Boeing expects to appoint additional Asian maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) organisations over the next year, possibly including two in Singapore, as conversion centres for its recently launched 747-400 Special Freighter.

Boeing Commercial Airplane Services vice-president Marty Bentrott expects several Asian airlines with MRO subsidiaries - including EVA Air, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines - to purchase kits from Boeing for $20 million apiece to convert their surplus passenger 747-400s. Independent MROs, including Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero), are also seeking to convert 747-400s at an estimated cost of $25 million for airline customers.

"There seems to be market demand for more than one conversion centre, and I suspect that when you look at the existing airlines some will probably want to do their own," Bentrott says.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways became the launch customer for the 747-400SF programme in January with six aircraft to be converted at China's Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering (TAECO). The first conversion will be completed by TAECO, which includes both Boeing and Cathay as shareholders, in late 2005.

TAECO last week signed a memorandum of understanding to become a conversion centre for Boeing's proposed MD-80/90 freighter programme, which Bentrott expects will be launched by year-end. Bentrott says Boeing is discussing with ST Aero and Israel Aircraft Industries a restructuring of the 757 conversion programme.

Source: Flight International