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Why Are Cargo Aircraft So Old?  
User currently offlineAirPacific747 From Denmark, joined May 2008, 2432 posts, RR: 24
Posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 12417 times:

I've been wondering this for quite some time...

Why does it seem like most cargo aircraft are way older than people carriers?
What's the benefit for the operators in operating such old aircraft like the one below:


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Surely it can't be more fuel efficient or cheaper in maintenance than a newer Boeing or Airbus?
And if they are so cheap to operate, then why aren't they used for passengers?

39 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineAndrewtang From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2001, 461 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 12384 times:

Because there are many people who will think why am I flying such an old plane?  biggrin 

Honestly cargo pallets don't care if they are on a new or old plane. If the company that is operating the plane can get it cheap. Or in the case of UPS, they probably will have finished financing the plane long ago. So now the profit from the flight minus off the operating cost, they will get more revenue than using a newer plane.


User currently offlineColumba From Germany, joined Dec 2004, 7078 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 12345 times:

They are cheaper to acquire since they are mostly second passenger aircraft converted to freighters.
They fly 15-20 years in passenger service and start a second life as freighter before the airliners that have once replaced them in passenger service will be phased out by the passenger airlines:
e.g. the 727 was once the workhorse of many passenger airlines and has been replaced mostly by 757s or the A320 so the 727 has been replaced by the 757/A320 and the 727F will be replaced with the 757F/A320F.



It will forever be a McDonnell Douglas MD 80 , Boeing MD 80 sounds so wrong
User currently offlineAirPacific747 From Denmark, joined May 2008, 2432 posts, RR: 24
Reply 3, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 12242 times:

Quoting Andrewtang (Reply 1):
If the company that is operating the plane can get it cheap.



Quoting Columba (Reply 2):
They fly 15-20 years in passenger service and start a second life as freighter before the airliners that have once replaced them in passenger service will be phased out by the passenger airlines:

Right, but is it still feasible considering fuel efficiency and maintenance costs? I guess so, but then back to why airlines don't use these old planes anymore... I mean they can get them cheap too, but I guess that must be because:

Quoting Andrewtang (Reply 1):
there are many people who will think why am I flying such an old plane? biggrin

?


User currently offlineColumba From Germany, joined Dec 2004, 7078 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 12207 times:

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 3):
Right, but is it still feasible considering fuel efficiency and maintenance costs? I guess so, but then back to why airlines don't use these old planes anymore... I mean they can get them cheap too, but I guess that must be because:

The fear of passengers on flying and old and therefore in their opinion "unsafe" aircraft is one reason.
But also many cargo airlines don´t use their aircaft every day so fuel costs are not that big of an issue as for passenger airlines.



It will forever be a McDonnell Douglas MD 80 , Boeing MD 80 sounds so wrong
User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 5, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 12167 times:

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 3):
Right, but is it still feasible considering fuel efficiency and maintenance costs?

Look at automobiles - while fuel efficiency and maintenance costs are important - it's the cost of buying the car which usually makes the decision. Do people get rid of five year old cars to buy new cars for the cheaper fuel costs?

Fuel and maintenance are important cost factors - but they are secondary when compared to the cost of acquisition.

A good DC-8 airframe and getting it in shape would cost under $20 million in today's world. How much fuel would UPS have to save at 15-20 hours flight time per week, maintenance at 1,000 flight hours per year to make up the cost difference of a $200 million dollar Boeing?

As noted above - a mainline or LCC passenger airline is going to fly their jet 50-60 hours per week, and 3,000-4,000 hours per year. So the per flight hour savings factor is much higher for them.

Savings of fuel and maintenance have to be figured on a per-flight hour basis - and include the cost of acquisition.

There is no way a modern new aircraft can compete cost-wise for low flight time routes with a well maintained older aircraft.


User currently offlinePatroni From Luxembourg, joined Aug 1999, 1403 posts, RR: 14
Reply 6, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 12162 times:

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 3):
Right, but is it still feasible considering fuel efficiency and maintenance costs?

