Today we conclude our three-part analysis of the worldwide narrowbody jet freighter fleet with a look at the state of the passenger-to-freighter conversion market at the end of 2016. You can read Part I here, and Part II here.
Conversion from passenger configuration is the only source of narrowbody jet freighters. Operators and lessors of widebody freighters have the choice of acquiring either new production units or conversions for the entire size spectrum, from the 767, through the A330, 777, and 747 families. But if you want something smaller, your only choice is to acquire a passenger aircraft and have one of the conversion houses turn it into a freighter.
At present, there are certified and active passenger-to-freighter conversion programs for only five narrowbody types: the 757-200F, MD-80F, 737-400F, 737-300F, and CRJ200F. Both Precision Aircraft Solutions and ST Aerospace offer P-to-F programs for the 757-200, while Aeronautical Engineers, Inc (AEI), Bedek Aviation Group, and PEMCO World Air Services offer P-to-F programs for both the 737-400 and 737-300. AEI also has active MD-80 and CRJ200 programs. (Cascade Aerospace and Bombardier offer CRJ100 and CRJ200 package freighter (i.e. no large cargo door) conversion programs, but we have not included them in this analysis.)
The chart above shows our summary of narrowbody conversions redelivered and scheduled for redelivery in 2016, as well as our estimate of conversions likely to be redelivered next year. As mentioned above, the MD-80F will remain a niche freighter, but demand for P-to-F conversion of 757-200s, 737-400s, and 737 300s will remain strong for the next two-to-three years, while the CRJ200F will enter the fleet in increasing numbers during that time.
However, in addition to the certified programs above, over the last two-and-a-half years, five companies have launched a total of eight new passenger-to-freighter conversion programs:
- AEI went first, formally launching its 737-800 program at the Cargo Facts Asia event in Hong Kong in April 2014. AEI has now booked fifty 737-800 conversion orders
- EFW (a joint venture of ST Aerospace and Airbus) launched programs for both the A320 and A321. As we publish this analysis in late November, EFW has not booked any firm orders, but is reported to be close to a launch order for two A320 conversions from Egyptair.
- Bedek Aviation Group (the MRO and conversion arm of Israel Aerospace Industries) launched programs for both the 737-700 and 737-800. Bedek has so far booked three orders for 737-700 conversions, and fifteen orders for 737-800 conversions.
- Boeing formally launched a program for the 737-800 in April of this year, and has now booked thirty-six firm orders.
Bedek and AEI have both inducted the first units in their new programs, but it will still be at least a year, and likely a year-and-a-half, before they – or EFW or Boeing – receive certification and redeliver the first of the new freighters, but their numbers will remain relatively small for several years after that.
Missing from the above list is PACAVI, a German-American company that launched P-to-F programs for the A320 and A321 in 2014. PACAVI said it had acquired an A320 and begun conversion work on it at the HAITEC facility in Germany, and in 2015 signed an agreement with Guangzhou-based MRO GAMECO under which GAMECO would perform the first A321 conversion. At the beginning 2016, PACAVI announced firm orders for six A320 conversions from Airline Management AS, and for two A321 conversions from Colt Cargo. But shortly after that announcement, the company ran into financial problems and now appears to have folded. What will happen to the engineering work so far done is unknown.