AEI adds conversion capacity

The inside of an AEI freighter-converted 737.

The inside of an freshly-converted 737-400SF.

It’s a well-known fact among Cargo Facts readers that the market for narrowbody passenger-to-freighter conversions is hot, and that customers must queue-up to nab a conversion slot. Yesterday we reported that Bulgarian specialist cargo carrier, Cargo Air has ACMI-leased one of its 737s to a Greek passenger airline while it awaits a conversion slot. Shortly after our post, Florida-based Aeronautical Engineers, Inc., announced it was going to alleviate some of the wait time by designating Flightstar Aircraft Services in Jacksonville, Florida as its fifth Authorized Conversion Center.

Flightstar is already well-versed in passenger-to-freighter conversions, most notably for the 757-200 P-to-F modifications it has performed for Precision Aircraft Solutions. Beginning next month, the Jacksonville MRO will setup a conversion line for AEI, and is expected to induct a 737-400 scheduled for re-delivery as a freighter to San Francisco-based Vx Capital Partners.  The news comes shortly after AEI’s fourth authorized conversion center set up its first conversion line. Earlier this month, KF Aerospace readied its MRO facility in Kelowna, British Columbia to perform its first 737-400 freighter conversion.

At any given time, between 11 and 13 conversion lines are actively performing conversions for AEIs 737, MD80 and CRJ200 passenger-to-freighter conversions. Apart from the facilities in Kelowna and Jacksonville, AEI’s other conversion centers currently include Commercial Jet Inc., in Miami, Florida, Commercial Jet Services in Dothan, Alabama, and Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services Co., Ltd., in Shanghai, PRC.

While the addition of Flightstar as a fifth conversion center gives AEI the extra capacity it needs for the present, we note that the company’s sole presence in Asia is the Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services facility in China. This will also be a center for Boeing’s own 737-800BCF conversions, and there is a possibility Boeing will not wish to have a competitor in its own house. For now, no changes have been announced, and AEI is currently having a 737-400 converted to freighter configuration for Vx Capital Partners at the Boeing Shanghai facility, but the question about future AEI conversions in China remains open. There is no shortage of MROs in China capable of taking on a new conversion program, and we do not expect AEI would have any trouble finding a new partner.

Those interested in learning more about the current and future state of the freighter conversion market and related freighter conversion programs are invited to join us in Shanghai next week, 25-26 April for Cargo Facts Asia. Speakers from leading conversion houses including, Aeronautical Engineers, Inc., BEDEK Aviation Group, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, EFW, and Precision Aircraft Solutions, will join a panel discussion dedicated to the topic. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com .

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