One way to measure the demand for passenger-to-freighter conversions is through the partnerships formed by the conversion houses with MRO facilities. Most conversion houses have a facility of their own, but also have agreements with one or more MROs, allowing them to do more conversions than they could on their own, or meet requests by customers to have conversions done in the customer’s own country.
Judging by the number of such deals forged lately, demand for conversions – already high – must be going through the roof.
The latest such alliance was formally announced today, with US-based 737 conversion specialist PEMCO World Air Services adding Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Co, Ltd (GAMECO) as its third conversion center in China and sixth worldwide.
This comes on the heels of announcements last month from Bedek Aviation Group and EFW that they were adding new conversion centers. Bedek signed an agreement with China-based MRO, Tianjin Aircraft Engineering Co. (TAEC), a subsidiary of the Haite Group, as a partner for both its 737-700 and 737-800 P-to-F conversions, and with Mexicana MRO Services as a partner for 767-300 P-to-F conversions. EFW, meanwhile, added ST Aerospace’s Paya Lebar facility in Singapore as a center for A330-300 conversions. The addition of the Singapore facility had been planned for some time, but the timetable had to be advanced because of rapidly increasing demand for both MRO and conversion work at EFW’s Dresden facility.
Earlier this year, US-based Aeronautical Engineers, Inc also added two new conversion centers, KF Aerospace in Canada, and Flightstar Aircraft Services in the US.
Regarding PEMCO’s addition of GAMECO, when it already had two conversion centers in China, the company said the decision was driven by its order backlog. PEMCO has long been the biggest supplier of 737 conversions in the Chinese market, and currently has four 737-300s in or awaiting conversion for YTO Express Airlines at the STAECO facility in Jinan. PEMCO did not disclose the identity of other customers in its backlog, but, in the past it has performed conversions for both China Postal Airlines and SF Airlines. Also worth noting is that, following its acquisition at the beginning of this year, PEMCO is now a subsidiary of Air Transport Services Group (ATSG). And, while ATSG has historically been focused on 767 and 757 operations, it is in the process of launching a joint-venture all-cargo airline in China, and has indicated that it will be looking for 737 freighters for the new carrier.
If you are interested in an in-depth look at the narrowbody freighter market, join us at the Cargo Facts Symposium in Miami, 2 – 4 October, where senior executives from the major conversion houses — including PEMCO VP Mike Andrews — will participate in a session titled: “Narrowbody Freighter Conversions – New Programs, New Questions.” To register, or for more information, go to CargoFactsSymposium.com.