Cargo plane

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Loading of an MD-11 -F with containers through the cargo door into the main deck
Cross-section of a passenger Airbus A300 with underfloor cargo space
Main deck of a Boeing 747 with pallet and transport system

A cargo plane (short freighter , Eng. Freighter ) is an aircraft for the transportation of commercial cargo . In contrast, transport aircraft are designed for military cargo transport and, in contrast to all current larger cargo aircraft, do not always have a pressurized cabin . In some cases, however, the concepts are mixed up, especially with Soviet aircraft such as the Antonov An-124 , which were developed as transport aircraft, but also transported air freight, or Western types that came from purely civil to military use such as the Boeing 707 .

Cargo planes mostly belong to special cargo airlines or subsidiaries of passenger airlines. The larger proportion of air freight is transported in passenger aircraft in the underfloor cargo hold in addition to the passengers carried on the main deck ( belly capacity ). Today's large-capacity passenger aircraft allow a very high cargo load on the lower deck (e.g. Boeing 777-300ER up to 25 t), so that the use of pure cargo aircraft is no longer necessary. The new Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 passenger aircraft delivered in 2012 alone can transport as much cargo as 45 Airbus A300-600 freighters in the underfloor holds alone. In cargo planes, the main deck can also be used for cargo, as they have no seats, only a transport system for pallets and aircraft containers. The underfloor deck, which is also used, is not reduced by passenger luggage. In addition to the doors to the underfloor cargo area, cargo planes usually have a cargo door on the side or, less frequently, a bow door ( Boeing 747 original freighter ) to the main deck, via which the aircraft is loaded and unloaded.

DC-8-71F , built in 1969 with CFM56 engines retrofitted in 1983 . Machine was active until 2012.


While the first larger cargo aircraft, the Douglas DC-8-55F with 201 m³ and the Boeing 707 with 145 m³ as narrow-body aircraft, still had limited volumes, the air cargo market was greatly expanded with the introduction of the Boeing 747-200F with 705 m³ in 1971. With the introduction of US overnight delivery in 1978 by FedEx , there was a great need for smaller short-haul freighters, which was mainly met by converted Boeing 727s . After this business grew, the larger DC-10 also became interesting in 1981 . These five types dominated the market until the mid-1990s.

Boeing 747-400F with open front door

Original freight / convertible / combi versions

The aircraft manufacturers offer freighter versions of their types as

  • pure freight (suffix -F for Freighter or Douglas -AF for All Freighter ),
  • Convertible (passenger and freight operations can be changed, Boeing -C for Convertible , -CF for Convertible Freighter , -QC for Quick Change ) or as
  • Combiversion (Boeing M for Mixed, McDonnell Douglas -C for Combi) with passenger seats and cargo hold on the main deck. However, these (now rare) Combi versions have to be specially designed, as the partition between passengers and cargo has to absorb very high forces in the event of an impact.

The convertible versions, which usually also have a cargo door on the side, were often ordered by pure passenger airlines in the past, in the hope that this would facilitate resale. Boeing sold 337 of the 707-320C .

Conversion of passenger planes

The converted Airbus A300 , the passenger windows and now unused doors can still be seen

Often older machines that have had their day as passenger aircraft are converted into cargo aircraft ( Passenger to Freighter Converson, P2F ). The typical conversion age is 12-18 years. Airbus leads exclusively even by the same aircraft plants by Boeing also uses partners, also are still IAI Bedek , ST Aerospace and Flight Structures Inc. owned by Supplemental Type Certificates diverse to rebuild Boeing types and the MD-11 . The conversion takes 72 days at Airbus. In order to convert a passenger aircraft into a cargo aircraft, the following points are usually changed on the aircraft:

  • Sealing of aircraft windows and unnecessary doors with aluminum panels
  • Expansion of all seats, kitchens and toilets
  • Installation of a side cargo door
  • Installation of a front wall ( cargo barrier ) or a net to protect the cockpit
  • Reinforcement of the main deck floor and installation of the pallet transport system. The reinforced floor often does not achieve the load-bearing capacity of the floor of the original freighters; therefore the latter often have a higher payload than the converted ones.
  • Conversion of the electrical systems for freight operations
  • Previously: Installation of so-called hush kits to reduce the noise of the engines (e.g. Boeing 727 ) or a new engine type (e.g. CFM56 in the DC-8 )

The cost varies considerably depending on the size and type of aircraft. In 2012, conversion costs for an MD-80 were only $ 2.5 million (plus <1 million for the aircraft), while a Boeing 767-300ER cost $ 16 million (plus <15 million). for a 15 year old passenger aircraft).

The proportion of original new freighters compared to converted passenger planes in long-haul freight planes has risen sharply since 2008 from less than 40% to over 70%. The reason for this is the high oil prices , which require significantly lower annual flight hours for the new types in order to be more profitable than old aircraft types. In the case of regional freighters, on the other hand, newbuildings only play a minor role due to the short flight routes. Accordingly, an average large freighter is 14 years old, a medium-sized 21, and a small 28 years old.

