Collaboration with SIE will focus on 757-200 development

Alcoa Aerospace is creating a joint venture cargo conversion partnership with specialist engineering company Structural Integrity Engineering (SIE) to develop a freighter conversion programme for the Boeing 757-200. The joint venture is expected to announce its first customer within the next few weeks.

According to industry sources, the aerostructures arm of US aluminium giant Alcoa will be the major partner in the conversion programme, called Alcoa-SIE cargo conversions. Alcoa confirms that it is in talks with SIE to form the partnership, which is understood to require a total start-up investment of around $12 million. The venture is initially focusing on the 757-200, but is also evaluating programmes for the Boeing 737 Classic and 767.

Chatworth, California-based SIE has designed and engineered the conversion, and its director of marketing Bob Convey says that negotiations are being finalised with an undisclosed launch customer. A contract is expected by early November, says Convey, adding that the first customer will be an "owner" rather than an end user.

SIE recently contracted UK maintenance company ATC Lasham to undertake the modifications. "The first conversion will begin in January, and this is expected to be certificated for delivery to the launch customer in September next year," he says. Work will be carried out at the ex-HeavyLift Engineering facilities in Southend, UK, which ATC recently acquired.

"We will complete two aircraft in 2003, and four the following year," says Convey. ATC Lasham will eventually run two lines, each capable of handling four conversions a year, while a third line is planned in the USA, he adds.

The SIE conversion is modelled on the Package Freighter version of the 757-200, says Convey, and will incorporate a 2.54m x 3.56m (100in x 140in) side cargo door. A payload of 31,800kg (70,000lb) can be carried, and up to 15 standard containers can be accommodated on the main deck. SIE, which specialises in structural design analysis, has undertaken its own finite element analysis for the 757conversion.

The conversion competes with the Boeing-developed modification and the programme being set up by Precision Conversions (Flight International, 13-19 August). SIE's sticker price of $4.5 million is believed to be similar to that asked by Precision, and around $4 million lower than Boeing's.

Source: Flight International