Freighter conversion experts prepare for intense narrowbody market debate

Although speakers on the narrowbody conversion panel at the upcoming Cargo Facts Symposium have much to agree on – like how strong demand for narrowbody freighter conversions will persist, and how the conversion of next-generation narowbodies, which include 737 NGs and A320-family airframes, is set to accelerate – there is certainly no consensus when it comes to which airframe will dominate the market.

“From a narrowbody conversion perspective I was surprised by how quickly feedstock for the highly successful B737-400SF has dried up,” said Robert Convey, SVP Sales & Marketing, AEI. Noting the seemingly endless supply of 737-400 conversion candidates that kept appearing “as if from thin air,” defying many industry skeptics who had expected conversions of the -400 to drop off years ago, the tide is turning, according to Convey. “In 2Q 2018, the reality began to set in that we are seeing the final 737-400s go through conversion, and the sunset years are here.”

Turning to the other major success story of the current-generation narrowbody freighter market, conversions of the 757 (although perhaps not too far behind the 737 classics in terms of remaining feedstock) are not quite over. With a number of conversion candidates still on the horizon, conversion houses are seeing “continued interest in 757s, worldwide,” said Brian McCarthy, Vice President, Sales, Precision Aircraft Solutions.

Looking ahead to next-gen narrowbody freighters, the evolving sources of demand for express lift stemming from the increasingly dynamic global retail market could be the determining factor for the success of future conversion programs. McCarthy noted the importance of these “new breeds of investors and organizations,” which are rather suddenly “trying to add an express component to their logistics network in order to provide a service for time sensitive and higher value shipments.”

But just what kind of freighter will this market favor? “With the B737-400SF sunsetting, I am looking forward to continuing the discussion on how the B737-800SF will dominate the narrowbody landscape for the next 40+ years,” said Convey. “I think your Cargo Facts Symposium delegates will be surprised to learn how many of the A320 and A321 program launches are, shall we say DOA when compared to the many announcements made in Shanghai at Cargo Facts Asia,” he added.

Not so fast, said McCarthy, citing “the above-average interest in conversion programs that are still 16-18 months from certification, as is the case of the A320/321.”

Those interested in witnessing the great narrowbody debate unfold are invited to join us 10-12 October at the Omni San Diego for Cargo Facts Symposium, where these issues will be addressed on a panel titled, “Big doors, new floors and fresh paint: assessing a freighter conversion world in flux.” Distinguished panelists include:

  • Robert Convey, SVP Sales & Marketing, AEI
  • Peter Koster, Business Development Director, Vallair
  • Rafi Matalon, VP, Marketing, IAI Bedek Aviation Group
  • Brian McCarthy, VP, Sales, Precision Aircraft Solutions
  • Wolfgang Schmid, VP Sales & Marketing, Airbus Freighter Conversions, EFW

For more information, or to register, visit Discounted Early Bird registration ends on 24 August.

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