Individual cargo planes

Airbus Beluga A300-600ST
Frontal view of the Antonov An-225, the largest cargo aircraft in the world

Rare giant freighters

Special but very rare cargo planes for extraordinarily large or very heavy loads, usually aircraft fuselages in assembly, are the Superguppy , the Airbus Beluga (A300-600ST) and the Boeing 747 LCF . The largest cargo aircraft is the Antonov An-225 . It was designed as a transport aircraft (i.e. for military purposes); there is only one flying specimen of it. The heaviest air cargo ever transported in an airplane was 247 t in an An-225. The largest connected part weighed 189.8 t and was also transported by an An-225.

Airbus had the intention at times to offer the 'Airbus A380' also in a freighter version ( Airbus A380F ). The project was "frozen".

Piggyback and sub-transport

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747, carried the space shuttle piggyback for the first flight tests in 1977 and later regularly from the landing to the launch site.

Transport under a carrier aircraft was often used to lift an experimental aircraft into the atmosphere in order to save it from having to take off on its own and to make it easier to reach a great height and / or high speed. For example, from 1946 Bell X-1 was worn on the belly of a Boeing B-29 or B-50 as a mother aircraft. The Boeing X-51 unmanned demonstration aircraft with ramjet engine was dropped from a Boeing B-52 from 2010 .

Common cargo planes

In 2011, 207 operators worldwide had 1,595 cargo jet aircraft> 10 t payload in operation, most of them in North America (808). FedEx alone accounted for 372 (status: 6/2012) and UPS Airlines for 229 (status: 7/2012) . The types listed here represent over 90% of the world's total fleet in this size class.

Type ~ max. Payload in t 1 Number of pieces original delivery Number of items active 2/2012
including modifications

Long-haul, large - capacity freighters

Boeing 747-200C / F / M
Boeing 747-300M
Boeing 747-400F / M
Boeing 747-8F
13 (C) / 73 (F) / 78 (M)
166 (F) / 61 (M)
16 + 54 order (-8F) (6/2012)
291 747-8F
Boeing 777F 104 61 + 66 orders (7/2012) 61 (7/2012) 777F
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 92 59 (MD-11-F)
5 (MD-11-C)
6 (MD-11-CF)
164 MD-11F
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 65 (−10)
82 (−30)
8 (-10C)
1/25/11 (-30C / CF / F)
81 DC-10
A330-200F 70 38 + 45 orders (5/2019) 38 (5/2019) A330-200F

Medium-haul oversize freighters

Boeing 767-200SF
Boeing 767-300F / SF
42–45 (ER)
40–54 (ER)
71 + 55 items + conversions
133 767-300ERF
Airbus A300B4-200
Airbus A300B4-600
Airbus A310
2 (-C) / 2 (-F)
3 (-C) / 115 (-F)
only -200C / 300C
44 (7/2012)

Short - haul narrow-hull freighter

Boeing 757-200PF / SF 32-40 80 (-200PF) 188 757-200
Boeing 727-100
Boeing 727-200
164 (-100C)
15 (-200F)
168 Boeing 727-200, m.  Hush kits
Boeing 737-200C
737-300F / -400F
Boeing 737-700C
104 (-200C)
15 (-700C)
24 (-100/200)
103 (-300 / -400)
15 (-700C)
Boeing 737-400F

Turboprop aircraft

ATR 42
ATR 72
by ATR
45 + 14 QuickChange
45 + 6 QC (7/2012)
ATR 42
Cessna 208 1.6
40 Cargomaster
260 Super Cargomaster
241 at FedEx (6/2012) Cessna 208

1 The maximum payload ( payload ) depends on a variety of parameters such as engine and subtype. From a certain flight distance, there is a trade-off between payload and range (the maximum payload cannot be flown non-stop over the maximum range).

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Freighter Conversion's Split Personality Aviation Week & Space Technology Jan28, 2013, p. 35 , on
  2. EADS EFW on cargo growth ( Memento from December 22, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  3. a b conversion candidate aircraft ( Memento from March 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  4. 707 Model Summary , on
  5. ^ Civil cargo planes - new build versus conversion
  6. a b MD-10 Program , on
  7. Conversions: A viable solution? ( Memento of January 3, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), on
  8. a b
  9. ^ SWR: Antonov cargo plane again on the Hahn August 13, 2009
  10. a b
  21. A300 Production List ( Memento from October 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  22. A310 Production List ( Memento from October 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  27. ATR 72 Production List ( Memento from October 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  28. ^ Cessna 208 ( Memento from January 22, 2012 in the Internet Archive )

Web links

Commons : Cargo Plane  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: cargo plane  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations