With the lowest operating cost per ton-mile in the industry, the new-technology Boeing 747-400 Freighters are the all-cargo transport members of the 747-400 family.
They can carry twice as much cargo, twice as far, as the competitor's leading freighter. Along with earlier versions, 747 Freighters -- nearly 300 in all -- carry half the freighter air cargo in the world.
With the enhanced 747-400ER Freighter, the airplane offers an even more unbeatable combination of payload, range and speed.
The newest member of the family, the 747-400 Boeing Converted Freighter, gives air cargo companies an economical means to add cargo lift by converting 747-400 passenger or combi airplanes to freighters.
Flies Faster, Farther -- and Carries More
With a maximum takeoff weight of 875,000 pounds (396,900 kg), the standard 747-400 Freighter can carry 124 tons (113,000 kg) of cargo up to 4,450 nautical miles (8,240 km). About 110 747-400 Freighters are in service worldwide today, operated by the leading air cargo companies.
The 747-400ER Freighter, which entered service in October 2002, has a maximum takeoff weight of 910,000 pounds (412,770 kg). This takeoff weight increase over existing 747-400 Freighters allows the 747-400ER Freighter to fly an additional 525 nautical miles (972 km). Or, it can carry an additional 22,000 pounds (9,980 kg) of payload on long-range flights at maximum takeoff weight.
To support the 35,000 pounds (15,876 kg) of additional takeoff weight capability, the 747-400ER Freighter incorporates strengthened fuselage, landing gear, and parts of its wing, along with new, larger tires.
The cross-section of 747 Freighters is optimized to carry the maximum amount of cargo with the minimum amount of container weight. The industry-standard 10-foot-high (3.1 m) pallets accommodated by the large side-cargo doors on the 747 Freighter make efficient use of the airplane's volume capability. Also, only 747 Freighters have both a large side-cargo door and a nose-cargo door. This unique combination not only provides operators with the flexibility to carry outsized (extremely tall or long), higher-yield cargo, but also shortens loading time for all shipments. Over 20 years, this flexibility and efficiency can mean at least $20 million in additional revenue and yield for an operator.
For the conversion to a freighter configuration, a 747-400 passenger airplane receives a side cargo door and layout that is identical to the 747-400 Freighter. That includes 30 pallets on the main deck and comparable volume. The upper deck of the Boeing Converted Freighter is capable of seating up to 19 people, an option found on no other converted freighter. Also included is a strengthened main-deck floor, full main-deck lining, provisions for a new cargo handling system and revised flight-deck systems.
With 747 Freighters comprising three-fourths of the world's wide-body freighter fleet, the seamless interlining of 747-400 pallets and containers at cargo hubs simplifies and streamlines ground operations. Compatibility with existing ground support equipment at the more than 130 cities already being served by 747 Freighters also reduces cost and variability in ground operations.
The existing fleet of 1,130 in-service 747s ensures that capable support is readily available worldwide, increasing operator flexibility and lowering maintenance costs. Sharing common spares with the worldwide fleet of 688 747-400s makes obtaining spares more convenient and more affordable.
Just as the 747-400ER freighter is the latest 747 cargo-carrying improvement, the 747-400 Freighter was a dramatic improvement over its predecessor. Compared to the 747-200 Freighter it replaced, the 747-400 Freighter carries an additional 15 tons of payload or flies 840 nautical miles (1,556 km) farther. And, more fuel-efficient engines and larger wings enable the 747-400 Freighter to burn 10 to 16 percent less fuel than previous versions.
Advanced materials allow considerable structural weight reductions, improved damage tolerance and fatigue resistance throughout both the freighter and passenger versions of the 747-400.
The two-crew flight deck and reduced maintenance costs for avionics and engines provide further savings in direct operating costs.
Boeing, as the original equipment manufacturer, offers customers a variety of support packages that may be incorporated during conversion of a 747-400 passenger airplane to a freighter, including avionics and flight-deck upgrades, and integration of technical manuals.
