Aviation Holdings III, a pooled private equity fund from BlackRock, is diversifying its portfolio with an order for three 737-800SF freighter conversions from Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) and the acquisition of three 747-400Fs [FATs 005405-5409].
Although BlackRock’s previous aviation funds have held freighters, the current weakness of the passenger market brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has increased opportunities for freighter-related projects.
The fund recently acquired two 737-800s from Turkey-based Sun Express (29916 and 29917), a source familiar with the fund’s plans told Cargo Facts. A third 737-800 is under contract for acquisition from a Chinese operator. Apart from the 737-800s, the fund also owns a pair of 737-400Fs among its other aircraft, which number in the teens.
Plans call for the trio of 737-800s to be converted at STAECO, AEI’s authorized conversion center in China. Unit 29916 is slated to be inducted in June and will be AEI’s first 737-800SF conversion in China. The second 737-800 will be inducted following redelivery of the first, with the third following the redelivery of the second. An operator has not yet been identified, though fund managers expect interest in the conversions from carriers based in China, particularly for the unit currently registered to a China-based carrier.
Activity involving widebody production freighters has also increased amid the global pandemic-driven capacity crunch. The fund recently sold a factory-built 747-400 freighter, but is in the process of replenishing its holdings with the acquisition of three more 747-400Fs. The trio are being purchased as part of a sale-leaseback deal and are on long-term lease to an operator until at least 2023.