By Lei Yan
Boeing to Expand Converted Freight Production in China
On Sept. 28, the opening day of the China International Air Show, Boeing announced its plan to open two new Boeing 767-300BCF conversion lines in cooperation with Guangzhou Aircraft Manufacturing and Engineering Company (GAMECO), a joint venture between China Southern Airlines and Hutchison Whampoa.
“It was mutually beneficial to continue building our relationship with GAMECO to provide additional conversion capacity for the 767-300BCF while supporting growth in the region,” said Peter Gao, vice president, Boeing Commercial Sales and Marketing for China.
Earlier this year, GAMECO announced it would add a new Boeing 737-800BCF conversion line, adding it to the two existing conversion lines with the Guangzhou-based company. Along with GAMECO, HAECO Shandong and Boeing Shanghai are the only two other manufacturers who have the capability to convert 737-800 aircraft. All three competitors are located in China, making the country a strategic point in Boeing Converted Freight operations. By adding the two new Boeing 767-300BCF conversion lines, GAMECO will be the only firm that has both 737 and 767 freighter conversion lines, demonstrating Boeing’s ambition and commitments to the Chinese market.
Over the conference, Boeing also shared the company’s projections for Asia’s cargo freight market moving forward.
The manufacturer said it believes a total of 1,720 new freighters will be needed to support the rapid growth from now until 2040, 520 of which would be wide-body freighters such as Boeing 767-300BCF.
The aircraft has significant advantages over its competitors when it comes to cost. It has a large number of retiring passenger Boeing 767-300s to convert, which would offer a lower cost of purchase compared to a similar capacity brand new freighter. In addition, pilots are already familiar with the aircraft, which would lower the operating cost and crew training cost for airlines that previously operated 767s.
Over the past decade, Asia — and especially China — has made up significant ground in the air freight market. Fueled by the explosion of online shopping, domestic parcel transportation grew exponentially. As international passenger traffic continues to hover at a low level due to the pandemic, long-haul, wide-body freighters have been able to pick up more cargo than was originally able to fit in the passenger plane’s cargo bay.
Compared to the U.S., which has an extensive air freighter network operated by mega shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx, China still has significant growth potential in air freight. The country is building its first air cargo hub in E’zhou, China, a small city located in the center of the country. The airport will serve as the hub airport for SF Airlines, which is the largest cargo carrier in China. The company is also the sole operator of Boeing 767-300BCF in mainland China. More cargo airlines are taking off in China and Southeast Asian countries to fulfill the spiking demand from e-commerce orders. As the countries in the region continue to pursue more efficient shipping networks, freighters such as Boeing 767-300BCF will play as an essential actuator of the development of the shipping economy.
Boeing is still suffering from the aftershock from Boeing 737 MAX grounding in China, and this new strategic partnership to expand the presence of Boeing in the future growth of the Chinese economy may be the dawn of another golden age for Boeing in China.