It all depends on the daily utilization. If you have new aircraft with high ownership cost but (relatively) low operating cost (fuel, maintenance, etc.), you will have to get a high utilization rate out of them. If a new aircraft sits on the ground, the company cannot take advantage of the cost saving opportunities (hence the daily utilization rate of e.g. 744F operators is often between 15 and 16h).
For an old aircraft the economics work the other way round: Ownership costs are low or even close to Zero, but operating cost are high. So if an integrator like UPS uses a 727 or DC-8 to feed a hub (1 flight to the hub in the evening, out in the next morning, while the aircraft sits the rest of the day on the apron), it can be more economical than wasting the time of a new aircraft.


User currently offlineEYKD From Russia, joined Dec 2006, 200 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 12052 times:

Sorry for possibly silly question: Does airframe age influence freigth insurance rate anyhow?

User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 8, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 12018 times:

Quoting EYKD (Reply 7):
Does airframe age influence freigth insurance rate anyhow?

Certainly, but they are not using airframes which get into that high a cost factor. It's airframe cycles more than age which is a limiting factor.

The rates would have to be very, very high to offset the cheap acquisition costs.

A person looking for a private jet can buy an old Sabreliner and get it in very nice shape for about $2 million. It takes a lot of fuel and higher insurance to make a $35 million new Lear 45 a 'better' bargin.

If cost factors and not ego dominated the bizjet market - there would be a lot fewer new bizjets every year.


User currently offlineKtachiya From Japan, joined Sep 2004, 1794 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 11920 times:

Well consider this point.

Modern pax aircraft such as the B747-400 or the B777-200LR or ER is adjustable to a variety of IFE and leads to passenger comfort. There are many modifications on the current aircraft such as the B777 that was built under the Working Together Model that makes passenger comfort, their #1 priority. And airlines around the world are getting PTV and other amazing IFE. Such as the ICE system on EK, Magic system on JL, Studio CX on CX. Even airlines that I thought were never going to get PTVs for another great many years such as LH are focusing on passenger entertainment, other than the space that they provide on Y over the other carriers.

But does a cargo aircraft require entertainment? It won't because you are transporting goods and not people. You are not going to provide a frozen fish with a MAGIC or a STUDIO CX or an ICE sytem. And in the case of Japan, I can say that the non-stop routes aren't still the norm for cargo aircraft. I mean JL and Nippon Cargo still use ANC as a hub, as well as Fedex or UPS.

Nevertheless, Nippon Cargo is starting a rapid fleet modernization and I guess that will continue, but why not use a B747-400BCF if there is still life available in them? CX uses some of its classics as cargo aircraft today and I think that is a smart business plan. Besides, cargo is not getting dramatically cheaper and they are not demanding really cheap fees like in Japanese airlines (group pax) so I think fuel cost is not that big of an issue if they can obtain aircraft for really cheap. It still costs a fortune to send something from Japan to North America.



Flown on: DC-10-30, B747-200B, B747-300, B747-300SR, B747-400, B747-400D, B767-300, B777-200, B777-200ER, B777-300
User currently offlineAirPacific747 From Denmark, joined May 2008, 2432 posts, RR: 24
Reply 10, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 11772 times:

Quoting Columba (Reply 4):
But also many cargo airlines don´t use their aircaft every day so fuel costs are not that big of an issue as for passenger airlines.



Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 5):
As noted above - a mainline or LCC passenger airline is going to fly their jet 50-60 hours per week, and 3,000-4,000 hours per year. So the per flight hour savings factor is much higher for them.

Savings of fuel and maintenance have to be figured on a per-flight hour basis - and include the cost of acquisition.

There is no way a modern new aircraft can compete cost-wise for low flight time routes with a well maintained older aircraft.



Quoting Patroni (Reply 6):
So if an integrator like UPS uses a 727 or DC-8 to feed a hub (1 flight to the hub in the evening, out in the next morning, while the aircraft sits the rest of the day on the apron), it can be more economical than wasting the time of a new aircraft.

Thank you for clearing that up guys!
Next question: Why is Fedex ordering brand new 777s then?  Wink  duck  Big grin


User currently offline3201 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 11719 times:

This is another thread that keeps coming up over and over again. Search does work.

Traditionally cargo aircraft were old because the utilization was low (for example, only one round-trip a day usually for the express carriers) so the ratio of acquisition costs to fuel costs was high.

