Another 757-200 passenger-to-combi program was launched last week. US-based Global Aviation Holdings and Singapore Technologies Engineering announced that North American Airlines (a subsidiary of Global) would be the launch customer for a 757-200 passenger-to-combi program offered by VT Systems (ST Engineering’s North American subsidiary). This follows the announcement in September of a 757-200 P-to-combi conversion program by Pemco (with National Air Cargo as the launch customer), and the November launch of Precision Conversions’ 757 combi program by Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM).
The impetus for all three programs is the expectation that the US military will soon issue an RFP for airlift to replace the DC-8 combis currently operated by Air Transport International (which, like CAM, is a subsidiary of Air Transport Services Group). There is also likely to be a small market worldwide for a combi version of the 757-200. It is an aircraft well-suited to the needs of military support operations, but demand for it will not be anywhere near as big as the market for the pure freighter version. (ST Aero has already converted two 757-200s to multi-role military transport configuration for the New Zealand Air Force.)
Nonetheless, we now have three carriers launching programs at three conversion houses, all aimed at a program that will require only a small handful of aircraft, and which will be awarded to only one competitor. What will become of the other two? Cargo Facts suspects (though we don’t know for sure), that some or all of the programs will be carried only to the point at which the road forks between combi and freighter. That is, the engineering will be completed, and the aircraft modified with a large cargo door. Then, the winner will carry on with a cargo compartment in front and a passenger compartment in the rear, but the losers will have the option of going to full freighter configuration.
(For details of the ST Aero 757 combi conversion, and how it compares to the Pemco and Precision programs, see upcoming issues of Cargo Facts and Cargo Facts Update.)