MIAMI — Boeing and Azerbaijan-based airline Silk Way West are finalizing a deal for three 747-8 freighters at a deal valued at more than $1.1 billion. However, an industry analyst believes that the longer-term prospects for the aircraft type are not good.
The Boeing 747-8F is the kind of aircraft airlines get if they have a need for a high-utilization, very predictable-use aircraft with a high capacity and performance envelope and nothing can beat it for companies like Atlas Air, said Robert Mann of the R.W. Mann & Co. aviation consultancy.
“But if you have low utilization, peak-use only need for aircraft, the 747-400F can do that pretty well,” said Mann. “The real question is, and only the buyer can answer, do you have a bulletproof need for the outsized capacity of [the 747-8F] relative to the 747-400F, in low-utilization older generation 747s or even repurposed aircraft. It’s all about specific utilization criteria.”
The 747-8F has the same problem the Airbus A380 has, said Mann. “And that is how many markets are there that require a specific combination of capacity, payload and range offered by the 747-8F on the freighter side and the A380 on the passenger side as oppose to alternatives like the 777F on the freighter side,” he said.
In 2014, there were only two 747-8 freighter orders — one from AirBridgeCargo Airlines and one from Cargolux Airlines. The 747-8 passenger aircraft had no orders during the year, and two orders were cancelled. Conventional wisdom has Boeing keeping the production line open long enough to win the order for a replacement for Air Force One, then end production in the next few years.
Silk Way West is an enterprise of the Silk Way Group, which includes 23 companies working in the aviation industry and related services. The airline currently operates two 767-300 Freighters, three 747-400 Freighters and two 747-8 Freighters.