Kenya Airways took redelivery this week of the first of two freighter-converted 737-300Fs from Aeronautical Engineers Inc. The conversion of these two aircraft for Kenya Airways is of particular interest because they are the first two passenger-to-freighter conversions done at Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services, a joint venture of Boeing, Shanghai Airport Authority and China Eastern Airlines.
Boeing Shanghai is an anomaly among Chinese aviation joint ventures, in that it is majority owned by a foreign company (Boeing has a 60% stake). Typically, China limits individual foreign companies to a maximum holding of 25% in joint ventures, with the total foreign ownership capped at 49%. Cargo Facts believes, but has not been able to confirm, that one of the reasons Boeing was allowed to hold a majority interest was the expectation that the facility would become a center for passenger-to-freighter conversions — something China was very keen on.
Boeing’s original intent regarding conversions appears to have been to set the Shanghai facility up as an alternate 767-300BCF conversion center, either supplementing or replacing ST Aero. But demand for 767-300BCF conversions dried up before any could be done in Shanghai. By partnering with AEI to do 737 P-to-F conversions, Boeing Shanghai will gain not only revenue, but will keep the PRC government happy.
Other than the newly redelivered 737-300F, Kenya Airways operates no freighters of its own, however it entered a partnership with Air France-KLM in 2012, in which AF-KLM subsidiary Martinair operates a 747-400BCF on a Europe-China-Africa-Europe triangle (AMS-CAN-NBO-AMS). The partnership (and the freighter) operate under the name “Safari Connection.” (Click here to see the Safari Connection 747 freighter landing in Hong Kong)