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Boeing Forecasts Long-Term Growth in Air Cargo Traffic

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Boeing has forecast that world air cargo growth will expand at a 5.8% annual rate over the next two decades, with worldwide air freight traffic tripling through 2027.

According to Boeing's World Air Cargo Forecast 2008/2009, air cargo traffic will grow over the long term despite current near-term market weakness and worldwide economic uncertainty. The industry has shown strong recoveries from previous economic downturns such as the Asian economic crisis, the 9/11 attacks and the SARS outbreak.

"Our research tells us that long-term economic growth, freighter fleet renewal and moderating jet fuel prices will stimulate air cargo traffic growth," said Randy Tinseth, vice president, Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "These positive prospects will prevail despite the industry's concerns about our current economic challenges."

"World GDP is projected to average just higher than 3% during the next 20 years," Tinseth added. "Asian production fundamentals - including abundant raw materials and low-cost labor - remain solid, and China will remain a source of strong economic growth with substantial industrialization and related investment."

Cargo tends to be at the forefront of increased liberalization of air services, which is a driver of economic growth. Asian air cargo market growth is forecast to continue to lead all global traffic routes. Domestic Chinese and intra-Asian markets will grow 9.9% and 8.1% per year, respectively, with Asia-related markets experiencing growth in excess of the global average.

"We've seen market contraction during the middle of this year for the first time since late 2003; however, history tells us that the air cargo market returns robustly when the economy strengthens," said Jim Edgar, regional director, Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and a contributor to the forecast. "Air cargo remains crucial to globalization."

Boeing predicts the world freighter fleet will increase to 3,890 airplanes from 1,950 during the 20-year period. Large freighters such as the Boeing 747 and 777 ultimately will represent 35% of the fleet, compared to 26% today, while providing 74% of total capacity. This segment will require 640 new factory-built airplanes. More than 75% of the 3,360 freighters joining the fleet - 2,500 airplanes - will come from passenger-to-freighter modifications, while 860 will be new production freighters.

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