Boeing last month launched the much-anticipated 777 Freighter with five firm orders from Air France. Based on the 777-200LR, the 777 Freighter will fly as far as 4,965 mn with a full 229,000-pound payload, making it the world’s longest range cargo hauler.
The firm order from Air France, which includes options for three more of the airplanes, came a month after Air Canada said it would take a pair of the Freighters as part of a planned order for eighteen 777-300ER/-200LRs and fourteen 787s. Both Air France and Air Canada expect to take delivery of their first 777 Freighters during the first quarter of 2008.
According to Air France senior vice president of fleet planning Pierre Vellay, new noise regulations at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport will force the airline’s seven 747-200Fs out of service by 2009, hence the need for a replacement. The 777 Freighter proved a natural choice because of its commonality with Air France’s 777-200ER and -300ER passenger fleet, he added.
Vellay said Air France harbors no plans to replace any of its five 747-400ERFs. In fact, he said, the airline plans to convert three 747-400 Combi aircraft to freighters to help ease the transition from the 747-200s to the 777Fs. By 2011 it plans to exercise its three 777F options and remove the 747 Combi aircraft.
Air France vice president of cargo services Marc Boudier said the switch to the new airplane will save the airline between 17,000 and 20,000 tons of fuel per aircraft each year. Boudier also cited flexibility benefits, remarking that the airplane’s range will allow Air France to realign its network.
“For sure we will continue to operate from Paris to Japan, Korea and China with the ERF, and this is the right aircraft for these types of routes,” said Boudier. “Of course with the remaining 747-200s we have to have some solutions for the other part of our network, especially to the U.S., Latin America, Africa and India. The flexibility of the 777 with good range and a smaller capacity is certainly the solution for these routes.”
Showing a maximum takeoff weight of 766,000 pounds, the 777F will carry more payload by weight than any other twin-engine airplane. As with the 747, the 777 Freighter can accommodate 10-foot-high pallets, allowing operators to transfer loads directly to 747s through its main cargo door.