Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

UPS Airlines is considering operating weekend passenger-charter services using otherwise-idle cargo aircraft. As a first move, quick-change conversion kits for five Boeing 727-100 freighters are being considered as a way to increase aircraft utilisation.

The results of a study into the feasibility of offering passenger-charter services to tour companies will be presented to UPS management with the next few weeks. If approved, services could begin as early as 1997.

The market exists and, the company says, "'s a matter of whether we can make a good business case". The proposal involves development and certification of a 113-seat passenger conversion which could be installed when the 727s finish cargo operations on Friday, and would then be removed ready for the aircraft to resume express-package services on Monday.

The concept is to provide a high level of passenger comfort. "It will have to be very attractive," UPS says. The attraction to tour operators would be UPS' "legendary reliability", with its on-time departure rate of 87% exceeding even that of Southwest Airlines, which has the best on-time record of any US passenger carrier, the company says.

UPS says that its existing Part 121 operator's certificate allows it to provide passenger services. The charter service would require additional pilot training and the provision of flight attendants, the carrier says. The carrier notes that its 727s will be among the most advanced aircraft available to tour operators, with head-up-display guidance, global-positioning-system navigation.

The carrier operates some 51 727-100 tri-jets in its fleet, most of which have been retrofitted with Rolls-Royce Tay 650 powerplants The aircraft have also been equipped with electronic flight-instrument (EFIS) flightdecks.

Source: Flight International