On March 25, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) performed the maiden flight of the first Boeing 777-300ER “Special Freighter”. The “Big Twin”, as it was baptized by the Israeli company, is the first 777-300 in the world modified for the transport of cargo.
According to IAI, the 777-300ER conversion program is currently in the final stages of certification by civil aviation authorities. The adapted aircraft is capable of carrying 101.6 tons of cargo. It is the largest twin-engine freighter in the world, surpassing even the 777F (based on the 777-200) which is offered new from the factory by Boeing.
The program under development since 2019 has a firm order backlog for more than 60 aircraft with deliveries scheduled for the next five years, according to the Israeli company. The 777-300ER conversion project has the participation of AerCap, the largest aircraft leasing company in the world.
IAI has successfully concluded the 1st flight of a B777-300ER passenger aircraft after converting this to a cargo configuration for AerCap
On conclusion of the certification process by the Civil Aviation Authorities, The Big Twin will be the 1st twin engine aircraft of this type pic.twitter.com/7Bk3xUprLt
— Israel Aerospace Industries (@ILAerospaceIAI) March 24, 2023
The Big Twin modification process is carried out in Tel Aviv by IAI, a traditional company in the military field, but which also has a long experience in converting commercial aircraft for other functions, such as aerial refueling aircraft and freighters.
The Boeing 777 is the latest model on the IAI cargo conversion list, which also works with the Boeing 747-400, 767-200 and -300 and the 737-700 and -800. The company has not yet announced when it intends to deliver the first Big Twin to the service.
Goal of 150 conversions
AirCap anticipates that IAI’s 777-300ER freighter conversion program could secure more than 150 orders by 2030. The price for converting the aircraft has not yet been disclosed, but it is understood to have a unit price of US$35 million.
Such value is just a fraction of the price of a factory-original “zero km” 777F, which costs about US$ 352 million. Since 2009, when it launched the cargo variant, Boeing has received 319 orders for the model and delivered 239 aircraft.