The Boeing 747-400F freighter is the all-cargo transport variant of the Boeing 747-400 family of aircraft. Boeing said that there are approximately 300 747 freighters in operational service, carrying about half of the world’s freighter air cargo. The 747 family of freighters make up two-thirds of the world’s widebody freighter fleet.

Boeing received the first order for the 747-400 freighter in 1989, from Cargolux Airlines International, based in Luxembourg. In April 2004, Cargolux placed an order for its 14th 747-400 freighter. Cargolux has reported that the freighters are operated on average over 16 block-hours a day.

Boeing 747-400F freighter orders and deliveries

More than 120 747-400F freighters are currently in service with air cargo companies worldwide.

“The Boeing 747-400F freighter is the all-cargo transport variant of the Boeing 747-400 family of aircraft.”

Orders include Asiana Airlines (six), Atlas Air (16), Cargolux Airlines (14), Cathay Pacific (six), China Airlines (21), China Cargo Airlines (two), China Southern (two), EVA Air (three), GE Capital (five), Guggenheim Aviation (six), ILFC (four), Jade Cargo International (six), Japan Airlines (two), KLM (three), Korean Air (17), Nippon Cargo Aircraft (eight), Singapore Airlines (17), UPS (eight) and Volga-Dnepr (two).

In November 2005, Boeing launched the 747-8 aircraft, including passenger and freighter versions.

The 747-8 will use the GEnx engine, being developed for the 787 Dreamliner, and will have a greater payload, longer range of 14,816km (8,000nm) and fly at Mach 0.86. The freighter version will be stretched by 5.6m over the 747-400 freighter and will have a payload capacity of 140t.

The 747-8 freighter will be able to carry four additional main-deck pallets, two additional lower-hold pallets and two additional lower-hold containers. Orders have been received for 78 747-8 freighters, from ten customers, including Cargolux (13 plus seven options), Cathay Pacific Airways (ten), Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (five), Nippon Cargo (14), Emirates (ten), Atlas Air (12), Guggenheim Aviation (four), Korean Air (five) and Volga-Dnepr (five plus five options). First deliveries, to Cargolux, are planned for late 2009.

Boeing 747-400ER extended-range freighter

The longer-range 747-400ER (extended range) freighter was launched in April 2001. The 747-400ER freighter has a maximum take-off weight of 412,770kg.

To support the additional take-off weight, the 747-400ER freighter is built with a strengthened fuselage, strengthened landing gear with larger tyres and also some sections of the wings were additionally strengthened. The increased take-off weight, compared to the existing 747-400 freighter, allows the 747-400ER to fly an additional 972km or to carry an additional 9,980kg payload on a long-range flight at maximum take-off weight.

In June 2004, Korean Air ordered two 747-400ER to add to its fleet of five, for delivery in 2005.

Boeing 747-400 Combi passenger and cargo aircraft

The 747–400 Combi provides airlines with long-range passenger and cargo capability. Boeing delivered 61 747-400 Combi aircraft to 13 customers between 1989 and 2002.

The Combi has a large side-cargo door behind the left wing and equipment that removes passenger seats and installs cargo tracks, allowing the option of carrying cargo in containers on the main deck behind passengers.

Boeing 747 large cargo freighter (LCF)

Boeing developed the 747 large cargo freighter (LCF), or ‘Dreamlifter’, for transportation of the large composite structures of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for final assembly. Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corp (EGAT) is converting three 747-400 passenger jets to large cargo freighters at its facility in Taipei, Taiwan.

The entire aft fuselage of the plane has been modified to swing open for loading and the upper fuselage enlarged to provide a volume of 65,000ft³ (1,845m³), three times the capacity of the 747-400 freighter. The 747 LCF completed its first flight in September 2006. The first LCF aircraft began transportation of Dreamliner parts in January 2007, the second in April 2007.

The third will follow later in 2007. The 747LCF Dreamlifter received US Federal Administration type certification in June 2007.

