Despite Recent Contraction, Freighter Fleet to Grow Over Next 20 Years, ACMG Says

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New ACMG 20-Year Freighter Forecast Released

A newly-released forecast issued by ACMG indicates that there will be significant future demand for freighter aircraft under a wide variety of assumptions regarding underlying demand for air cargo services. The fact that the freighter fleet will grow stands in stark contrast to recent experience, which saw the total quantity of freighters in the global fleet drop about 6% over the past year and drop nearly 14% from a peak level in 2006/07. Clearly the freighter market has been under considerable pressure in recent years.

“Despite concerns about too much capacity in the freighter fleet today, the fact is the fleet will expand over the next 20 years, even if growth in demand for air freight service zeros out, which is highly unlikely,” said Robert Dahl, Managing Director of ACMG.

ACMG (Air Cargo Management Group), a market research and consulting firm, updates its forecast each year, but the report was last offered for sale as a standalone document in 2010. The ACMG forecast is the only in-depth, independent assessment of future demand for freighters. The newly released 2013 edition covers the period from 2013-through-2032, predicting demand for freighters to meet growth and replacement needs under multiple scenarios of future air cargo market growth.

ACMG’s forecast is unique in projecting fleet growth in five-year increments, and in showing demand for individual aircraft types, taking into account the impact of production freighter deliveries, passenger-to-freighter conversion activity, and the retirement of aging freighters from the existing fleet. The report includes the total forecasted number of freighters in each of the forthcoming five-year time periods.

A “high growth” scenario, which assumes 5% annual growth in demand for air freight services, would result in more than a doubling of the quantity of freighters in the global fleet by 2032. This produces the need for an average of roughly 150 added freighters per year for the next twenty years. This compares to the historic trend in which approximately 80 freighters (production units and P-to-F conversions) were added per year from 1990-2010. A “low-growth” scenario, based on 3% annual growth in demand, would result in the need for roughly a 50% increase in the number of freighters by 2032, with an average of about 100 freighters added per year for the next twenty years.

The 5% future growth rate is close to the predicted growth of global trade on an annual basis over the next twenty years, while the 3% rate is consistent with the rate of annual growth experienced by the air freight industry since 2000.

ACMG notes that even under the extreme case where there was no growth in air cargo demand over the next twenty years there would be a need for about 60 added freighters per year to offset freighters that would be retired from the existing fleet.

In addition to the basic forecasts noted above, this report provides a sensitivity analysis showing the impact of future freighter fleet growth due to variations in freighter productivity and the impact of shifts in the amount of freight that is carried in the belly compartments of passenger aircraft. Shifts in the belly-to-freighter ratio are shown to have a significant potential impact on future freighter requirements.

This report also contains an overview of the characteristics of the airlines that operate freighters, and an appendix providing a summary of the characteristics and principal attributes of aircraft types expected to be the primary freighter models in operation through 2032.

A teleconference previewing the new report will be presented on Thursday, May 2nd at 9:00 AM PT. To register, click here.

To order the full report or for more information, visit

Founded in 1978, ACMG is a specialized aviation consulting firm, which focuses on freighter aircraft and all aspects of the worldwide air freight and express industry. ACMG is owned by New York-based Royal Media Group, a leading information services media company. To obtain more information about the new forecast or to order a copy, visit or call 646-837-5945.
Robert Dahl, an aviation analyst for more than 20 years, is available to provide expert commentary on the results of this report and on the air cargo industry, in general. Mr. Dahl can be reached at rdahl(at)acmg(dot)aero or 1-206-971-2933.

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