Specialist (formerly) all-cargo carrier, Bulgaria-based Cargo Air has begun ferrying a new type of freight: passengers. Using one of two recently-acquired ex-Enter Air 737-400s , Cargo Air has has ACMI-leased one of the passenger-configured airframes (28038) to Greece’s Astra Airlines on a temporary summer lease.
This venture into passenger ops is driven not so much by a desire to test the waters outside of cargo, but rather, the difficulty in securing near-term 737 P2F conversion slots. Cargo Air acquired the pair of 737-400s in December 2016, one of which (25795), has already been inducted into AEI’s Commercial Jet facility in Dothan, Alabama and is undergoing conversion into freighter configuration.
A conversion slot for the other aircraft meanwhile, could not be secured until October 2017. Rather than letting the aircraft sit idle for ten months, Cargo Air applied for an AOC extension to allow for passenger operations. After a lengthy certification process, the extension was granted on 6 April, and Cargo Air’s 737-400 was placed into service with Astra, where it will remain for the remainder of the summer, before induction into the Dothan MRO next fall.
Once the two 737-400s become freighters, Cargo Air’s fleet will grow to nine units; three 737-300Fs and six 737-400Fs. Cargo Air currently operates most of its fleet on behalf of DHL Express, though a single 737-300F is operated for ASL Airlines Belgium on behalf of TNT Express. The carrier says its recent-acquisitions are also likely to fly on similar long-term contracts.
Looking further out, Cargo Air has also booked two slots for 737-800BCF conversions with Boeing, one in 2019, and a second in 2020, with options for two more. As is the case with most 737-800 conversions, the delivery timeline is dependent on the availability of economically viable feedstock, which still appears to be a few years out.
Those interested in learning more about the current and future state of the freighter conversion market and related freighter conversion programs are invited to join us in Shanghai next week, 25-26 April for Cargo Facts Asia. Speakers from leading conversion houses including, Aeronautical Engineers, Inc., BEDEK Aviation Group, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, EFW, and Precision Aircraft Solutions, will join a panel discussion dedicated to the topic. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com