Freighter fantastic: Why Turkish Cargo is expanding its fleet with Boeing 777 Fs

Turkish Cargo

Turkish Cargo has been shifting freight around the world for almost two decades, and now, with the arrival of its new 777 Freighters, it marks a significant milestone. An air carrier’s choice of aircraft would normally be guided by the utilisation anticipated, the load factors expected, its environmental credentials and forward views on fuel costs.

In terms of freighters – and largely due to their low acquisition costs – they are traditionally converted after a long career in the passenger market. However, the gains derived from new generation freighters, their operating efficiencies and cost reducing technologies, have been enough to sway some operators, such as Turkish Cargo, into acquiring straight off the production line freighters.

To service the ever-growing demand from its worldwide market, Turkish Cargo is expanding its fleet with the recent addition of new Boeing 777Fs. They are being deployed alongside a fleet of A330-200Fs, A310-300Fs, an A300-600F and a couple of 747-400Fs. In December last year, the first 777F arrived in Istanbul, and this was shortly followed by a second aircraft.

M. İlker Aycı, chairman of the board and the executive committee of Turkish Airlines said on receiving the first aircraft that the new deliveries were a milestone event in the airline’s cargo business.

Turkish Cargo 777F
On celebration of the arrival of the first 777F


“As a prominent sub-brand of Turkish Airlines, Turkish Cargo increased its freighter destinations served from 55 to 73 from the beginning of 2017, reaching approximately one million tons of cargo. This represents a 29 per cent increase compared to the same period in the previous year,” he reported. Aycı sees those figures as a remarkable success.

Passenger aircraft and dedicated freighters both carry air cargo. Lower-hold cargo capacity on passenger flights has been expanding as airlines deploy new jetliners with very good cargo capability, such as the 777-300ER.

However, as Boeing has stated in its Commercial Market Outlook for 2017 to 2036, dedicated freight services offer shippers a combination of reliability, predictability, and control over timing and routing that is often superior to that of passenger operators. As a result, freighters are expected to continue carrying more than half of global air cargo to satisfy the demanding requirements of that market.

Boeing predicts that the replacement of ageing aircraft, plus the industry’s growth requirements, will create a demand for 2,480 freighter deliveries over the next 20 years. Of these, 1,560 will be passenger aircraft conversions. The remaining 920 planes, valued at $260 billion, will be new. The overall freighter fleet will increase by more than half – from 1,810 aircraft in 2016 to 3,030 by 2036.

Turkish Cargo is clearly seeing demand requirements in that market. “We’re sure that this significant delivery will bring great value to our rapidly growing cargo operations and will also enable our sub-brand to further compete, expand and reach new short and long-range destinations from our hub in Istanbul,” Aycı stated.

“We are honoured to deliver the 777F to Turkish Airlines,” added Marty Bentrott, senior vice president of sales, Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Central Asia and Africa, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “This aircraft’s range capability, combined with its enhanced cargo capacity, makes it a perfect airplane for Turkish Airlines to continue to profitably grow its global cargo service.”

Turkish Cargo team
Turkish is expanding the twin-fleet with the new aircraft

The 777F currently reigns supreme as the world’s longest-range twin-engine freighter, it is based on the technologically advanced 777-200LR (Longer Range) passenger aircraft and can fly 4,900 nautical miles (9,070 kilometres) with a full payload of 102,000kg. The Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) for the 777F is 347,810kg. The aircraft’s general configuration accommodates 27 standard pallets on the main deck, ten pallets in the lower cargo hold and 17m3 (600ft3) of additional bulk cargo.

In January, Boeing announced that Turkish Cargo had placed an additional order for three more 777Fs. The new order came just weeks after the carrier took delivery of the two previous jets as part of its plan to further expand its freight business.

Aycı commented that these additional freighter orders will contribute to achieving a significant target for establishing a young and efficient cargo fleet. “The new aircraft will be delivered this year and will provide us with additional flexibility to serve more destinations while we continue to develop our global freight service.”

