JUSTIN WASTNAGE / LONDON
Quick Change programme has benefited from technology financed by the US government
Boeing's 737-700 Quick Change (QC) has found its first civilian application, with a Middle Eastern oil exploration company taking delivery of an aircraft to be used as a corporate shuttle and freighter.
Saudi Aramco, based in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, added two completed aircraft late last year to its fleet, which already includes two 737-200 QCs. The aircraft will be converted at night from passenger to cargo configuration.
The 737-700QC benefits from technology developed on behalf of the US Navy, which funded research into a 737 convertible as a replacement for its McDonnell Douglas C-9 transports as its unique fleet essential airlift replacement aircraft. The 737-700 convertible, designated the C-40A, is based on the same hybrid airframe, with -700 fuselage and -800 wings, as the Boeing Business jet, and features forward cargo door and an increased gross weight. The firstC-40A was delivered last October from an order for six. The US Navy has a total requirement for 27.
The sale has raised questions on what constitutes a state subsidy, since Boeing was able to apply the expensive engineering work of strengthening the C-40A's floors and reinforcing the structure around the cargo hatch to the civilian QC programme. The manufacturer points to the convertible's fixed seats, which take 5h to remove, compared with the QC which has palletised seats able to be removed in under 1h.
Samir Belyamani, Boeing Commercial Airplanes product marketing director, says the QC was developed for and by Boeing Commercial Airplanes exclusively, and the palletised seats are an option not developed with US government funds.
Boeing delivered the 737 hybrid to its Military Aircraft & Missiles Systems division in Wichita, Kansas, which had responsibility to develop an aircraft suitable for the US government, he says.