Ongoing delays in Boeing and partner Alenia Aeronavali's 767-200 Special Freighter (SF) cargo conversion programme have prompted launch customer Cargo Holdings International (CHI) to open discussions with Israel Aerospace Industries' Bedek Aviation Group about assuming the work on four remaining aircraft.

The first Boeing 767-200SF entered conversion at Finmeccanica division Aeronavali in the second half of 2005, but now, over two years later, the aircraft is still in the hangar waiting to be completed.

A prototype conversion for a widebody aircraft should take 12 months, says a senior source at a narrowbody conversion specialist.

Alenia Aeronavali says CHI's first aircraft will be completed in 2008. "It has probably overrun because it is a prototype, and we didn't have experience with this because it is the first we have ever done," the company says. "Also, this is not an STC [supplemental type certificate]. It must be certificated by Boeing, so this is a different story."

Aeronavali had originally been selected by Boeing to carry out passenger-to-freighter conversion work for All Nippon Airways under the airframer's 767-300 Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) programme. But it emerged in March 2007 that the work had been switched to Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero).

At the time Boeing vice-president of freighter conversions Marco Cavazzoni said that Aeronavali would eventually have an opportunity to do 767-300 freighter conversions, but the work on ANA's 767-300BCFs had been switched to ST Aero because the Italian company was too busy with the 767-200SF programme. He added that the first Aeronavali conversion was due to be completed in time for flight-testing in Seattle in mid-2007.

The first of four CHI 767-200s that could switch to IAI would assume an ABX-Air dedicated conversion slot as the cargo operator struggled to find feedstock for the position. ABX Air acquired all of the outstanding stock of CHI in November.

IAI and CHI decline to comment, while Aeronavali says it is unaware of CHI's intentions to switch to an alternative conversion specialist.

Source: Commercial Aviation Online