Late yesterday, Boeing announced it had selected Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corp (EGAT) to perform passenger-to-freighter conversions for the manufacturer’s 767-300BCF program.
Taiwan-based EGAT and Boeing have considerable shared history. In addition to its work as a heavy maintenance center for Boeing aircraft, EGAT also performed the conversion of four 747-400 passenger aircraft to large cargo freighter (LCF) configuration, or, as the four freighters are more popularly known, Dreamlifters.
While there is no question that EGAT is fully qualified for the job of performing 767 BCF conversions, it is interesting that Boeing should require another conversion house for its 767 P-to-F program at this time. When it launched the program in 2005, Boeing selected ST Aerospace as its conversion partner, and the first aircraft (for All Nippon Airways) was soon inducted. Not long after that, in anticipation of soaring demand for freighter-converted 767-300s, Boeing announced that it would also use its Boeing Shanghai MRO joint venture as a conversion center.
But the expected demand did not materialize. Or, perhaps more accurately, delays in the 787 program forced carriers to keep their 767s in passenger service. The resulting feedstock shortage, combined with strong competition from Bedek Aviation Group’s 767-300BDSF program, kept demand low, and Boeing’s seventeen conversions to date have all been done at ST Aero’s Paya Lebar facility in Singapore.
Demand picked up this year with a nine-conversion order from Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, but with only one other 767 conversion order in its backlog, why the need for a third conversion center?
Part of the answer lies in the recently-launched 737-800BCF program. Boeing already has thirty-six firm orders and twenty-four options for 737 conversions – more than enough to completely occupy the lines available at the Boeing Shanghai facility. (In fact, Boeing has already said it will also have 737-800BCF conversions performed at the STAECO facility in Jinan.)
Another factor is that Atlas is in something of a hurry to get its nine 767-300BCFs in the air, as it has promised Amazon that it will have them all operating by the end of 2018. Still, that is two full years to convert just nine aircraft – not too much of a stretch for ST Aero.
Which brings us to ST Aero itself. Eleven years ago, when Boeing launched the 767-300BCF program, ST Aero was a Singapore-based MRO, with a side specialty in Boeing conversions. It was a partner in the manufacturer’s original 757-200 conversion program, and also in the MD-11 P-to-F program. But since signing on as the conversion house for Boeing’s 767-300BCF conversions, ST Aero, through its ownership of EFW, has also become something else: a major competitor to Boeing in the freighter conversion market. However, despite this, Boeing said: “767-300BCF conversions at [ST Aerospace] are currently scheduled to continue through mid-2018. Future conversion capacity will be driven by market demand and may require multiple conversion sites.”