Cargo Opportunities At RFD

We spent a cold night last Friday at the Chicago Rockford International Airport watching a 10-man ground crew from Integrated Airline Services spend 90 minutes unloading cargo from a Nippon Cargo Airlines’ 747-400F and transferring it to about eight semis parked right on the ramp and, then, moving what I was told was enough cargo for about another five trucks that waited at the plane’s final destination at JFK.

We enjoyed the show so much we went back again for the 10 p.m. Sunday night performance.

Cargo shipments have lagged in recent months at the airport, but RFD’s efforts to position itself as a quicker, cheaper cargo destination to ORD appear to be gaining some traction.

Executives from Atlas Air, for example, paid a visit last October when two Atlas 747s made morning cargo flights to RFD.

Meanwhile, NCA is currently running flights into RFD for what amounts to a 16-flight test this month to better evaluate RFD’s potential. NCA is particularly interested in using its new fleet of Boeing 747-8s currently on order. RFD recently made needed improvements to its runways, making it among the first U.S. airports certified to land the aircraft. The test results should be in by the end of this month and good marks would certainly be welcomed business to RFD – NCA, for example, currently flies 11 cargo flights a week into ORD.

“From a ground support angle, we have to make it seem just as if the plane had arrived at O’Hare,” Ryan Sweat told us Sunday night. He’s the director of operations for Integrated Airline Services and was in town not only to view the RFD service for NCA, but hammer out another deal with EVA Airways at its ORD operations. “That’s the real test for us - to do this as seamlessly in RFD as we also do at ORD.”

For the time being, IAS brought out the needed equipment to RFD and transports the ground crew that usually calls ORD home.

“Would we like to operate at RFD?” Sweat asks. “Absolutely. The labor market is a lot different and it’s a lot cheaper to operate in Rockford. It’s also that much easier to operate at RFD than at ORD where there’s no space and they won’t build anymore cargo facilities.”

More on this in the February issue of Ground Support Worldwide.