The 747-400 Freighter has the same upper deck as the 747-200 Freighter. However, the upper-deck floor was revised to make room for two additional 10-foot-high (3.1 m) pallets on the main deck.
By relocating the upper-deck access ladder and revising guide rails and tie-down equipment, Boeing created an additional pallet position in the nose of the airplane. These changes resulted in 774 cubic feet (21.9 m3) more cargo space on the main deck than on the 747-200F.
Two additional LD-1 or LD-3 containers will fit into the aft lower hold and -- depending on the pallet and container mix -- two additional containers will fit into the forward lower hold, adding up to 700 cubic feet (19.8 cu m) of additional containerized cargo volume in the lower hold.
The 747-400 Freighter's improved powered cargo-handling system makes for smooth, fast loading and unloading.
A Freighter With Many Uses
Twenty seven customers have ordered a total of 166 747-400 Freighters, including 40 747-400ER Freighters. Cargolux Airlines was the first to put the 747-400 Freighter into service in November 1993. More than 120 747-400 Freighters have been delivered.
Boeing has been the world leader in civilian air cargo since the 707 Freighter was introduced more than 30 years ago. From its beginning in 1966, the 747 family was designed to include an all-cargo transport. That's why all 747 Freighters are optimized for cargo.
The first 747 Freighter, the 747-200F, could easily carry 100 tons (90,000 kg) across the Atlantic Ocean or across the United States. Its operating costs were 35 percent less per ton-mile than the 707s that were configured as freighters.
Boeing delivered 73 of the 747-200 Freighters between 1972 and 1991. In addition, about 150 747s have been converted into freighters after serving many productive years as passenger planes. About 250 747 freighters are in service today.
In addition, Boeing completed modifications to 19 existing 747-100s to Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) configurations in 1990. If called into service by the Air Force, the all-passenger commercial planes can be converted to cargo service in less than 48 hours. These 747s have been used to carry troops, bulk and oversized cargo during military operations, including Operation Desert Storm.
An Eye Toward the Future
The 747 Freighter's future is as bright as its past is legendary. In November 2005, Boeing launched the next-generation 747, called the 747-8, with Cargolux and Nippon Cargo Airlines. The 747-8 family includes the 747-8 Intercontinental passenger airplane and the 747-8 Freighter. Both offer airlines the lowest operating costs and best economics of any large passenger or freighter airplane.
The 747-8 Freighter offers operators an airplane that continues the leadership of the 747 Freighter family in the world cargo market. It represents a new benchmark in fuel efficiency and noise reduction, allowing airlines to lower fuel costs and fly into more airports at more times of the day.
With a maximum structural payload capacity of 140 tonnes (154 tons) the 747-8 Freighter offers 16 percent more revenue cargo volume than the 747-400F with slightly greater range. The additional 117 cu m (4,124 cu ft) of volume means the airplane can accommodate four additional main-deck pallets and three additional lower-hold pallets. The 747-8 Freighter enables operators to choose between carrying greater revenue payload -- up to an additional 20 tonnes (23 tons) -- or flying up to 1,400 nmi farther in markets where cargo density requirements are lower. The airplane upholds its predecessor's legendary efficiency, with equivalent trip costs and 15 percent lower ton-mile costs than the 747-400F. In fact, the 747-8 Freighter will enjoy the lowest ton-mile costs of any freighter, giving operators unmatched profit potential.
Compared one-on-one, the 747-8 Freighter has no competitors. The 747-8 Freighter's empty weight is 86 tonnes (95 tons) lighter than the A380 freighter. This results in 25 percent lower fuel burn per ton, which translates into 20 percent lower trip costs and 23 percent lower ton-mile costs than the A380F.
The 747-8 Freighter is scheduled to enter service in 2009 with Cargolux Airlines. In the meantime, the 747-400 Freighter fills the market need for carrying high-capacity, long-range cargo.