Now that utilization is higher (almost all FedEx aircraft fly two round-trips a day) and fuel is more expensive, the ratio of acquisition costs to fuel costs has gone way down. This is why you see box-haulers buying more new aircraft now -- the difference in fuel costs is much higher than it was, so it's more worth it to spend a lot on newer aircraft. This is also why NWA are finally retiring more of their DC9s, it's exactly the same situation.

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 5):
Savings of fuel and maintenance have to be figured on a per-flight hour basis - and include the cost of acquisition.

Exactly.


User currently offline747fan From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 1187 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 11588 times:

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 10):
Next question: Why is Fedex ordering brand new 777s then?

And UPS ordering 27 new 767-300ERF's and 8 new 747-400F's (one is already in service, another quickly on the way)?  duck 
Cargo airlines such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. don't need to fly many brand-new planes (although UPS, w/ the exception of their 747 classics, DC-8's, and 727's, as a relatively new fleet) since they have lower utilization rates than pax carriers and boxes don't complain. And they have markedly lower acquisition costs, which offsets the higher cost of maintenance and fuel.


User currently offlineMCO2BRS From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2007, 542 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 11148 times:

Would it be financially viable for a company such as FX, to acquire some older 777's with a high number of cycles and convert them? I'm thinking of the 777A, I think BA had/has a few as well as Varig? Would Boeing allow a PAX T7 to be converted to 777F before they started building their own?

User currently offlineIsitsafenow From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 4984 posts, RR: 23
Reply 14, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 10811 times:

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 10):
Next question: Why is Fedex ordering brand new 777s then?

A better Q is now guess how long a new 777F will last?
safe



If two people agree on EVERYTHING, then one isn't necessary.
User currently offlinePatroni From Luxembourg, joined Aug 1999, 1403 posts, RR: 14
Reply 15, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 9992 times:

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 10):
Next question: Why is Fedex ordering brand new 777s then? Wink duck

Because they also have missions which lead to higher utilization rates. With large fleets as operated by Fedex or UPS the airlines can afford to deploy the most suitable aircraft for each mission profile. Airlines with smaller fleets sometimes have to accept compromise solutions (like a 747F doing a short haul flight). I think Cathay Pacific at a time called their fleet deployment "intelligent misuse"  Wink


User currently offlineOV735 From Estonia, joined Jan 2004, 914 posts, RR: 3
Reply 16, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 9102 times:

Quoting Isitsafenow (Reply 14):
A better Q is now guess how long a new 777F will last?

Maybe until the LCDs in the cockpit start to die? Analog clocks last longer.  Smile

Seriously though, depending on the utilization, I think they might live into their forties and actually be retired because they use the wrong kind of fuel...

Cheers,
OV735


User currently offlineEBJ1248650 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 1932 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 8728 times:

Quoting EYKD (Reply 7):
Sorry for possibly silly question: Does airframe age influence freigth insurance rate anyhow?

Airplane use is measured in flying hours and cycles (a cycle is engine start up, taxi, take off, climb to altitude, cruise, descent, land and taxi to ramp for shut down). As long as there's no structural reason to ground the airplane (corrosion or cracks) an airplane can fly for years (provided other operating costs don't make it prohibitive). I believe at one time Korean Air had a 747 cargo plane that had something like 100,000 hours on it. I don't know what ever became of it, but I have seen wide body airliners being retired with around 65,000 hours on them.



Dare to dream; dream big!
User currently offlineAvianca From Venezuela, joined Jan 2005, 5934 posts, RR: 40
Reply 18, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8548 times:

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 8):
Certainly, but they are not using airframes which get into that high a cost factor. It's airframe cycles more than age which is a limiting factor.

from where the insurance company will know what kind of aircraft the contracted airline (contracted from a forwarder) ????



Colombia es el Mundo Y el Mundo es Colombia
User currently offlineVonRichtofen From Canada, joined Nov 2000, 4629 posts, RR: 36
Reply 19, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8424 times:

Also remember that profit margins are way higher flying cargo versus people. So the fuel efficiency issue is probably negated by that alone.


Kris



Word
User currently offlineXJETFlyer From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 327 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8371 times:

I think there is more than fuel cost. I'm sure they buy new aircraft for some of their longer range flights. If the plane does well and the up keep is fairly reasonable, why not use the older aircraft? How do the pilots feel about flying these older aircraft?

