Boeing teams up to convert 737s

Boeing is working on a partnership to develop a freighter based around its 737 passenger aircraft.

The Boeing Company, BFGoodrich Aerospace and InterContinental Aircraft Services (ICAS) today announced a Memorandum of Agreement under which all three companies will work together in a partnership to develop a 737 passenger-to-freighter conversion program. This will be the first Boeing conversion program for the 737 family of airplanes.

Both BFGoodrich Aerospace and ICAS, an alliance of major Taiwanese companies — including Air Asia, China Airlines, Evergreen Aviation Technologies, and Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. — are members of Boeing Airplane Services’ international network of modification and engineering facilities.

Representatives from all three companies currently are co-located in Everett, Wash., where they are jointly developing the configuration and engineering statement of work for modifying both the 737-300 and -400 model airplanes. In addition, a ‘quick change’ option is being evaluated, which allows airlines to convert from freighter to passenger operations in a short period of time. For example, an airline would be able to carry passengers in the morning and then switch its operation to carry cargo that night.

Converting a 737 passenger airplane to a freighter requires the removal of passenger features, such as galley, lavatories, and overhead stowage. The airplane then is modified by adding a cargo door, reinforcing the main deck floor structure and installing freighter-unique systems for main deck cargo handling and smoke detection.

The converted 737-300/-400s will be capable of carrying approximately 39,200 pounds (17,780 kg) of revenue payload with a range of more than 1,500 nautical miles (2,778 km) with full payload.

The worldwide fleet of all freighter airplanes is expected to double during the next 20 years with more than 2,600 airplanes added. Of those 2,600 freighter fleet additions, nearly 70 percent will come from modified passenger and combi airplanes. Boeing expects that approximately 250 737-300/-400 passenger airplanes will be converted to freighters during the next 20 years.

Under the agreement, the partnership will be led by Boeing Airplane Services, which will provide proprietary data and technical expertise in order to develop a safe and reliable modification that is easily maintained and supported. The partnership will work jointly to produce the engineering for a FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). The STC will then be owned by Boeing, ensuring customers can obtain around-the-clock support from the Boeing global network of Field Service representatives.

ICAS and BFGoodrich will perform airplane modifications at their facilities in Taiwan and the United States. The first 737 freighter conversion will be performed at the BFGoodrich facility in Everett and is expected to be ready for delivery as early as summer 2002.

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