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Mon, Mar 28, 2005

Air France Buying 777 Freighters

What Will Happen To The 747?

Air France announced on Friday that it plans to replace part of its aging fleet of cargo planes with Boeing's new 777 freighter. Boeing spokesman, Marc Birtel only confirmed that Air France is among the airlines interested in the new plane and Air France spokesman Jean-Claude Couturier commented that the 777 freighter is the favored option.

Couturier would not comment on a report in the financial daily La Tribune that Air France is about to become Boeing's launch customer by ordering (7) 777 freighters.

In November of 2004, Chicago-based Boeing stated that it would begin offering a 777 freighter, targeting a delivery date for the end of 2008. Currently, they are looking for a launch customer.
 
At present, Boeing's biggest freighter, the 747-400ER carries 248,000 pounds of cargo for a distance of 5700 miles. The 777 freighter range is up to 5200 miles, at a capacity of 222,000 pounds. This freighter is based on the passenger version of the 777-200LR (long-range) that is scheduled to enter service in 2006.

Rival Airbus will be offering the superjumbo A380 freighter in 2008, capable of carrying 341,000 pounds of cargo. This significant cargo capability has resulted in orders already from United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp.

Air France, is ordering 10 A380s in a passenger configuration, but when it comes to cargo, the airline "has not yet given any consideration to the A380", according to Couturier.

Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group (an aerospace consulting firm) indicated that a key advantage to the 777 is that it has two engines, compared to the A380 and 747's (4) engines. This could mean substantial savings for airlines not looking for the space that the other freighters offer.

Unfortunately, the 777 could steal business away from airlines who might otherwise buy Boeing's 747 freighter. At the same time, airlines interested in more cargo space are interested in the A380, further squeezing the 747 market.

Aboulafia said, "You're getting into the 747's niche and that's probably the biggest complication behind introducing the 777 freighter." Boeing's Marc Birtel, counters that Boeing believes the 777 freighter will complement, rather than compete against its 747 offering.

FMI: www.boeing.com, www.airbus.com, www.airfrance.com

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