Two years ago an interesting order was placed with Boeing. One that might have slipped under the radar for most. This order didn’t really make all too many waves in the AvGeek world and to be honest, I didn’t even realize it myself till I was tipped off by a fellow AvGeek.
In March 2011 Lufthansa Cargo put in an order for five 777 freighters and this spurred a large amount of curiosity since it did not seem like the ideal choice to replace their aging fleet of 18 classic MD-11 aircraft.
Lufthansa Cargo currently flies an all “Boeing” fleet made up of older MD-11F aircraft. Previous to that Lufthansa used the Boeing 747-200F, which had been converted from airliners handed over to them by the parent airline.
A Boeing replacement option for the MD-11 seemed pretty likely. The two long haul options on offer by Boeing for the freighter market are the 747-8F and the 777F. Both give many improvements over their predecessor aircraft. Although Lufthansa Cargo has never operated the 747-400F, I was curious to check out the differences of the aircraft type as seen below:
|Max Cargo Volume||21,530ftᵌ||27,467ftᵌ||22,371ftᵌ||30,832ftᵌ|
|Max Range||3910 nm||4445 nm||4900 nm||4390 nm|
My surprise with the order was, “Why only the 777F and why not the 747-8F?” With Lufthansa being the launch customer for the 747-8I it would seem to most AvGeeks that the 747-8F would be an ideal choice. Common type ratings, common maintenance and a common parts base at the Frankfurt Hub would obviously provide cost savings. However there were other reasons at play here. Not to mention that they were only ordering five planes [and 5 options] to replace 18 — the math was not adding up.
One reason might be that Lufthansa does not seem to happy with the Boeing 747-8Is that they already operate. According to Aviation Week ,”Lufthansa is considering eventually replacing its Boeing 747-8 fleet with the proposed 777-9X some time in the next decade, Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz indicated on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cape Town.”
Also, the Lufthansa Cargo has partnered with DHL to create a separate cargo company called Aerologic, which already operates the 777F. Their experience with the aircraft likely helped to sway Lufthansa Cargo’s decision.
With the first 777F in Lufthansa Cargo livery is expected to appear from the Everett factory later this year, followed shortly after by another. Within two years the final three will be built and delivered.
Lufthansa Cargo over the years have moved from Aircraft with four engines, to three and now to just two engines (albeit giant GE90s) and this is seen as a positive move. Is this a sign that the 777F is the “Freighter of the Future?” Most likely with any future 777-9XF options.
** Updated June 7th **
A further comment from Lufthansa Cargo stated that “We chose the 777 because it is the best freighter from our point of view. The combination of efficiency and size is ideal. We are convinced that it is much easier (but still hard work) to operate a 777 with cargo capacity of appr. 100 tonnes with profitable load factors than the much bigger 747-8 (although its is a great aircraft and we are operating it very successfully in our passenger business).” Looking at it from this perspective I happen to agree that they made the right decision!
|This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian AvGeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.|