that translates to 100 new freighter aircraft in China alone.

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Over the next 20 years, the freighter fleet will grow by more than two-thirds.

Logically, as air cargo traffic grows, the world’s fleet of cargo airplanes must grow too. Over the next 20 years, the world cargo fleet will grow from 1,755 to 2,967 airplanes. And the make-up of the fleet will change, as a larger share shifts to widebody airplanes.

About 70 percent of fleet growth will be airplanes converted to freighters from passenger and combi airplanes, with the rest coming as new-builds. And we’re well-positioned for both of these markets at Boeing — our production 747-8 Freighter and 777 Freighter airplanes lead the industry. Meanwhile, our Boeing Converted Freighter programs give older 747-400, MD-11 and 767-300ER airplanes a lifetime extension as first-class freight carriers.

New airplanes or converted airplanes, we’re working to show we can carry that weight a long time.

Comments (2)

Blaine Harris (Seattle):

"From me to you", I enjoy reading your blog about what is going on within Boeing with the extra bonus of the integration of a song lyric or title as a theme (with a link to a video). Love it!

James Baloun (Palo Alto, California):

Thanks Randy, that is a great song. Indeed the strong shoulders of the Boeing freighters can carry the weight and go the distance. The song also reminds me that soon we will enjoy golden slumbers on the Dreamliner, where the higher cabin pressure and humidity mean the my pretty darling will not cry. The next generation of planes are no longer just a way to get back home, but to get there in refreshing comfort.

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