Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering (HAECO) is believed to be seeking bids for potential conversion work to turn Boeing 717-200s into "Quick Change" (QC) cargo configuration.

HAECO's move is believed to be aimed at an upcoming requirement from Hawaiian Airlines, which is about to merge with fellow Hawaii carrier Aloha Air. Hawaiian will ultimately need a replacement for the six elderly Aloha-operated 737-200QCs flying inter-island night freight routes.

TurnWorks, the company leading the planned merger, declines to comment on the HAECO plan. But Aloha says that TurnWorks head Greg Brenneman is "looking at what he's going to do with night cargo flights".

The 737-200QCs will be maintained in the interim - but Brenneman's plan is ultimately to simplify the fleet around three or four main types. Together with the 767-300ER, the fourth of which enters service with Hawaiian later this month, this rationalisation would include Hawaiian's 13 717s and Aloha-operated 737-700s.

Boeing denies any knowledge of the QC plan, while HAECO parent Swire Group says: "As a maintenance, repair and overhaul organisation, HAECO is looking for installation work. At the moment, they do not have the capability for this kind of development."

Equipped with a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-style main-deck cargo door, the proposed QC is expected to offer a payload of between 14,500kg (32,000lb) and 17,250kg.

The possible QC study marks a significant potential development for the 717, which appears to be the focus of increased market interest, particularly in the USA and Asia. Midwest Express is now planning to accelerate deliveries of 717s, and is expected to formally firm up its long-anticipated order for 20 firm and 30 options. Line pilots are expected to start training at Long Beach, California, in October, and first deliveries are set for February next year.

Source: Flight International