Boeing Set To Up Conversion Rate Of 737 Aircraft To Freighters

Boeing is opening two new conversion lines for its 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) program. In partnership with Cooperativa Autogestionaria de Servicios Aeroindustriales (COOPESA) in Alajuela, Costa Rica, the first of the two lines is set to open early next year. Boeing believes this ramp-up of conversion rate is necessary to meet the growing demand for these aircraft.

Boeing is opening two new conversion lines for its 737-800BCF. Photo: Boeing

The growing demand for air freight

Throughout the pandemic, the cargo market has shone. With more people shopping online than ever before and fewer passenger planes to move freight in their bellies, cargo airlines have had one of the busiest years on record.

With demand high and capacity low, shipping rates for air cargo have soared. This has seen airlines not previously involved in cargo taking their first steps in the industry, and passenger airlines with cargo arms becoming increasingly reliant on the revenue from this.

Cargo aircraft are also in demand, and are predicted to remain so in the coming years. Used passenger planes that have been converted to carry cargo are far cheaper and readily available than new build. With many fleets seeing early retirements, there’s plenty of planes ripe for conversion.

Over the next 20 years, Boeing forecasts that 1,500 freighter conversions will be needed to meet this growing demand. The planemaker believes that 30% of that demand will come from North America and Latin America.

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New conversion capacity for the 737-800BCF

To support it in fulfilling this demand, it has today announced a new partnership with a Costa Rica-based maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider to create additional conversion capacity for the 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter.

Boeing predicts some 1,500 converted freighters will be needed over the next 20 years. Photo: Boeing

The planemaker will open two 737-800BCF conversion lines with Cooperativa Autogestionaria de Servicios Aeroindustriales (COOPESA) in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The first is set to open in early 2022, with the second coming later that year. Jens Steinhagen, director of Boeing freighter conversions, commented on the announcement saying,

“COOPESA has demonstrated the technical expertise and commitment to quality and execution necessary to help us meet the growing customer demand for the 737-800BCF, including in the Americas.

“Boeing is pleased to have COOPESA join our team of MRO partners as we deliver our market-leading converted freighters to customers around the world.”

Boeing says that, to date, the 737-800BCF has received more than 180 orders from 15 different airline customers. Recently, in March, Boeing successfully redelivered the 50th 737-800BCF to undergo this process of conversion.

Boeing’s Guangzhou line was only opened last year. Photo: Boeing

The fourth conversion location

COOPESA will become the fourth location where the popular 737-800 is converted to carry cargo. Boeing already undertakes this process at Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services (BSAS) in Shanghai, China; Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company Limited (GAMECO) in Guangzhou, China; and Taikoo (Shandong) Aircraft Engineering Co. Ltd. (STAECO) in Jinan, China.

COOPESA is a leading MRO company in Latin America. Photo: COOPESA

Kenneth Waugh, CEO of COOPESA, spoke about the significance of the partnership with Boeing, saying,

“We are honored that Boeing has chosen COOPESA as a strategic partner to provide conversion services for the 737-800BCF. We look forward to helping Boeing meet market demand with the technical quality and skilled workforce that has characterized COOPESA in its 58 years of operation.”

The 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter carries up to 23 tonnes of payload, and is 20% more fuel-efficient than the 737 Classic freighters. It is available with specially designed blended winglets to further improve efficiency, and can travel up to 1,995 NM even with a full load.

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