Freighters Bolster 747 Aftermarket

The booming air cargo market continues to support aftermarket opportunities, as demonstrated by a renewed contract between Air France KLM Engineering & Maintenance and ASL Airlines Belgium.

The operator has extended an initial contract signed in 2006 and covering two Boeing 747 freighter aircraft, to one that provides component and repair support maintenance for five of the widebody freighters. 

ASL Airlines Belgium has two 747-400Fs and three 747-400ERFs, having received its fifth 747 freighter in October 2020.
Formerly known as TNT Airways, ASL also operates 757 and 737 freighter aircraft.

Commenting on the extended maintenance deal, ASL’s fleet manager for the 747 noted that the “current context puts lots of pressure on cargo operators to deliver higher performance based on aircraft availability and cost effectiveness”.

The deal also provides a boost for AFI KLM E&M, which has seen both of its parent airlines – Air France and KLM – phase out their 747 passenger and freighter aircraft fleets in recent years.

Air France-KLM once operated 10 747-400Fs, but nowadays most of the biggest operators of 747 freighters are dedicated cargo operators such as Atlas Air, Kalitta Air, Cargolux and UPS.

One exception is Taiwan’s China Airlines which operates one of the world’s largest 747-400F fleets, numbering 20 aircraft. And it is doing so quite successfully: off the back of its cargo services, the flag carrier was one of very few airlines in the world to post a profit in 2020.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.