Who’s who in freighter conversions part II: the major conversion houses

Today we conclude our two-part analysis of the passenger-to-freighter conversion market. In part I yesterday, we began with a look at that market’s move into conversions of Next Generation, or NG, aircraft, and some thoughts on how future widebody conversion programs are likely to play out. In part II today, we take a look at the seven conversion houses that currently offer passenger-to-freighter conversion programs for jet aircraft.

The seven major conversion houses are, in alphabetical order: Aeronautical Engineers, Inc, Bedek Aviation Group, Boeing, EFW, PEMCO World Air Services, Precision Aircraft Solutions, and Singapore Technologies Aerospace.

Aeronautical Engineers, Inc.

In November, ASL Airlines took redelivery of a 737-400F converted at the Commercial Jet facility in Dothan (DHN) by AEI.

AEI became the first conversion house to launch a P-to-F program for the new generation of aircraft when it announced its 737-800 program at Cargo Facts Asia in Hong Kong in 2014. While the 737-800 program moves toward certification and AEI hopes to deliver two by year-end, AEI continues to offer P-to-F conversions of 737 Classics, the MD-80 series, and the CRJ200.

The state of AEI’s currently active conversion programs:

  • 737-800 Total program conversions to date: 2. Total in 2018: 2. Estimate for 2019: 6.
  • 737-400: Total program conversions to date: 112. Total in 2018: 8. Estimate for 2019: 15.
  • 737-300: Total program conversions to date: 17. Total in 2018: 0. Estimate for 2019: 0.
  • MD-80 series: Total program conversions to date: 14. Total in 2018: 3. Estimate for 2019: 4.
  • CRJ200: Total program conversions to date: 11. Total in 2018: 9. Estimate for 2019: 9.

Bedek Aviation Group

Future conversions of 737 Classics, 767-200s, and 747-400s are unlikely, and we will focus on the 737NGs and 767-300s as Bedek’s currently active programs. Bedek did not provide information about its order backlog, so the numbers below represent our best estimate.

Bedek redelivered a converted 737-700BDSF to India-based low-cost carrier SpiceXpress in September.

The state of Bedek’s currently active conversion programs:

  • 767-300: Total program conversions to date: 56. Total in 2018: 12. Estimate for 2019: 10.
  • 737-700: Total program conversions to date: 4. Total in 2018: 2. Estimate for 2019: 0.
  • 737-800: Total program conversions to date: 0. Total in 2018: 0. Estimate for 2019: 3.

Boeing

Boeing’s 747-400BCF program ended in 2013, following redelivery of the fiftieth conversion, but the 767-300BCF and 737-800BCF programs are active. Boeing delivered the first of its 737-800 converted freighters this year, and that conversion line is likely to grow substantially, given that, in February, Boeing and China Southern Airlines Group signed an agreement under which Boeing will establish a 737-800 conversion line in Guangdong. The information provided below is our best estimate.

GECAS took redelivery from Boeing of the first-ever freighter-converted 737-800.

The state of Boeing’s currently active conversion programs:

Boeing redelivered four 767-300BCFs in 2018, bringing the total number of redelivered converted freighters to twenty-eight. During the year, LATAM Cargo placed an order for three conversions, one of which entered conversion with Boeing at the EGAT facility this year. Boeing’s 737-800 conversion program got off to a roaring start, with the first five converted aircraft redelivered in 2018.  GECAS remains the largest customer for the program, and  has orders and options for at least forty-five additional conversions.

EFW

EFW redelivered the first A330-200P2F to EgyptAir Cargo in August.

In 2012, ST Aerospace purchased a 35% share from the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and the two companies announced their agreement to develop a passenger-to-freighter conversion program for the Airbus A330-200 and -300. Then in 2015, ST Aero, Airbus (the new name for EADS) and EFW jointly launched P-to-F programs for the A320 and A321. Finally, in 2016 ST Aero acquired majority ownership of EFW with the purchase of another 20% stake from Airbus.

