The US FAA granted Supplemental Type Certification to Aeronautical Engineers Inc (AEI) for its MD-80 Family passenger-to-freighter conversion program. The first conversion, an MD-82, will be redelivered to Everts Air Cargo in late February.
The STC applies to conversion of MD-81, MD-82, MD-83, and MD-88 variants, of which 779 were built between 1980 and 1997. The four variants covered by the STC share the same fuselage, but offer different engine options, fuel capacities and weights. McDonnell Douglas, the original manufactuer also offered an MD-87 with a shorter fuselage, but this variant is not covered by the STC.
Specifications for the AEI-converted MD-80 freighters are as follows:
- Twelve 88 x 108 inch pallet positions, or can accommodate eight 125 inch pallets (either 88 or 96 inch width).
- 46,600 lb (21.1 tonne) main-deck payload
- 4,416 cubic feet (131 cubic meters) main-deck volume
- 85 x 136-inch (216 x 345 cm) main deck cargo door opening
- 9G rigid cargo barrier with sliding door, from Ventura Aerospace
- Low Profile 1.25” Ancra Cargo Loading System
- Main Deck converted to Class E cargo compartment
- Independent 28 VDC hydraulic system
- Up to 5 supernumerary seats
The conformity aircraft for the program was a 1987-build MD-82 (49470) converted for Alaska-based Everts Air Cargo, with touch labor performed at the Commercial Jet facility in Miami. With the STC now granted, Everts is scheduled to take redelivery of the freighter in late February.
Some industry observers were skeptical about the demand for freighter-converted MD-80s when the program was launched without an end user, wondering if the MD-80’s lower acquisition and conversion costs, and reputation for ruggedness, would balance the somewhat narrower fuselage and lower fuel efficiency when compared to the 737 Classic family with which it would compete. However, AEI says it already has a backlog of twenty more firm orders, and believes it will convert over 100 MD-80 Family aircraft over the next ten years.