New ICAO Standard Implications for Aircraft Certification and Freight Market

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s new emissions standards will soon be implemented and will mark the completion of the final component of aircraft environmental certification, closing the full circle on noise, local air quality, and CO2 Standards for subsonic airplanes. This new Standard will apply to new types and in-production engines with rated thrust greater than 26.7kN. The limit lines for nvPM mass and number provide some alleviation for engines with rated thrusts below 150kN.

According to industry experts, these new ICAO standards have little impact on the freighter market since a majority of the global air cargo fleet consists of older-generation airplanes. The new standards apply only to the ones in production as of 2023. But, those that don’t meet the standard can no longer be manufactured unless their designs are modified. Much of the curiosity around the new rules has revolved around the newer B777F and B767F, and the potential impact to operators.

“Frankly, I am not concerned. The 767F will have to end production around 2027 as a result of the new ICAO standard, but in terms of the incumbent fleet, I see little impact,” said Jonathan McDonald, Manager – Classic and Cargo Aircraft at IBA.

There were speculations around the Boeing B767F since a few years ago there were discussions of re-engineering the aircraft with new propulsion technology. However, Mr. McDonald brushed away these doubts saying that the B767-300F delivered today is a different aircraft to the early B767-200s.

The B767 is still a valuable asset to the freight business, but as production runs out and conversion feedstock becomes even more scarce, the market void it leaves will be apparent. Although it makes sense to have a factory-built, ICAO-compliant B787F, Mr. McDonald believes the production costs would be quite high. Furthermore, he didn’t think the B787 was a good successor.

In any case, Boeing seem preoccupied with with supply chain issues and gearing up for the first deliveries of the new B777-8F, slated reportedly for 2028, just in time for ICAO’s new rule.

“Boeing will need to get the logistics right to bridge the production of the B777F with a nice crossover to the -8F.  What you don’t want is the last factory freighter to be delivered and the -8F gets delayed for whatever reason, then you have a factory that isn’t doing anything. You want a nice seamless transition,” said Mr McDonald.

Ultimately, Mr McDonald noted, any investment in freighters, both factory and converted, is a very long-term process and carriers would not invest in conversions or new aircraft only to see them outdated by 2028.

It will be safe to say that investing in freighters – both factory-built and converted – is a very long process, and carriers wouldn’t spend money on new aircraft or conversions if they would eventually become antiquated by 2028.