Modifications due to begin in 2004, starting with GECAS-owned -200ERs for Tampa

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has linked with Varig group's maintenance and overhaul subsidiary to create a joint passenger to freighter (PTF) conversion facility in Latin America. The operation is expected to convert Boeing 767s using the PTF conversion developed by IAI's Bedek division, with Colombian cargo carrier Tampa believed to be the first customer.

The venture could be worth up to $200 million to Varig Engenharia e Manuten‡‹o (VEM) by 2022. VEM's chief executive Evandro de Oliveira says a conversion line is being set up in one of its overhaul hangars at Porto Alegre, Brazil. Work will begin in 2004 and a second line may be established. Oliveira says the centre will initially perform four conversions a year, each requiring around three months' downtime and including a D level maintenance check.

Two ex-Varig 767-200ERs owned by GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) are expected to be the first to undergo modification by VEM, for onward lease to Tampa. According to an IAI source, Tampa had asked Bedek to consider a local facility for the conversions, and despite a general agreement with VEM, IAI has not promised to perform conversion work there. "The whole issue is still in the early stages," says the source.

Tampa operates six McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71 freighters - four of which are leased from GECAS. The airline's fleet renewal plans calls for the DC-8s to be gradually replaced by converted 767-200Fs.

Source: Flight International