Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777F Suffers Fire Incident In China

An Ethiopian Boeing 777F has caught fire at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The aircraft had flown in from Brussels overnight, touching down in China this morning. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but nobody is thought to be hurt.

Ethiopian 777F
An Ethiopian Airlines 777F has caught fire in Shanghai Airport today. Photo: Kudak via Wikimedia

Burned through the fuselage

An Ethiopian Airlines cargo aircraft has caught fire at Shanghai airport today. The Boeing 777F landed from Brussels at 11:51 local time and was likely being loaded ready for its return journey.

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Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777F Suffers Fire Incident In China
The aircraft had flown in from Brussels this morning. Photo:

Heartbreaking images are being shared on social media of the aircraft with smoke pouring from the fuselage. The fire seems to have started on the main cargo deck and has burned right through the roof.

Firefighters are on the scene attempting to get the blaze under control. No injuries have been reported, but the cause of the fire remains unknown.

ET-ARH is a five-year-old Boeing 777F, which has been with Ethiopian since it was built. The aircraft is already listed on Aviation Safety Network as being written off, despite firefighters still working to tackle the blaze.

Ethiopian’s cargo ops

Ethiopian has been heavily reliant on cargo operations during the coronavirus crisis. The airline hs received no state aid, and CEO Tewolde Gebremariam has previously said he has no plans to ask for it either. While other carriers have struggled, Ethiopian has managed to pay all staff salaries, and even thorough the worst of the crisis, it kept its links with China flying.

Key to Ethiopian’s survival has been its ability to quickly diversify into cargo operations. It rapidly adapted 20 passenger planes for cargo ops, making it a valuable goods mover for the African continent and further afield. In an interview last month, Gebremariam commented,

“As soon as the passenger transport business came to a halt, we were able to turn to cargo and maintenance. We doubled our cargo capacity, we converted 20 passenger aircraft for cargo in addition to the 10 Boeing 777s and two Boeing 737 Cargo aircraft that we had. We will continue to expand in this segment. This will allow us to generate cash until the passenger business resumes.”

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777F Suffers Fire Incident In China
Ethiopian Airlines has already converted 20 passenger planes for cargo operations. Photo: Getty Images

As such, the cargo operations of Ethiopian have kept its liquidity healthy through the travel downturn. In April, the airline had boosted its cargo network from 10 destinations up to a massive 74, moving valuable goods as well as shipments of PPE and medical equipment for the world to put up a fight against COVID.

The loss of one cargo aircraft is unlikely to upset the applecart as far as Ethiopian’s operations go. However, with a list price of over $300 million, it’s a lot of cash burning away right there. Ethiopian will be insured for this type of loss, however, but it will be interesting to see what is decided to be the cause of the blaze.