3,600 freighters to be delivered over two decades: Cirium

North America will maintain its leading share of the freighter fleet, down from 47% to 37%

3,600 freighters to be delivered over two decades: Cirium
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Some 3,590 freighter aircraft are forecast to be supplied over the next 20-year period including 1,060 new builds (30 percent) and 2,530 conversions from passenger aircraft (70 percent).

These numbers are similar to the last two forecasts, which already reflected the boom currently being experienced in conversions due to air cargo market dynamics emanating from the pandemic,including e-commerce growth and feedstock availability, according to the latest update from Cirium Ascend Consultancy.

Freight capacity (available tonne kilometres or ATKs) is forecast to grow at 4.1 percent annually over 2022 and traffic (FTKs) at four percent, the update added.

"New widebody factory freighters from Airbus and Boeing are due to enter service in 2026 and 2027, respectively. Meanwhile, conversion demand, driven by the ongoing rise of e-commerce along with increasing volumes of feedstock in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, has seen modification numbers peak in 2023. Focus is now on conversion of the newer generation aircraft including the A321ceo, 737-800, A330ceo and 777-300ER."

The freighter fleet will grow by 2.6 percent annually to reach almost 4,200 aircraft, Cirium says in its update "Demand for air freight rose significantly during the pandemic (driven by the short-term loss of belly capacity on passenger networks) and longer-term freighter fleet growth will be driven by the ongoing rise of global e-commerce. The cargo conversion sector has seen a boom, driven by the market dynamics caused by Covid-19 with factors including the rise in feedstock availability and strong cargo demand/yield. Although the conversion boom is forecast to peak in 2023, it enables the replacement of old inefficient aircraft and caters for e-commerce growth."

North America, home of the largest integrators and e-commerce providers, will maintain its leading share of the freighter fleet, down from 47 percent to 37 percent even as the Chinese market grows its fleet by 10 percentage points to 18 percent. "This brings the country on a par with Europe as the second largest global cargo market. Long-term forecasting for Russia’s cargo market is uncertain given the current conflict and sanctions but we currently envisage that the freighter market will contract through to 2042, reducing its global share from two percent to less than one percent."

Total orders likely for $3.3 trillion
The Cirium Fleet Forecast predicts the delivery of some 46,260 new passenger and freighter jet and turboprop aircraft over the 20 years between 2023 and 2042worth an estimated $3.2 trillion (based on 2023 $). "It covers aircraft sized from 30 seats upwards and their freighter equivalents."

(Source: Cirium Fleet Forecast)

The long-term resilience consistently demonstrated by the aviation industry over many cycles and external shocks underlines the crucial role air transportation plays in global economic development, the forecast added. "So beyond 2024, we expect the industry to return to more traditional growth paths. Passenger capacity (ASKs) is forecast to grow at 3.4 percent per year (compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019) and at 5.3 percent per annum over 2022 for the period 2023-2042. In our view, the industry has essentially lost about four years of capacity growth and so the level of ASKs in 2042 will be similar to those we had predicted for 2038 in the last pre-Covid forecast produced in 2019. Load factor is predicted to be around 85.3 percent by the end of the period, over four points above that in 2019."

Airbus and Boeing will remain the two largest commercial aircraft OEMs, delivering an estimated 89 percent of aircraft and 88 percent by value through 2042, the update added. There is, however, over $360 billion of demand for other OEMs as well as new programmes – including developments by airframers such as Avic, Comac, Deutsche Aircraft and Yakovlev (now heading the former Irkut and Sukhoi programmes).

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