Lessor Aero Capital Solutions (ACS) has ordered ten additional 737-800 conversions from Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI), adding to an earlier order for four conversions that is currently in the works [FATs 005931-5940].
ACS is planning nose-to-tail conversions at two of AEI’s authorized conversion centers in China: HAECO in Xiamen (XMN) and STAECO in Jinan (TNA). The first induction from this tranche of ten conversion orders is expected at HAECO in June, while the second 737-800 is slated for a July induction at STAECO. The remaining eight units will alternate between the two MROs. ACS declined to identify the first two frames for now.
While the previous order was largely unrelated to COVID-19, ACS told Cargo Facts that this top-up order was at least partly influenced by the pandemic, to the extent that it is seeing strong interest in the initial tranche of aircraft as more operators look to dedicated freighters.
The lessor plans to take redelivery of the first 737-800SF from last year’s order shortly; that aircraft (28231, ex-Smartwings), inducted around October 2020, is scheduled for completion at STAECO later this month. A second conversion (28655, ex-Eastar Jet) is expected to be ready around April. Each aircraft is under firm commitment from a different customer, according to ACS.
ACS said its decision to convert its aircraft at China-based MRO locations is a reflection of convenience and market potential. The lessor already has a team in place there handling conversions, and it sees the Asia-Pacific region as a key market for 737-800 freighters.
The choice of AEI over other conversion STC holders was based, in part, on better cargo-door architecture and a higher margin of tolerance with regard to the loading of containers, as well as a larger supernumerary compartment, ACS told Cargo Facts.
ACS said it had not yet made any decisions to convert A321s, but will continue to follow the development of its conversion programs.
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