Ameco Beijing, a joint venture between Air China and Lufthansa, is considering moving into the aircraft conversion business and anticipates Air China's fleet of Boeing 747-400 passenger aircraft will eventually be converted into freighters.
The maintenance, repair and overhaul company's executive director, Zheng Yan, says: "The Air China 747s will definitely be converted into freighters in China."
"We have to make a decision in one year" but whether Ameco enters the freighter conversion business is something "still under investigation", says Zheng, adding that the top priority is meeting demand for line and heavy maintenance. Ameco's heavy maintenance work is mostly on Boeing aircraft but in May it did a C-check on its first Airbus aircraft, an Air China Airbus A340.
Ameco is already building a new widebody maintenance hangar and a widebody painting hangar to meet demand for maintenance work and Zheng says it will only move into the freighter conversion business if it has spare capacity. The main 747-400 passenger-to-freighter conversion provider is Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering.
Zheng also says Ameco needs to be confident it can get third-party work beyond Air China's fleet and another concern is that there may be too many maintenance providers competing for this type of work.
Already "there are too many people getting into the business" of converting 747 passenger aircraft into freighters, says Zheng.
According to Flight's ACAS database, Air China has four 747-400s and eight 747-400 combis. Zheng says these aircraft are destined for Air China Cargo.
At Asian Aerospace in Hong Kong (3 - 6 September), Cathay Pacific Airways - on behalf of Dragonair - signed an eight-year deal to get Ameco to exchange and overhaul landing gears for Airbus A320/A321s. Dragonair previously used Messier Services Asia in Singapore for A320 landing gear overhaul.