How the B747F remains the undisputed workhorse of the global air cargo and logistics sector

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Air cargo transports goods valued at $6 trillion annually and the B747F plays a major role in these transactions. With COVID-19 and other logistics disruptions, Spire data examines how this freighter drives fleet capacity, helps to bolster world trade and supports business strategy.

The Queen of the Skies, aka, B747, was first launched over 50 years ago. Since then, the Boeing 747 has carried people, presidents, cargo, and even a Space Shuttle. In the 747 family, the special variant, B747F was purpose-built for cargo, that “F”  is for Freighter.

Air cargo industry and the B747F

The global economy depends on the ability to deliver high-quality products at competitive prices to consumers worldwide. According to the IATA, air cargo transports over $6 trillion worth of goods, accounting for approximately 35% of world trade by value.

Spire Aviation data reveals fascinating insights about the air cargo industry and the B747F operations. Scroll down to discover the top 10 airlines in the world flying B747F.

B747F flights connecting cargo hubs

The B747F has a great advantage over other cargo aircraft, as the plane can load incredibly long items of freight – more than even the width of the plane. Plus, the four engines and impressive lifting capacity make the cargo 747 an unmatched rival. The video shows the missions flown by B747F. Our flight tracking data reveals the arrival/departure airports, operating airlines, and other vital insights that powers operational efficiency and decision making for the logistics and analytics sector.

B747F Outshines other four-engine peers

COVID-19 disrupted aviation, triggering a steep drop in aircraft usage among the large aircraft category filled by Airbus A380, A340, and Boeing 747 variants.

Image: Number of aircraft in service of B747F, A340, A380 and B747 pax type

During the pandemic, Spire data tracked the impact on four-engine aircraft. The chart above reveals the fascinating contrast in passenger aircraft vs cargo aircraft activity in 2020. There are more B747F aircraft in-service now, even more than pre-covid times! Meanwhile, a majority of its four-engine peers have been moved to storage or forever grounded.

Image: Number of flights by B747F, A340, A380 and B747 pax

This flight activity chart shows the exponential rise in air cargo capacity demand during the pandemic, which powered the demand for B747F flights in 2020. There was a 50% increase in B747F flights in 2020.

Top 10 airlines in the world flying B747F

Air cargo operators are seeing substantial demand for long-haul widebody services, both near-and long-term, at attractive yields.

Image: Top 10 airline operators of the B747F by aircraft in-service

Atlas Air, UPS, Cargolux are among the largest operators of the B747F fleet. Cargo operators such as Silk Way Airlines, Atlas Air, Air Bridge Cargo, and Cargolux have become the stars of logistical efforts to support first responders around the world. And they’re all flying the Boeing 747F.

Image: Top 10 airlines in the world flying the B747F

The freight industry lacks air capacity to transfer products across the globe. Now with the monumental task ahead of transporting COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies, the problem is even more glaring.  “Just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 747 cargo aircraft,” summarized the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) in September 2020.

As the Boeing 747 program comes to an end and airlines are retiring the aircraft type, cargo airlines will continue to be the ones that operate the 747, likely, for many years to come.

Spire Aviation data recorded the air cargo flights in fine detail and is tracking the B747F and other long-haul widebody aircraft activity globally. Airlines worldwide with long-haul widebody aircraft are adapting their network and fleet strategies to navigate COVID-19 travel bans, utilize fleet capacity, and meet both travel and cargo demands. Satellite powered air traffic data is shedding light on evolving strategies and their effect on the global economy.

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