Air Transport World

Freighter converters' 'waiting game'.(CARGO)

CARGO TRAFFIC IS GROWING AT A steady clip and airlines are eager to acquire aging passenger aircraft for conversion to freighters. Demand is high. Slots for modifications have been reserved well in advance and are sold out at several conversion providers for the next couple of years. But there's one slight problem: A paucity of available, affordable used passenger planes to convert, placing conversion providers in something of a holding pattern.



They're hunkering down for what many believe could be at least a 2-3-year period during which finding aircraft to convert will be an ongoing, difficult challenge. "There's so much demand for passenger airplanes that the feedstock for conversions is very limited," Air Cargo Management Group Project Director Robert Dahl explains. "There's not a lot of excess capacity [on the passenger side] at the present time."

Charles Perry, marketing director for Alcoa-SIE Cargo Conversions, adds, "I talked to customers this week and they're asking where they can get aircraft. They can't find 757s [Alcoa-SIE is certified to convert 757-200s]. It is a waiting game. That's the fact of the matter."

IAI Bedek Aviation Group is one of the world's leading passenger-to-freighter converters, with programs for 737-300s, 767-200s and 747-400s. Director-Analysis and Strategy-Freighter Conversions Jacob Netz concedes that some of Bedek's sold-out conversion slots in 2008 and 2009 may go unused and be given over temporarily to the Israeli company's heavy maintenance business. "Customers reserved slots, made a down payment, but cannot get airplanes," he tells ATW. "The problem today, across the board, is the lack of feedstock."

Netz notes that A380 program delays have caused airlines to hold onto 747-400s longer. "It's not a problem of demand [for converted freighters]," he says. "Demand is very high. …

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