At a ceremony at the Boeing Shanghai facility this morning, Boeing formally launched a passenger-to-freighter conversion program for the 737-800.
The announcement has been expected for some time, as Boeing has recently issued press releases featuring Launch Customer Agreements from YTO Airlines and China Postal Airlines, but this morning’s event in Shanghai revealed some surprises regarding both firm orders and commitments. In total, Boeing announced a total of thirty firm orders for its 737-800BCF, as well as twenty-five commitments.
- Hangzhou-based YTO Airlines, the recently formed air arm of Shanghai-based YTO Express, ordered 10 conversions with commitments for 10 additional conversions.
- Beijing-based China Postal Airlines, ordered 10 conversions.
- US-based lessor GECAS ordered five conversions.
- An unidentified customer ordered five conversions with two commitments.
In addition to the above thirty firm orders and twelve commitments, Boeing announced thirteen additional commitments from three customers, although the company did not indicate the number of commitments from the individual customers
- SF Airlines, the air arm of Shenzhen-based SF Express
- Bulgaria-based Cargo Air
- An unannounced customer.
GECAS will provide the initial aircraft for conversion, and Boeing says it anticipates redelivery of the first 737-800BCF in the fourth quarter of 2017. As certification schedules go, this is relatively short, but since Boeing has been working on the engineering for the 737-800BCF for some time, it may not be too optimistic. And on the subject of GECAS, we note that in addition to the five firm 737-8000BCF conversion orders it has placed with Boeing, it is also the launch customer for Aeronautical Engineers, Inc’s competing 737-800 P-to-F program, with an order for up to twenty conversions announced at the Cargo Facts Symposium last fall.
Commenting on the launch of the 737-800BCF program, Boeing SVP Commercial Aviation Services Stan Deal echoed a sentiment Cargo Facts has been reporting for some time: that while the overall air freight market has seen slow growth, “we see demand for freighters, such as the 737-800BCF, that will carry express cargo on domestic routes.” How much demand? “Over the next 20 years, Boeing forecasts customers will need more than 1,000 converted freighters the size of the 737, with China’s domestic air freight carriers accounting for nearly one-third of the total market.”
As to the conversions themselves, Boeing said that in addition to the Boeing Shanghai MRO facility, it expected to use at least two other sites, although it did not specify which these might be.
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