Before its prototype Boeing 777-300ERSF freighter is ready, IAI is already increasing production capacity for its freighter conversion.
IAI in Israel has been very active in freighter conversion programmes, and the Boeing 777 is their latest project. They have similar programs for a number of aircraft – basically all Boeings, other than the 787! The company has already been busy, as they launched two conversions for the 737NG in the start of the pandemic. These are the 737-700BDSF and 737-800BDSF passenger to freighter (P2F) conversions. The one on the 700, in particular, is the only such conversion available.
As we have seen previously, there is considerable interest in a 777 freighter conversion, and IAI is not the only company pursuing it. The other company is Sequoia Aircraft Conversions in Wichita, Kansas. However this company has only started its programme recently. IAI, on the other hand, announced the start of the modification stage in its own programme, about a month ago.
And last week, IAI announced a partnership, aimed at increasing production capacity for the 777 freighter programme. Their new partneers are MRO firm Sharp Technics, along with Incheon International Airport in Korea. The agreement calls for production of six 777 converted freighters per year, starting from 2024.
IAI – Freighter Conversion For Which 777 variants?
Another interesting detail came out of IAI’s 777 freighter conversion partnership. And it has to do with the type of aircraft that will undergo conversion! Until now, all we knew was that IAI would be converting 777-300ER passenger jets into freighters. But this new agreement says that the Korean conversion lines will handle that model, plus the 777-200LR!
This model has not been as big a seller as the -300ER. Around 60 of these aircraft left the production line at Everett. But the model is still in production. So it would make sense for IAI to include this 777 variant in its conversion programme. Unlike the 777-300ER, the 777-200LR is the same size as Boeing’s factory freighter. Actually, Boeing’s 777F IS a version of the 777-200LR!
IAI sees the 777 freighter conversion programme as a continuation for their previous 747-400 conversion programme. There is already demand, as companies like Emirates are considering conversion of their 777-300ER fleets into freighters. The airline is still making temporary conversions of passenger jets into ‘preighters’, today! Other companies like KLM are also showing interest in permanent 777 freighter conversions.
However, there are complaints that the waiting times for IAI’s 777 freighter conversions are too long. This would explain IAI’s interest in increasing conversion capacity! And with a time advantage over their aspiring competitors, IAI will aim to corner the market, before others get up to speed. Meanwhile, there is still plenty of interest for new 777F freighters from Boeing. And companies like Qatar Airlines want a 777X freighter, too!