Florida's Aeronautical Engineers has performed the maiden flight of its converted Boeing MD-80 freighter, and the modification specialist is optimistic of obtaining a supplemental type certificate for the aircraft by the end of the month.
The passenger-to-freight converted twinjet took off on its first flight on 28 September.
"It only has to do a smoke-test flight, and has already passed its smoke test on the ground," says Robert Convey, vice-president of sales and marketing for Aeronautical Engineers.
"We do not have to do any flight performance tests, because we are not altering those aspects of the aircraft."
AEI says it already has 15 orders lined up for the 21t freighter, which has a similar payload and range to the Boeing 737-400, although with a smaller cross-section. Customers are based in the USA, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The company expects to have two to three lines performing the conversions from next May, for which it ultimately predicts demand for as many as 200, mainly from carriers in developing countries.
Aeronautical Engineers, which has already performed 737 conversion work, embarked on the MD-80 programme in February 2010 and has carried out the initial development work - including installation of a class-E cargo compartment on the main deck - on a former American Airlines aircraft.