Putting a price on intellectual property is always a challenge. In the case of the technical data defining the structural integrity of a large commercial aircraft that has been extensively modified from its original configuration, there's clearly a huge monetary cost in the engineering work needed to generate that intellectual property, apart from any value placed on the rights to the original design - and even its creative concept.

So, Boeing may be justified in charging aircraft owners for annual access to the technical support that keeps their freighter conversions flying. And it may well be justified in deciding that it has been giving that support away too cheaply and, as a result, skewing the market towards third-party freighter conversions.

So, from Boeing's perspective, all those justifications may also align nicely with a need, in these financial straitened times, to get whatever revenue it can.

But the airframer may find the freight industry won't have it. To go from paying essentially nothing for technical support to as much as $250,000 a year per aircraft is a shock. Operators - even if they accept some of the rationale behind the fees - won't pay gladly, if they are in a position to pay at all as recession strikes.

Boeing must recognise that in looking after itself it may fail to support its customers. That group includes all operators of Boeing aircraft - modified or not - and converters, be they Boeing licensees or outsiders.

Source: Flight International