747-400F cockpit and flight deck

The cockpit accommodates two pilots and has additional two seats for observers or for crew under training.

The automatic flight control system, with three triple independent flight control computers and dual digital air data computers, includes autopilot, flight director and automatic tailplane trim functions. The flight control system automatically manages all phases of the flight except take-off. The crew can pre-select the flight plan using standard air traffic control language on the flight management control system. The database on the flight management control system includes data on waypoints, airports and relevant geographical areas.

The flight deck is fitted with large size cathode ray tube displays showing primary flight data and navigation data, three multifunction control and display panels and two engine indication and crew alert display screens.

The communications system includes dual VHF and HF transmitter / receivers with selective calling. A colour weather radar operates at I-band and G-band.

The navigation suite includes a dual VHF omnidirectional radio ranger, a triple instrument landing system with a marker beacon receiver, dual automatic direction finders, dual distance measuring equipment, triple ring laser gyro inertial reference systems, ground proximity warning system and a traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS).

Cargo capacity

The fuselage cross-section of the 747-400 freighter is optimised to carry the maximum cargo with a minimum total container weight. The freighter is fitted with a large cargo door and a nose cargo door which allow efficient use of the aircraft’s large internal volume and a shortened loading and unloading time.

The aircraft carries up to 30 pallets on the main deck and 32 standard LD-1 containers and additional bulk cargo in the lower cargo hold.

The 747-400F has the same upper deck as the 747-200F and includes a revised upper deck floor for two additional 3.1m-high pallets on the main cargo deck.

The upper deck access ladder was relocated, and the guide rails and the tie-down systems revised to accommodate the additional pallet position in the nose of the 747-400F. The changes result in an additional 21.9m³ of cargo deck space on the main deck compared to the 747-200F.

An additional 19.8m³ of container cargo volume is available in the lower hold. Two additional standard LD-1 or LD-3 containers can be positioned in the aft lower hold and two additional containers can be fitted in the forward lower hold.

The holds are equipped with an improved powered cargo handling system.

747-400 Boeing converted freighter (BCF)

In January 2004, Boeing launched the Boeing converted freighter (previously known as the special freighter) programme. 33 firm orders plus 29 options were received for the freighter. Cathay Pacific is the launch customer for the 747-400 Boeing converted freighter with an initial agreement to convert six, with options on a further six, 747-400 passenger airplanes into freighters. Deliveries began in December 2005.

In May 2004, it was confirmed that Nippon Cargo Airlines would be the second customer with an order for four converted freighters. In June 2004, Korean Air ordered up to 20 conversion kits. Except for the first aircraft, the conversions will be carried out by Korean Air’s Aerospace division. In May 2005, Air France ordered the conversion of three of its Combi aircraft to the Boeing converted freighter configuration.

Other customers include eight aircraft for Japan Airlines (JAL), seven for Guggenheim Aviation Partners, eight for Singapore Airlines, four for the Avion Group (operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic) and three for Air China Cargo (ordered in November 2008).

To convert the 747-400 passenger jet to a freighter configuration, a side cargo door, supplied by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), is fitted. The layout is identical to the production freighter.

The main deck has a capacity for 30 pallets and the upper deck can seat up to 19 people. The main deck floor is specially strengthened and lined. It features a new cargo handling system and revised avionics.

The Boeing converted freighter will have an estimated capacity of 113,490kg (250,200lb) and a range of 7,600km (4,100nm).

Boeing 747-400F engines

The aircraft is of wide-fuselage, low-wing design with four podded underwing turbofan engines. Optional engine fits include Pratt & Whitney PW4062, General Electric CF6-80C2B5F and Rolls-Royce RB211-524H2-T turbo-fan engines, developing between 252kN and 276kN.

There are four main fuel tanks in the wings, a centre wing tank, a tailplane tank and reserve fuel tanks in the outer wing sections. The maximum fuel capacity is 216,846l. The auxiliary power unit is installed in the tail section.