With the Boeing 747-8F program in its potential final years and demand for cargo aircraft at an all-time high, is now the perfect time for Boeing to launch a Boeing 777X freighter as the next generation of cargo transport?
Is there a demand for large cargo aircraft?
If we have seen anything during this current crisis, it is that the demand for cargo aircraft is practically insatiable. With news that airlines are turning passenger aircraft into cargo planes and even airlines dusting off old plans for a cargo Airbus A380, the demand for a new large cargo aircraft is at an all-time high.
However, it seems that Boeing has been reluctant to offer its newest aircraft, the 777X, as a freighter. This is despite many airlines, like Qatar, asking for such a plane.
“By 2025, our initial freighters will be getting about ten years old, so we will need to replace them; hopefully, Boeing will launch a 777X-based freighter.” Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker said at the 2019 Paris Air Show to Flight Global, “I hope that Boeing will do what the customer wants so that it will have more efficient freighters. We would also like to be the launch customer, because of the confidence we have in Boeing.”
Qatar had just signed a deal for five more Boeing 777 freighters at the event.
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Is there demand from other cargo carriers?
Russian cargo airline Volga-Dnepr walked away from three Boeing 777 freighters in January, telling Boeing to “re-market and resell the 777Fs because Volga would not be taking delivery.”
Boeing seems to have taken it in its stride, finding many potential new buyers eager for the freighter aircraft at the drop of a hat. A few months later, Volga returned to Boeing to pick up the keys after they realized how valuable cargo aircraft are, only to be turned away by the airframe builder. Boeing had already made plans to resell the planes.
With so many buyers looking for a twin-jet cargo aircraft that can match the cargo capacity of a Boeing 747, it seems almost foolish that Boeing hasn’t yet released the Boeing 777X freighter.
What would a Boeing 777X cargo plane look like?
Boeing has been vague about the specifications of a proposed 777X freighter. So far, all we know is that it is likely to be based off the Boeing 777-8 (the smaller and so far undeveloped version of the Boeing 777X) and be six meters longer than the Boeing 777 freighter (which uses the Boeing 777-200LR as a base).
Thus, we can assume that thanks to the powerful GE9X engines and the longer fuselage, this proposed freighter will be the biggest Boeing freighter (and perhaps bigger than anything Airbus can offer) that airlines can buy new.
As for the question of why Boeing hasn’t released a freighter 777x, it may have something to do with the fact that they have few buyers for the smaller Boeing 777-8 that the cargo version is based off. If they can’t find a significant passenger buyer to pick up the smaller size (and essential pay for the development costs), then it may be left on the table.
However, why not offer a cargo 777-9 instead? This concept would be supported by the healthy ordered passenger version, and be in cargo operators’ hands within the next five years.
What do you think? Should Boeing build the 777X freighter? Let us know in the comments.