Florida's Aeronautical Engineers (AEI) modification specialist predicts more conversions of the yet to be FAA certified 12-pallet Boeing MD-80SF than the 737-400 model.

The company forecasts 12 to 15 MD-80 conversions next year, according to Robert Convey AEI's vice-president of sales and marketing, while the business plan calls for 60 conversions over the next five years, 150 in the next 10 years and overall more than 200 MD-80 conversions.

"The MD-80SF competes one for one with the 737-400SF model. This is a very low-cost freighter with the same capability of the 737-400 and it will allow many operators to get into larger freighters," he says.

Aeronautical Engineers MD-80SF/737-400SF data sheets

Max taxi weight

Max take off weight

Max zero fuel weight

Max landing weight


MD-81SF, MD-82SF, MD-8SF

68,039 kg

67,812 kg

55,338 kg

58,967 kg

21,137 kg


72,802 kg

72,575 kg

55,338 kg

63,276 kg

20,457 kg


65,317 kg

65,090 kg

51,257 kg

54,884 kg

20,003 kg

737-400 high gross weight

68,265 kg

68,038 kg

53,070 kg

56,245 kg

20,911 kg

Source: Aeronautical engineers   


AEI has performed eight 737-400 conversions so far this year, doubling its 2011 total. Convey predicts 13 conversions in 2013 and 40 over the next five years. In its 10 year business plan, the company predicts a demand for up to 70 conversions.

"The 737-400s and MD-80s have come way down in price which is helping to drive operators into the type," says Convey.

The AEI MD-80SF cargo conversion consists of the installation of a 85"x136" cargo door on the left side of the fuselage and modification of main deck to a Class E cargo compartment. After conversion the aircraft can carry 12 88"x108" or eight 125"x88" unit load device (ULD) or eight 125"x96" ULDs. In comparison, the 737-400SF includes 10 88"x125" pallets and a 53"x88" pallet.

According to Convey, a MD-80SF conversion prices at $2.35 million, excluding maintenance work. This compares with a $2.7 million 737-400SF kit conversion, which includes the cargo loading system.

AEI is optimistic of obtaining a supplemental type certificate for the MD-80SF at the end of this month and Convey says the company has booked 15 orders from customers in Africa, Central America, Europe and the USA for the 21 tons freighter.

The prototype aircraft is a 1987-vintage MD-82, MSN 49470 that was previously operated as a passenger aircraft by American Airlines. It will be redelivered later this year to Everts Air Alaska following the FAA certification.

Convey is confident AEI can perform between 25 and 30 modifications next year in the narrowbody sector.

"The market is very robust at the moment. We have a very large backlog on both the Boeing 737-400 and MD-80SF models and orders continue to come in," comments Convey.

Source: Commercial Aviation Online