Alaska Air Cargo’s recently-redelivered 737-700BDSF (30794) entered into commercial service yesterday, carrying freight from Seattle, where Alaska Airlines is headquartered, to Anchorage, the airline’s center for regional cargo operations within the state of Alaska. As we have mentioned in the past, this is particularly noteworthy, as it is not only Alaska’s first 737-700 freighter, but also the first 737 NG aircraft – either -700 or -800 – to undergo conversion from passenger to freighter configuration.
The aircraft was converted by Israel Aerospace Industries’ conversion arm, Bedek Aviation Group, in Tel Aviv, and redelivered earlier this month after IAI-Bedek received an STC for the program from the FAA. This is the first of three 737-700s Alaska Air retired from its passenger fleet, and is having converted into freighter configuration to replace its ageing 737-400 combi aircraft. The second and third -700s (30793 and 30792) have already been inducted for conversion in Tel Aviv. Last year at this time, Alaska Air operated five 737-400 combis, and a single -400F. The last combi is slated for retirement on 18 October, while the -400F is expected to operate alongside the -700Fs for some time.
IAI/Bedek formally launched the 737-700 passenger-to-freighter conversion program in May 2015, shortly after Aeronautical Engineers, Inc became the first conversion house to launch a next-generation conversion program with its 737-800 P-to-F. Since then, there has been no shortage of new program announcements: Boeing and Bedek both launched 737-800 conversion programs, while ATSG-subsidiary PEMCO unveiled a 737-700 passenger-to-freighter and “FlexCombi” program. Meanwhile, EFW launched “P2F” programs for both the A320 and A321, and, last month, Precision Aircraft Solutions and ATSG formed a joint venture, 321 Precision Conversions, and launched an A321 P-to-F program. This month, a California-based C3 Aerospace launched a third A320 family conversion program.
Despite the options, Alaska Air Cargo, will be sticking with -700BDFS for the near future. In addition to the three conversions Alaska has on order with Bedek, it has an option for a fourth conversion, should demand warrant an additional freighter in the future. And the carrier just might see a traffic boost as it introduces the freighters; alongside the launch of -700F operations, which will ultimately offer scheduled services to more than 20 cities in Alaska, the carrier announced sweeping changes to how it prices freight for Alaska-based shippers. The airline says it has lowered rates on General, Priority, Perishable and Seafood air freight, and decreased minimum spend per-shipment. Additionally, Alaska Air Cargo has abolished weight breaks for in-State customers so that rates can be more easily calculated.
Returning to the freighter itself, Bedek’s 737-700BDSF offers eight full-size pallet positions plus two smaller positions. Alaska says the -700Fs have a non-stop range of 3,200 miles, and a maximum capacity of 42,000 pounds (18 tonnes)– an increase of 10,000 pounds compared to its existing -400F. The-700BDSF is equipped with an Ancra Cargo Loading System, which also recently received FAA supplemental type certification for installation on Bedek-converted 737-700s freighters. Ancra will also provide CLS for Bedek’s forthcoming freighter-converted 737-800, the first of which will be delivered to launch customer Spectre Air Capital in the coming months (after which, it will be placed on-lease with Seoul-based, Air Incheon).
If you are interested in learning more about the narrowbody conversion market, join us at the Cargo Facts Symposium in Miami, 2 – 4 October, where executives from six of the major conversion houses will share their views on the subject in a session titled “Narrowbody Freighter Conversions- New Programs, New Questions.” To register, or for more information, go to CargoFactsSymposium.com.