User currently offlineVV701 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 7619 posts, RR: 17
Reply 21, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8371 times:

Quoting Patroni (Reply 6):
For an old aircraft the economics work the other way round: Ownership costs are low or even close to Zero, but operating cost are high. So if an integrator like UPS uses a 727 or DC-8 to feed a hub (1 flight to the hub in the evening, out in the next morning, while the aircraft sits the rest of the day on the apron), it can be more economical than wasting the time of a new aircraft.

 checkmark 

I do not buy the "passengers do not like old aircraft" argument. If the airline refurbishes its interiors and cleans and paints the outside of its aircraft at appropriate intervals, how is Mr or Ms Average going to have any idea as to what the age of any aircraft they board is? No. Airlines replace aircraft for purely economic reasons when maintenance, refurbishment and fuel costs outweigh the advantages of flying a fully amortised aircraft.


User currently offlineSeptember11 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 3623 posts, RR: 21
Reply 22, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8337 times:

I ask myself this question: will DHL buy DC9 fleet from NW in the near future?


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User currently offline747fan From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 1187 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8278 times:

Quoting September11 (Reply 22):
I ask myself this question: will DHL buy DC9 fleet from NW in the near future?

Maybe, but I'm thinking that some of those (the -30's) are too old, as some of them are 40 years old. The "maybe" is for their youngest -50's, which are just over 30 years old, but I still think that's actually too old of a plane for a major cargo airline to acquire.


User currently offlineNwarooster From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1107 posts, RR: 3
Reply 24, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8212 times:
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Quoting September11 (Reply 22):
I ask myself this question: will DHL buy DC9 fleet from NW in the near future?

No. Northwest is flying their DC-9s untill they reach the FAA mandated limit of 100,000 cycles and the next check.
The FAA has limited the cycles due to an aft pressure bulkhead problem, due to the pressurisation cycle used for each flight.
Very few of Northwest's DC-9s will fly after NWA is done with them. Their time will be up and spent.  old 


25 MCOflyer : They are cheap and if in good order, can last many years while making a profit. Hunter
26 Cancidas : does anyone make a conversion kit for it? don't forget, the floor needs to be strengthened, main cargo door cut and so on. there aren't any certified
27 Bredman1 : It amazes me that anyone would even ask this question.
28 Chappie : ABX Air are parking their DC-9 series aircraft this year, so I doubt that they will take any of NW ( or any other carrier's) DC 9s
29 Post contains images 3201 : There's a specific technical answer, different than "they can still make money so why not," which wouldn't explain why there's a difference between c
30 Wjcandee : For what it's worth, Patroni basically got it right in his post. To expand a bit, I would add that the poster who taked about mixed missions also roun
31 ThirtyEcho : The stretch 8 that you show in your photo? Because they are better looking and ride more smoothly than modern aircraft. The DC-8 can, also, use inflig
32 Travellin'man : There is another crucial piece of the puzzle which I am surprised has not been mentioned so far, something I once asked a few years ago here on the fo
33 Post contains images PanHAM : Guys, there are two kind of cargo carriers. The Integrators., like UPS and FEDEX, who may make more revenue with one ULD on an MD11 than the conventi
34 Floridaflyboy : My dad flies for ABX Air, and he says the old aircraft are one of the biggest draws to flying cargo. Nope. ABX is in the beginning of a very slow ret
35 787EWR : [quote=Columba,reply=4]The fear of passengers on flying and old and therefore in their opinion "unsafe" aircraft is one reason. I agree, but I wonder
36 Post contains images PWM2TXLHopper : You're right, they're not. But compared to the price of purchasing a brand new aircraft, operating these older birds isn't so expensive. Plus, you've
37 787EWR : I have not been on a Northwest flight in years, but I have an associate who lives near Memphis. He flew up to Detroit one afternoon. It was on a DC-9
38 Burnsie28 : Since they have the 717 interiors that plane must be pretty dated, and I hear rattles and creaks turbulence.
39 Post contains links Viscount724 : Fully agree. DC-8 remains my all-time favorite jet airliner. There's still one way to fly on a DC-8 in a passenger seat rather than packing yourself
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