Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - Page 12 News List

CAL, EVA to ground cargo planes

DESERT STORAGE The government says when the air carriers wish to begin using their cargo planes again, they will have to undergo through lengthy inspections

By Lee Wen-yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空) and EVA Airways Corp (EVA, 長榮航空), the nation’s top two air carriers, will store some of their Boeing 747 cargo airplanes in the Californian desert, as the global economic downturn has caused cargo volume to fall significantly.

As the cargo load factor, a measure of how full airplanes are, has fallen to below 65 percent from 75 percent, CAL and EVA intend to store three and two Boeing 747 cargo planes in the desert, respectively, the first time the nation’s air carriers have decided to put planes in storage because of disappointing operating results.

Both carriers said they had yet to decide how long the cargo planes would be stored, but would immediately resume cargo services when the economy recovers and orders increase.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said it had not received the official applications from both companies, but would respect their decision.

To resume cargo services, CAA said both airlines would have to obtain its permission. For instance, a plane stored for 180 days will require a 100-hour inspection, while one stored for a year will need a one-month inspection.

Taiwanese carriers, which ship primarily high-tech and precision materials and products, have been struggling with declining cargo orders as global trade has droped amid the ongoing financial crisis.

CAA statistics showed that the nation’s air cargo volume had dropped to less than 100,000 tonnes in December, from a level of 150,000 tonnes per month in the past.

CAL, which owns the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, said nearly half of its revenues were generated from 20 cargo planes.

Revenues from cargo services reached NT$53.6 billion (US$1.57 billion) in 2007, it said.

CAL said its cargo volume dropped substantially in the fourth quarter of last year as it saw a yearly decrease of 50 percent in December, which worsened from a yearly decrease of 10 percent in September.

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