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Cathay Pacific “silver bullet” freighter takes to the skies

17 May 2006

Cathay Pacific Airways’ first “silver bullet” freighter, stripped bare of most of its paint, goes into service tomorrow (Thursday) as part of an innovative airline initiative that asked staff for ideas to cut spiralling fuel costs.

Less weight reduces aircraft fuel burn. The polished silver fuselage makes a Boeing 747 about 200 kg lighter and will shave about HK$2.8 million from the airline's annual fuel bill when implemented across the 14-strong freighter fleet. Virtually the entire aircraft body has been stripped bare, with the exception of the tail and a strip along the aircraft’s nose to maintain the airline’s identity.

Ultimately all 14 freighter aircraft in the Cathay Pacific fleet will undergo the transformation. They will get the new look when they undergo a scheduled maintenance overhaul over the next couple of years. The full livery on passenger aircraft will remain unchanged.

Lighter cargo and baggage containers are also being introduced across the entire Cathay Pacific fleet to make further weight and fuel savings. The new containers, known as ULDs, are made of "Twintex" which is more durable than traditional aluminium, and at 73kg per container is 24 kg lighter than the old containers as well.

The ideas for lighter ULDs and to strip freighters down to their “birthday suit” was born out of Cathay Pacific’s Airline Weight Task Force, chaired by Chief Operating Officer Tony Tyler. The Task Force attracted more than 200 staff suggestions for ways to lose unnecessary weight on aircraft.

Cathay Pacific consumes almost two percent of all jet fuel used by the world’s airlines – a large amount considering its size – because most of its flights are long haul. High fuel prices have therefore had a major impact on the airline.

Cathay Pacific Director and General Manager Cargo Ron Mathison said: “Saving fuel without compromising the standards of service and safety that set Cathay Pacific apart from other airlines has always been paramount, and achieved very nicely with the new silver freighters and lighter ULDs. Today’s high – and rising – fuel costs are placing a great burden on all airlines and everything we can do to cut fuel burn by losing weight is very welcome.”