Manufacturer will then seek authority for its 747-400 Special Freighter programme

Boeing aims to have memoranda of understanding signed with partners for its 747-400 Special Freighter (SF) programme by the end of this year. The company will then seek authority to proceed with the programme, says Mike Stewart, Boeing vice-president freighter conversions.

The manufacturer has been holding off from launching a 747-400 conversion until used aircraft values fell substantially. It has also not wanted to undermine sales of new 747-400Fs.

While the new build -400F incorporates the 747 Classic's short upper deck, converted -400 passenger jets will retain the stretched upper deck (SUD). The conversion of SUD configured passenger 747s has already been developed for the -300.

Boeing is watching closely as the market value of used 747-400s falls toward $40 million which would make the programme viable, Stewart told delegates at the Cargo Facts 2002 conference, which took place in Miami, Florida last week. Since 11 September the market value of used 747-400s has fallen sharply and large numbers are due to become available next year. Many customers are interested in a 747-400SF, says Stewart, with plans calling for certification and first deliveries in mid-2005.

Stewart declines to comment on potential partners, but says they include some existing partners on its other conversion programmes. The manufacturer is known to have been in discussions with Israel Aircraft Industries' (IAI) Bedek division. The Israeli company, which partners Boeing on 757 conversions, is already considering its own programme for the 747-400.

Boeing's other cargo partners include Aeronavali, Goodrich, Inter-Continental Aircraft Services, Singapore Technologies and Boeing part-owned Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering.

Source: Flight International