Alabama-based Pemco Aviation Group has formed a partnership with Officine Meccaniche Aeronautiche (OMA) of Italy as part of renewed efforts to tackle the emerging Boeing 737 "Classic" cargo conversion market.

The move follows recently revealed plans by Boeing to compete for the same market (Flight International, 8-14 August). Pemco claims it will have "up to 12 to 18 months advantage" because of its supplemental type certificate (STC) for a 737 cargo conversion. "We have identified OMA as the ideal partner because their core business is the design and manufacture of parts and components for freighter conversion programmes like the [Boeing] MD-10/DC-10," says Pemco business development vice president, Armando Sassoli.

Pemco says the revised door design from OMA, which will be provided as a kit for installation in aircraft at Pemco's Dothan site, will also be available to any operators of around 40 converted 737s potentially affected by a newly issued Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness directive (AD). The emergency FAA action calls for high frequency eddy current inspection of the structure around the main deck cargo door following the discovery of cracks.

The FAA is also considering another AD to "require replacement of the main deck cargo door frames and reinforcing angles that have accumulated 7,000 or more total flight cycles". Sassoli says: "We will be in a position to supply a new door around eight months from now. The new kit will be free from the problems that we had with the old conversion."

Sassoli says the new kit will be "fully FAA compliant", adding that final negotiations are under way with "more than one launch customer". Pemco conservatively estimates a 737 cargo conversion market of 250-300 aircraft, of which "we expect easily 100 or more aircraft". The deal with OMA is due to be formally ratified by the boards of both companies in September, and the first 737 is expected to arrive in Dothan for conversion by year-end.

Source: Flight International