What are cargo aircraft assets worth?

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As an independent aviation consultant, IBA has highlighted the very high levels of current demand for air cargo in the Covid-19 environment, but paints a more conservative picture of long term demand for certain aircraft types.

There are very high levels of utilisation in the global fleet of western-build pure jet freighters with a capacity of more than 18 tons. Of a total fleet of 1,941 aircraft, 1,659 – or 85% – are currently active.

The most widely used aircraft in this active freighter fleet are the Boeing 757-200F, of which there are 291 in operation, 267 Boeing 767-300Fs, 181 Boeing 777Fs, and 171 Boeing 747-400 freighter variants.

This freighter fleet has been supplemented by 812 ‘preighters’ – passenger aircraft that are being used by 109 airlines to carry cargo only. The most popular aircraft types being used for this purpose are the Boeing 777-300/300ER, representing 30% of the preighter fleet, and the Boeing 787 family, representing 26%.

In normal times, demand for air cargo freighter capacity would be driven by global and economic growth. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has grounded huge numbers of passenger aircraft and with them, cargo capacity, and this has inflated demand for freighters at a time when economies across the globe are struggling.

IBA believes this inflation in freighter demand will continue, even in these economic circumstances, until global air cargo capacity is rebalanced by the return to service of more passenger aircraft.

In the longer term, factors including demand, efficiency and the increased availability of younger aircraft for conversion as some passenger fleets are grounded permanently, will speed the retirement of some of the stalwarts of today’s freighter fleet, such as the A300, DC10, and Boeing 747s without nose-loading capacity.

Taking into account factors such as forecast demand, age, and availability of feedstock aircraft (aircraft available for freighter conversion), and using data from IBA.iQ, the platform for aviation intelligence, IBA forecasts that narrow-body freighter values range from US$3.8m for a 1987-built McDonnel Douglas MD-82SF, to $29.19m for a 2001-built Airbus A321-200P2F.

IBA forecasts that values for widebody freighter aircraft range from US$350,000 for a 1978-built Airbus A300F4, to $153m for a 2020-built Boeing 777-F.

Looking beyond the high demand caused by the Covid-19 situation, IBA has identified a number of freighter aircraft types that it considers to be the most vulnerable, including the Airbus A300-600F and A310-300F, Boeing 747-400BDSF/BCF, and McDonnell Douglas MD-11F.

It views the Boeing 747-400F/ERF and 737-300F to be less vulnerable, and believes the more secure aircraft types to be the Airbus A321-200P2F, and a number of Boeing models, including the 757-200F, 767-300F / 300ERBDSF, 737-400F, 737-800SF and 777-200F.

You can view IBA’s webinar presentation of these forecasts, including a wider range of forecast values and lease rates for air freighter aircraft, here.

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