As Air France and other developed-nation air carriers around the world put their venerable fleets of Boeing 747s out to pasture (or, more accurately, into storage at massive desert airfields,) one may come under the mistaken impression that the “the humpback Boeing” may be disappearing from the skies.
That probably won’t happen as soon as we think. While dozens of 747-400s sit unused around the world, China has been quietly buying up these still-very-usable aircraft for as little as $16 million apiece (they run $350 million new) and converting them to freighters to deliver high-value cargo from China to points around the world.
The video above shows an old Saudi Arabian Airlines 747-400 being converted by Israeli Aircraft Industries/Barak into a like-new freighter. IAI is not the only company doing this – there are probably half a dozen major, reputable companies around the world doing this work.
With state-supported airlines, a growing share of high-value manufactures, and a military very interested in building up China’s civilian airlift fleet, China could well become the citadel of the 747 in years to come.