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Southern Air acquiring 747-400s, retiring 747-200s for partout

Aviation Exchange News

Posted July 29, 2011 9:32 AM

Southern Air Holdings, Inc. is on track to acquire at least two Boeing 747-400s by Q1 2012, CEO Daniel McHugh told Aviation Exchange in a phone interview. The private equity-owned global air cargo carrier is currently finalising talks with a leasing company with a view to financing the deal, the CEO revealed. The 747-400s will be converted from passenger aircraft into freighters.

The 747-400s will replace two of Southern Air’s four 747-200s that the cargo carrier is in the process of retiring. “We’ve retired one already and the other has six to eight weeks of service left,” McHugh said, adding that the group would be flying six to seven newer classics until 2013.

The retired two 747-200s will be sent to Southern Air’s partout facility in California, where parts will be primarily reutilised for the group’s own fleet or sold on to other operators “if someone has an active interest in well-maintained 747-200s,” McHugh said.

Connecticut-headquartered Southern Air specialises in aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) services and recently announced an agreement for Saudi Airlines Cargo Co. Ltd. to operate one of its 747-200 Freighters, which will be painted in Saudi Airlines’ livery. The deal took six months to finalize and extends from July 2011 to July 2012, the CEO remarked. “Saudi Airlines is one of the largest ACMI users in the world,” he said, noting that the airline may well be interested in operating more of Southern Air’s aircraft.

Southern Air already owns two 777s that were leased to Thai Air last year. Korean Airlines, Lufthansa Cargo, MASkargo and Ethiopian Airlines count amongst Southern Air’s current customers operating Southern Air’s 747-200s. The global air cargo carrier is understood to be in “active conversations” with Ethiopian as a result of Southern Air’s current refleeting. 

With only four to five ACMI players providing widebody maindeck aircraft for a relatively small list of 35 to 40 global airlines, McHugh acknowledges that the market place is competitive. However, he remains confident of continued growth of business, especially in Asia and Europe. Earlier this month, the group announced it had opened an office in Germany, headed by the former CFO of DHL Express Oliver Gritz.

Southern Air is certainly keeping itself busy and is on the brink of making an announcement concerning an aircraft material partnership with some unnamed vendors it already works with.

By Fay Sanders


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