Freighter conversion – a story in photos

In September 1999, Japan Transocean Air took delivery of a 737-400, msn 29487. The carrier, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, operated the aircraft from its hub in Naha, Okinawa, until late last year when it was acquired by DHL Express as a candidate for conversion to freighter configuration.

DHL was looking to add five 737-400 freighters to its fleet in North and South America, for use on regional routes that could not support the larger freighters like the 757s and 767s operated on its behalf by various carriers on an ACMI basis. To operate the five 737-400s it planned to add, DHL turned to US-based Southern Air, which already flew four 777Fs for the German express giant on a CMI basis. for the conversions to freighter configuration,

But that has all been covered elsewhere, and what we’d like to do today is follow the second of the five 737-400s through the P-to-F conversion process in a series of photos.

The conversion was done by Aeronautical Engineers Inc, at the Commercial Jet facility in Dothan, and AEI documented the entire process in photos, beginning on 13 November 2013 when unit 29487 arrived at DHN, and ending on 9 April 2014 when the freighter was redelivered to Southern Air.

Day one: An ex-Japan Transocean 737-400, with the old livery painted out and now reregistered as N493SA, arrives at Dothan.


Paint stripped, engines removed, and into the hangar.


The main-deck interior is removed.


Work underway on the lower hold.


Cargo-door hole cut completed.


Reinforcement added between decks.


The main cargo door as a work-in-progress.


Work continues on the main deck.


Adding a cargo door requires some serious reinforcement of the airframe.


Main deck interior is nearly complete, and installation of the cargo loading system is underway.


Lower hold interior completed.


Ready for painting.



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