October 6 - Cargolux is targeting heavy and outsize cargo as a likely significant traffic for a planned new joint venture Chinese international all-cargo airline it is now close to setting up, writes HLPFI correspondent, Phil Hastings.

More generally, the Luxembourg-based global B747 freighter operator is also highlighting the requirements of that type of cargo in talks with US aircraft manufacturer Boeing about the key design features for any future successors to the B747-400F and B747-8F.

The latest details about both initiatives emerged during a recent joint Cargolux/Boeing press briefing in Luxembourg held to mark the arrival of the airline's 13th new B747-8F, boosting its total fleet to 25 (13 B747-8Fs and 12 B747-400Fs), and its 45th year of operation.

Dirk Reich, Cargolux's president and CEO, said talks with the European carrier's Chinese 35 percent shareholder HNCA (Henan Civil Aviation Development & Investment Company) about setting up a new airline, based in Zhengzhou, eastern central China, were "advancing". "Those discussions are still ongoing and nothing has been finalised yet but we hope that by the end of this year we will have the contractual basis to start activities," he reported.

Reich said current thinking envisaged starting Cargolux China, as the planned new airline has already provisionally been dubbed, with three B747 aircraft (either -400Fs or -8Fs). That number would be increased to five over the following three years. Those aircraft, he said, would be acquired from outside the existing Cargolux fleet and could be either new or second hand.

Geographically, he continued, the main initial focus would be on China-US and intra-Asian routes but longer term, as more aircraft joined the fleet, services linking China with Australia, South America and Africa would be added.

Asked by HLPFI about Cargolux China's strategy when it came to heavy lift/project cargo, he commented: "Heavy and outsize loads will be a speciality and we will be investing a lot in that side of the business. I would expect 10-20 percent of the total traffic carried by that airline to be outsize cargo."

Expanding on that point, Reich suggested that as China became an increasingly important manufacturer and exporter of heavy plant and equipment for industries such as oil/gas and power generation, the volume of outsize cargo shipped out of that country would grow.

"Today, we are seeing increasing demand for chartered freighter flights out of China to countries like Nigeria, which I would expect to be carrying a mixture of consumer goods and oil/gas and energy industry equipment," he added.

Reich pointed out that heavy and outsize cargo was already an important traffic for Cargolux which marketed its services in that market under the product name CV jumbo. "A key feature of that product is the fact that our modern B747F fleet has nose-door and large side-door cargo loading capabilities."

In that context, he said Cargolux was discussing the issue of outsize cargo in ongoing talks with Boeing about the potential design of any future generation of large freighters. "We have discussed whether it would be a swing-tail, a lift-tail or another nose-door. We have also talked about an aircraft which could carry sea freight containers."

Dirk Reich