|Quoting BMI727 (Reply 1):|
One potential issue, at least in the US and probably elsewhere as well, is that one of the principle cargoes carried by smaller freighters was cancelled checks, which are now mostly processed electronically.
Perhaps many years ago the high value cargo was cancelled checks where speed was important and volume not necessarily as much, hence AirNet and their use of Learjets so much. However, there are many smaller cargo carriers that act as feeders to UPS and Fedex that is a fairly large business today, perhaps larger than the cancelled check industry ever was. Correct me if I'm wrong.
The feeder industry seems to rely pretty heavily on old (really old), smaller prop planes since speed is not as much of an issue on the shorter routes they fly. Probably the largest single feeder airline, Ameriflight, has over 150 prop planes.
I can't see any of the cargo feeders ever buying jets as they don't need the speed and cargo doesn't complain about props. Also, the majority of the feeders don't need planes as large as the Q400 either. At least one of the Fedex feeders, Empire, has a handful of ATR72s and a dozen or so ATR42s, but the majority of the cargo feeders use even smaller prop planes. Of Ameriflight's fleet, the vast majority are composed of the BE99, B1900C, and SA227 planes. There are a handful of EMB120 planes, and the rest are even smaller piston props.
I will be very curious to see what these feeders will find to replace all of these old props someday. I've heard rumors some of AmFlight's Piper Chieftains are getting close to 50,000 hours on their frames. They don't seem to need the size of the ATR, and there aren't that many small prop planes in those size ranges anymore.
SA-227; B1900; Q200; Q400; CRJ-2,7,9; 717; 727-2; 737-3,4,5,7,8,9; 747-2; 757-2,3; 767-3,4; MD-90; A319, 320; DC-9; DC-1