While much of the prestige for building aircraft comes from the commercial passenger airline side of the business, for Boeing, its cargo aircraft division is substantial. The US aerospace firm has several different cargo planes based on its famous passenger varients. How do they compare? Let’s have a look.
While there are more Boeing freighter aircraft than on this list here, such as 757 conversions and DC-10s, we will focus on the planes that are on the market now and available today, namely the Boeing 767, 747, and 777.
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The Boeing 767F
The Boeing 767F is based on the original Boeing 767-300ER and has all the benefits that this design brought to the market. Airlines can order the 767-300F new, or they can convert an existing 767 into the type (one reason why the 767 aftermarket is so lucrative).
The Boeing 767F has a cargo capacity increased to 15,469 cubic feet (438 m3) from 4,030 ft³ / 114.1 m³ – an increase of nearly four times. This is enough to have 24 standard pallets on the top deck (usually seated by passengers) in addition to the typical 30 LD2 containers stored on the lower deck.
This aircraft can also be refrigerated and has two large cargo doors at both ends of the plane, with an additional one on the starboard side.
When it comes to the range, the plane has a shorter range than the Boeing 767-300ER of 3,255 nautical miles, compared to the original’s range 5,980 nautical miles. This is because the carrier prioritizes the cargo onboard over fuel, filling up the plane with less to ensure they are not as heavy. An empty Boeing 767F could likely match the 767-300ER.
The Boeing 747F
The Boeing 747 was initially designed as a cargo aircraft and had several features that give away its origins.
For one, the cockpit is on a second level for the intention of the nose opening. This has a great advantage over other cargo aircraft, as the plane can load incredibly long items of freight – more than the width of the plane. Plus, the four engines and impressive lifting capacity make the cargo 747 an unmatched rival.
How does the most modern freighter, the 747-8F, compare to the passenger equivalent the 747-8I?
The passengers’ version of the 747 can carry only 6,225 cu ft (176 m3) of freight, which is nothing compared to the 747 freighters capacity of 30,288 cu ft (858 m3). This is almost double the maximum payload of the 747-8I of 76.1 tons, to 132.6 tons.
The range does suffer, however, with the 747-8F only operating to the extent of 4,120 nautical miles, compared to the passenger range of 7,730 nautical miles.
The Boeing 777F
The last freighter on this list is the Boeing 777F, initially based on the 777-200LR variant.
According to Boeing, the aircraft has a payload capacity of 102,010 kg (224,900 lbs) – very similar to the Boeing 747-200F that it replaces. Compared to the 777-200LR, the 777F can carry around 27 standard pallets (244 x 318 cm) on its main deck and 10 in its lower cargo hold.
The range is less than the LR’s 8,555 nautical miles (15,843 km) for obvious reasons, with a limit of only around 4,970 nautical miles (9,200 km). That said, if it flies without cargo, it could fly further than the original LR version. It is also worth pointing out that this 777F can fly further than the 747-8F, but not carry as much cargo.
There are also several other versions of freighter conversions that Boeing offers, even small aircraft like the Boeing 737 – but it is best covered in another article.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.