By BRYAN CORLISS
WASHINGTON — The world will have twice as many air cargo planes in 20 years, but they will be converted passenger planes as opposed to new aircraft, the Boeing Co. projects.
The greatest growth will come in wide-body freighters, like Boeing’s 747s and 767s built in Everett, the company said.
The company issued its biennial World Air Cargo Forecast Thursday at the Air Cargo Forum in Washington, D.C.
This year, for the first time ever, Boeing will build more cargo-carrying 747s than passenger-carrying models. And a company spokesman last week said Boeing foresees steady growth in its cargo business.
Thursday’s report spelled out the projections:
Perhaps not surprisingly, Boeing expects the greatest demand to be for wide-body freighters, like the 747 and 767, as well as MD-11s and DC-10s built by the former McDonnell-Douglas, which Boeing now owns.
Most of the world’s air cargo fleet will be comprised of Boeing craft, according to Randy Baseler, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group’s vice president for marketing.
It’s more economical to convert existing passenger jets into freighters than to buy new ones, Baseler said. And since the bulk of passenger jets now flying are Boeing’s, it only makes sense that they will become the majority of the cargo fleet.
Boeing also has an edge over rival Airbus Industrie in that it builds a full line of cargo planes, said Seddik Belyamani, the executive vice president for sales and marketing for the commercial air group. This could include the 747X Stretch freighter, which the company is developing but has not formally committed to build.
As now conceived, the 747X Stretch would be able to carry 23 percent more cargo than the current 747-400F, which carries 124 tons.
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