Boeing added two 747-8s to its order book this week. Yet although Air Bridge Cargo of Russia flew away the two planes, it’s still Boeing that owns them.
Boeing added two 747-8s to its order book this week. The good news is that this reduces to four the number of so-called “white tail” 747 jets — aircraft already built but now without a buyer.
The less good news is that although Air Bridge Cargo of Russia took delivery of the two jumbo jets, it’s still Boeing that owns them.
Boeing did not identify the airline taking the jets, but according to people with knowledge of the details, the planes were the two 747-8s that Air Bridge Cargo flew away to Moscow on Monday.
The people also said that both planes were actually bought by Boeing’s own airplane-financing unit, Boeing Capital Corp., and then leased to Air Bridge.
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This detail was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
Air Bridge Cargo is a unit of Volga Dnepr Group, which offered a big boost to the 747 program at the Paris Air Show in June by signing a preliminary agreement with Boeing to take 20 of the jumbo jets through “a mix of direct purchases and leasing over the next seven years.”
The two planes just delivered are the first of those 20 sales to be finalized.
Boeing regulatory filings show that as of the end of September, Boeing Capital already was financing sales of 747-8s worth $734 million. Based on market pricing, that suggests Boeing had financed five or six previous 747-8 sales.
Boeing spokeswoman Karen Crabtree confirmed the jet-maker is still seeking buyers for four remaining 747-8 “white tails,” including one painted in Seahawks colors.
She said orders for those jets were canceled “for a variety of reasons and by more than one customer.”
Boeing is now down to just 22 unfilled orders for the 747-8, consisting of eight freighter models and 14 passenger jets. However those figures include various dubious sales.
Still counted as firm sales are four jets ordered by Russian carrier Transaero, which has ceased operations and is facing bankruptcy. Also on the order book are two 747-8s for Nigerian carrier Arik Air, which ordered the planes in 2011 but was later reported to want to switch the order.
Despite the dwindling orders, Boeing is hoping it can stretch out 747-8 production through 2018 when it wants to build at least two highly customized Air Force One models for the president.
The jet-maker said this summer it will slow the 747 production rate from 1.3 jets per month today to just one jet per month in March.
Yet it looks like the 747-8 can survive only if there’s an upturn in the world air-cargo market, which has been in a prolonged slump since the 2008 financial crisis.
“We’ve seen cargo market sales continue to be slow,” said Crabtree. “We are working with customers across the globe and expect activity to increase with the economy.”