The world’s largest passenger-to-freighter conversion program, the “Big Twin” has entered a new phase, according to GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The first aircraft received in 2020 after flying by Emirates Airline is expected to begin undergoing physical modifications in June at IAI facilities in Israel.
The two companies launched the project to convert the twin-engine 777-300ER into cargo aircraft in 2019 with the goal of offering a low-cost and highly efficient aircraft, capable of replacing old four-engine aircraft such as the Boeing 747-400F.
Called the 777-300ERSF, the new modified freighter will be able to carry 101.6 tonnes, quite similar to that carried by the 777F, a dedicated cargo variant from Boeing.
Because it is a conversion, the ‘Big Twin’ will not offer the same cargo density as the 777F, so it will be better used on flights to serve e-commerce and express deliveries.
One of the great appeals of the project is the low cost of the program, estimated at $35 million per aircraft (or a tenth of the list price of a new 777F).
The market for large passenger widebodies, currently affected by the pandemic, can also supply dozens of inactive aircraft. It is estimated that about 800 777-300ER are in flight condition by 2021.
Compared to the 747-400F, the 777-300ERSF has a range of 4,650 nm carrying 15% more load with a 21% lower fuel burn per ton. The partners also bet on the fact that there is a great infrastructure for the “triple seven” in addition to the many pilots available on the market.
GECAS signed a conversion contract with IAI for 15 aircraft, the first dollar expected to be delivered in 2022 to Kalita Air.
IAI has stood out for its projects to convert passenger aircraft into freighters. According to the company, more than 250 conversions have been carried out on models such as the 747, 767 and 737 in recent years.