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IAI Expands Aircraft Conversion Operations

: Jan 18, 2022 - : 2:10 am

With demand for conversion of passenger aircraft-to-freighter (P2F) on the rise, Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) is expanding the aircraft conversion side of its business.

According to Shmuel Kuzi, Executive VP and GM of IAI’s Aviation Group, almost all types of passenger aircraft —737 ,747 and 757— are being converted into cargo aircraft.

Since the Abraham Accords, IAI has signed an agreement with Etihad Engineering to establish a passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion site for Boeing 777-3000ER aircraft. The new conversion center, which will operate as the company’s maintenance center in Abu Dhabi, will supply a solution for the global rise in demand for cargo jets of this model.

The conversion center in Abu Dhabi is an addition to other global cargo conversion sites that IAI operates, besides its existing conversion lines at the company’s campus at Ben Gurion International Airport. Etihad Engineering is the largest commercial MRO services provider in the Middle East. The center in Abu Dhabi will be the largest and most advanced in the region to be certified by the UAE Civil Aviation Authority, the US’s Federal Aviation Administration, and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

In 2021, IAI signed an agreement with Ethiopian Airlines to establish a P2F conversion site for Boeing 767-300 passenger aircraft. The new passenger-to-freighter conversion center, in Addis Ababa, will provide solutions for the rising demand for cargo aircraft of these models. The conversion line in Ethiopia will join existing conversion sites that IAI operates at its campus in Ben Gurion International Airport in Mexico and China. A new conversion site in China will be launched this year while a another conversion center for 777 will soon open in South Korea.

Kuzi revealed that the group will receive the STC for the 777 in the coming months. Last October, the process of converting a Boeing 777-300 ER was marked by cutting an opening in the hull to install a cargo door. The part of the cabin removed from the aircraft is 7 meters long and a third of the aircraft’s circumference.

The cargo conversion process includes modifying the aircraft structure, including the installation of a new cargo door, replacing and reinforcing the cabin floor, installing reinforcements in the cargo door area and adapting the electric network and other systems to enable a safe and convenient operation. In addition, this process includes receiving certification for the converted aircraft from the Civilian Aviation Authority and the US’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Early next year, we will start work on the prototype of a converted 777 and soon after that, will commence series conversion of aircraft owned by a great number of companies,: said Kuzi. “We have 777 conversion contracts until 2026.”

So far, the 767 was the most wanted aircraft for conversions. Kuzi revealed that the group is about to start conversions of the Airbus A-330. Kuzi revealed that the launch customer for the A-330-300 conversion will be Avolon aircraft leasing company.

“For us, this is an entry into a new potential market, with new technologies that we will have to deal with,” said Kuzi. “With Boeing, the emphasis was on the structure of the aircraft, but with Airbus, a major part of the work will be related to avionics. We will begin with the A-330 but in the future, we will offer conversions for the A-320 and A-340.”

According to Kuzi, the group has a very experienced maintenance department and an engine department with licenses to fix and overhaul all the widely used engines.

AI Bedek provides added value as a one-stop, full service provider that provides comprehensive maintenance services for aircraft, engines and components under one roof including heavy maintenance, modifications, upgrades and aircraft conversions. The Engines Division which is part of the Aviation Group, performs the maintenance of a large variety of engines such as the JT9D, CFM56-3/5/7, PW4000 and others.


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