Alaska Airlines has become the first customer for the Boeing/ICAS 737 Classic cargo conversion programme with a $15 million contract to retrofit five of its 737-400s.
Four of the 737s will be converted to carry 70 passengers and four cargo pallets, while the fifth will be made into a full cargo configuration. The aircraft will replace 737-200s in Alaska's fleet.
The lead contractor for the retrofit work is Taiwan's InterContinental Aircraft Services.
Other team members are B/E Aerospace unit Flight Structures and Boeing. The first 737 conversions will begin in April for completion in early 2007.
The long-term market for 737-300/-400 conversions is at least 100 aircraft, although this could be boosted if an express parcels operator selects the type, says Marty Bentrott, services, sales and marketing manager for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services.
For example, a carrier such as Federal Express, which is studying a replacement for its large 727 fleet, has asked conversion houses to bid for up to 50 737-300/-400 conversions.
With a list price of $9 million, Bentrott believes Boeing's 767 passenger-to-freight conversion programme will be launched this year.
Aeronavali has signed an exclusive licensing deal with Boeing to perform the conversions in Italy.
Increasing demand from 747 Combi operators for a cargo conversion is leading Boeing to consider accelerating this programme from the original plan of 2008/09 to 2007, says Bentrott.
There are more than 60 747 Combis in service with carriers including Air China, Air France, EVA Air and KLM.
Boeing is weighing its options over where to perform the combi work, especially considering its success in winning 747-400SF orders.
What is certain however is that it will be conducted in Asia, with the main choices coming down to China's Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering (TAECO) and a possible Boeing joint venture maintenance and engineering operation in Shanghai.
Source: Flight Daily News