 

The state of EFW’s currently active conversion programs:

Through the end of this year, EFW will redeliver a total of seventy-six A300-600 P-to-F conversions, with two of those delivered during 2018. Next year, EFW will redeliver Uni-Top Airlines’ seventh A300-600P2F, which EFW said will mark the end of that conversion program for older generation aircraft, due to lack of remaining feedstock in the market. Among next-gen programs, EFW kicked off the A330P2F conversion program in 2017 with the first redelivery of an A330-300P2F to launch customer DHL Express. A second aircraft was also redelivered during 2018 and a third entered EFW’s Dresden conversion facility this year. EFW expects to redeliver five A330 converted freighters during 2019, and has slot availability in Dresden and at the SASCO facility in Singapore for six of the aircraft. Finally, the first A321-200P2F is currently undergoing conversion in Singapore, and will have slots for two more during 2019.

PEMCO World Air Services

For a while, it seemed that, once interest in 737 Classic conversions waned, PEMCO would exit the conversion

Guangzhou-based Longhao Airlines recently added its first 737-400F. The aircraft was converted by PEMCO at the GAMECO facility in Guangzhou.

business. But that changed dramatically at the beginning of 2017, when Air Transport Services Group bought PEMCO from Sun Capital, and, four months later, at the Cargo Facts Asia 2017 event in Shanghai, announced the launch of two new conversion programs for the 737-700. One was a straight passenger-to-freighter conversion (with nine pallet positions), the other, under the name FlexCombi, will convert passenger 737-700s into a variable configuration that offers two combi options (six pallet/twenty-four passenger and seven pallet/twelve passenger) as well as an eight-pallet, cargo-only configuration. The first FlexCombi conversion was completed this year at PEMCO’s Tampa (TPA) facility, for launch customer Chisholm Enterprises (for UAE-based end user Texel Air).

PEMCO declined to provide any information regarding its conversions to date, or its backlog.

Precision Aircraft Solutions

Precision redelivered nineteen 757-200PCFs this year.

Precision Conversions began to undertake the engineering, prototyping and certification of a 757-200 passenger-to-freighter conversion program in 2001. Since then, the program has been extremely successful. In 2014, Precision Conversions widened its focus to include a variety of aviation-related services and rebranded as Precision Aircraft Solutions. It still only offered 757-200 P-to-F and P-to-Combi conversions, but with the end of the 757 era on the horizon, began looking at other possibilities. That search reached its conclusion with the formation, in August 2017, of 321 Precision Conversions, a joint venture with Air Transport Services Group, to develop a passenger-to-freighter conversion program for the Airbus A321-200 aircraft.

At the Cargo Facts Symposium in Miami in October, 321 Precision Conversions and Luxembourg-based lessor and aircraft manager Vallair Capital announced that Vallair, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Vallair Solutions sàrl, was the launch customer for the program. However, the A321 conversion program is scheduled to be in prototype throughout 2019, with production not set to begin until 2020.

The state of Precision Aircraft Solutions’ currently active conversion programs:

  • 757-200: Total program conversions to date: 109. Total in 2018: 19. Estimate for 2019: 11.
  • A321: Total conversions through the end of 2018: 0. Total in 2018: 0. Estimate for 2019: 0.

ST Aerospace

Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero) is the MRO and conversion arm of defense and engineering conglomerate Singapore Technologies Engineering. ST Aero, the “world’s largest commercial airframe MRO provider,” has long been involved in passenger-to-freighter conversions, but, for most of that time, as a provider of touch labor for others rather than as a developer of its own conversion programs. But while it still does serve as a conversion center for Boeing’s 767-300BCF, it is now primarily focused on its own programs.

To date, ST Aerospace has redelivered 127 757-200s.

ST gained majority ownership of EFW in February 2016, acquiring another 20% and thereby upping its stake to 55%. However, the A330, A320, and A321 programs are marketed under the EFW brand, and we have discussed them as such, in the EFW section of this review.

The state of ST Aero’s currently active conversion programs: Under its own brand, ST currently only offers conversion of Boeing’s 757-200. To date, the company has redelivered 127 757-200s. Of these, 124 were passenger-to-freighter conversions, two were passenger-to-military transport conversions, and one was a passenger-to-combi conversion. ST redelivered three 757 conversions in 2018 and has one additional 757 in conversion at its Seletar MRO facility

Those interested in learning more about passenger-to-freighter aircraft conversions are invited to join us Cargo Facts EMEA, to be held 4-6 February at The Westin Grand Frankfurt. Register before 14 December to take advantage of early bird rates. To register or for more information, visit www.cargofactsemea.com.

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