Aeronautical Engineers (AEI) expects to receive US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supplemental type certification (STC) for its 12-pallet Boeing MD-80SF within days, VP sales and marketing Robert Convey tells Flightglobal.
The engineering firm plans to launch into work on the passenger-to-freighter conversion after it receives the parts manufacturer approval, which certifies each part within the drawings used to modify the aircraft.
"One we get that approval, the first one starts to get cut," says Convey.
AEI has secured 20 orders for the MD-80 conversion split between five operators, including launch customer USA Jet. The first five aircraft contracts have been finalised, says Convey.
The conversion specialist is targeting a 75-day turnaround for the first few aircraft conversions that come off the line.
The converted MD-80 freighter made its first flight on 28 September. The modification includes cutting an 85in X 136in (2.16 X 3.45m) cargo door into the aircraft and installing a Class E main deck cargo compartment with an 81in (2.06m) ceiling.
Each of the 12 cargo positions measures 88 X 108in (2.24 x 2.74m) in a standard layout. The MD-83SF has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 160,000lbs (72,575kg); the MD-82SF and MD-88SF models have a MTOW of 149,500lbs (67,812kg).
AEI officially launched the MD-80SF passenger-to-freighter conversion programme in February 2010, giving an ex-American Airlines aircraft a new lease on life as a cargo prototype.
Convey says the MD-80SF has the same profile as the Boeing 737, but at a lower cost. The MD80SF has the same payload, volume and range as the Boeing 737-400SF, but at a price of about $4 million versus $8-9 million.
AEI also offers conversions for the Boeing DC-8, 727-100 and-200 and 737-200, -300 and -400.