Reportedly, the additional three 777Fs will be delivered in September, October and December 2018. In general terms the 777F is showing every sign of being a popular aircraft just like its passenger sibling. In terms of capacity it fits into the size gap between the larger 747-400F (112,990kg payload) and the MD-11F (89,580kg payload) while beating both types in the range department; 4,400nm for the 747-400 and 4,000nm for the MD-11.

Boeing has reported that with the 777F, it has achieved 20-25 per cent improved fuel efficiency over the 747-400F and uses 18 per cent less fuel than the MD-11F. The GE90 engine technology the powers the 777 reduces emissions by 18 per cent. Despite its long-range capabilities, the airliner has proved its flexibility on shorter sectors.

Several cargo operators Like Emirates SkyCargo for instance operate the 777Fs on a combination of long haul and regional sectors – flying them two to three hours to nearby destinations. Boeing has incorporated some cutting-edge technologies into the 777Fs design. These include a new handling system with built-in test equipment and a load alleviation system which helps distribute the load on the aircraft while in-flight.

It also has the unique capability of centre loaded – and locked – 20ft pallet positions. The onboard camera system facilitates easier opening and closing of the main deck cargo door, which some operators have reported increases operational efficiency.

Boeing claims that the 777F provides the lowest trip cost and ton-mile economics of any large freighter. There is no doubt that the 777F has already proven itself to deliver twin-engine efficiency and lower operating cost, and that does not come cheap – with a unit cost of anything from $269.1 million.

Airlines and cargo operators are continuously being bombarded with possible cheaper alternatives to the new 777F such as converting the 747-400 – that might set you back around $55-60 million but many question if it makes sense to revive the 747-400 programme. Passenger to freighter conversions for the Airbus A330 are now fully underway and the first such aircraft was delivered to DHL Express in December.

As for the converted 777 there are suggestions that now would be a good time for older 777-200 conversions to fill the anticipated shortage, but all along there have been doubts about that type, as it is optimised for passenger operations and a conversion would be expensive. Back in Istanbul, on 15 January 2018, Turkish Cargo announced the start of a new route linking Istanbul to Madrid and then onto Miami with the return leg routing via Houston and back to Istanbul. The new service to Miami is operated by one of the newly delivered 777Fs.

Miami is of strategic importance being a major cargo hub in the United States. Turkish Cargo will be connecting Miami to 120 countries through more than 300 destinations with its Istanbul-Madrid- Miami departing flights and Miami-Houston- Istanbul return operations. In addition to full freighter flights to Miami Turkish Cargo already offers 110 tons a week of belly hold capacity on passenger flights operated by Turkish Airlines to Chicago, Atlanta and New York.

With the addition of the 777F, Turkish Cargo will increase capacity to North America to 220 tons weekly. The US remains a key market for the cargo carrier, particularly Miami – the airport is ranked 10th in the international cargo market, and renowned for its capacity to handle perishable goods and generally offers high-end infrastructure for cargo operations.

Turkish Cargo
Turkish says the new deliveries are a milestone event in its cargo business

Miami is popular for the transportation of fresh flowers, perishable fruits and vegetables, high technology products, telecommunication equipment and aircraft parts. The Miami region is also known for its imports of textiles, fish, medicine, flowers, automobile, chemicals and petrochemicals. Looking at the latest monthly results for December 2017 – at the time of this writing – things are looking up at Turkish Cargo.

In December, cargo and mail volumes increased by 18.4 per cent, compared to December 2016. A financial press release issued by the company indicates the main contributors to this growth was the rise in volumes chiefly to the Middle East with 28.7 per cent increase and Europe with a 24 per cent increase. In the meantime, Turkish Cargo keeps extending its Qualified Envirotainer Provider Training and Quality Programme (QEP) accreditation in line with industry standards.

The QEP programme recognises air cargo carriers that operate Envirotainer containers in compliance with Good Distribution Practice (GDP) for temperature-sensitive cargo. Last year, it received QEP accreditation from Envirotainer at its hub – Istanbul Atatürk Airport, as well as several other stations across its network: Mumbai, Hyderabad, Frankfurt, Tel Aviv and Seoul.

Additional accreditation has been granted at two more stations: Brussels and Atlanta and plans to add to that in line with a special product it has created for freight containing pharmaceutical
and healthcare products.

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