“All change, please!” called out the guard as my train slowly pulled into London. “This train has reached its final destination.” As the passengers disembark, I reflect that the train has of course not literally reached its final destination, but merely the end of that particular service route. But one day it will reach the end of its working life.
And so it goes for aircraft; a last passenger flight will inevitably come. In the case of planes, though, there is a good chance they might be converted for use as freighter aircraft – where we really can say it is “all change”.
Following the Covid-19 crisis and with the ever-growing demand for e-commerce, there has been a flurry of recent activity in the passenger to freighter conversions market. Our cover story focuses on developments in this sector, and looks at what the future might hold. One commentator notes a ‘gold rush type’ atmosphere to secure conversion slots and available feedstock among lessors currently, while another reports that all conversion providers are currently experiencing backlogs of several years – a situation he says has never been seen before.
Elsewhere in the issue, we are delighted to present insightful commentary pieces from two industry associations. With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference having taken place in Glasgow, sustainability is high on the global agenda. The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) director general Glyn Hughes notes, though, that the term sustainability is often limited to its environmental aspects. He says it can only truly be achieved when looking holistically at how we individually and collectively impact people, the planet and prosperity – the ‘three Ps’.
Sustainability is also in the thoughts of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and is one of three pillars that global head of cargo Brendan Sullivan sees as vital to building a prosperous future for air cargo – the other two being modernisation of the industry and ensuring that it becomes even safer. We offer edited highlights of his powerful speech at the IATA World Cargo Symposium in October in our Industry voices section.
We also put the spotlight on unit load devices – those workhorses of air cargo transportation; get the thoughts of Etihad Cargo’s head of revenue management and network planning Leonard Rodrigues on a range of topics; and find out what happens when heavy and oversized items need to be transported.