AELF FlightService moves up plan for 1st Boeing 767 converted freighter

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Charter airline and leasing company AELF FlightService will move ahead with fully converting a widebody passenger jet to freighter configuration as plans for swift deployment of partially modified, light-duty cargo jets remain on hold because of regulatory delays.

The Chicago-based company said Thursday it has reserved a production slot at Israel Aerospace Industries to retrofit one of its two Boeing 767-300 jetliners for main-deck cargo operations, with delivery slated for June 2023. The contract includes an option to convert the other plane later in the year. Work will be done at IAI’s facility in Mexico.

AELF FlightService currently has a fleet of seven Airbus A330s flown by affiliate Maleth Aero on a contract basis for passenger airlines that need extra capacity. Executives want to tap the steadily growing air cargo market for new opportunities.

The plan since last year is to turn 10 large Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft into package freighters by stripping out seats and other cabin components, a much quicker and cheaper option than an overhaul to support carriage of heavy containers. AELF is using a startup engineering firm for the changeover package, but design approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has dragged on for months. 

That’s especially important because a temporary exemption during COVID allowing AELF and other airlines to fly freight in the cabin without permanent interior modifications expired at the end of July. A limited modification also would allow the company to quickly jump into the cargo market while capacity was still low and rates high.

Unable to move ahead with a limited freighter conversion, AELF reinstalled seats and put the A330s back into passenger charter service for the busy summer flying season. 

“We are very pleased to expand the relationship with our partners at IAI, and to expand our capabilities in the freight space,” said operating chief Joe Cirillo“We have already committed to P2F [passenger-to-freighter] work, and believe it has long-term viability. The addition of full freighter aircraft to our fleet is a logical move that we believe rounds out our portfolio.”

“We aim to offer a full spectrum of solutions for both wet and dry leasing, and the 767-300ER freighter expands our offering,” he added. (A wet lease involves an aircraft along with a crew and other services.)

AELF said it has yet to place the 767 freighter with a customer.

“We have seen strong interest from the market on operating leases, wet leases and outright sale of the aircraft and are considering all of them” said Cirillo. “We expect to take a decision shortly that maximizes the aircraft’s value and capabilities.”

Israel Aerospace Industries this summer completed the conversion of its 100th 767-300, more than any other company, after launching the program more than a dozen years ago. 

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Devender was born in the year when the Beatles Group was formed. He holds two master’s degrees in English Literature and Public Administration. He also has an Honors degree in English Literature and a post-graduate diploma in Corporate Communications and Public Relations. He was closely associated with the Indian State Transport Undertakings and Ministry of Transport in his role as Corporate Communications and PR specialist for over two decades handling domestic and international organizations. He ventured into business forming his own Media House, Profiles Media Network Private Limited which is now a twenty years old company. Excelling as an editor, Marketing, PR, Anchor, and Advertising specialist, he is now expertly navigating the world of social media. A widely traveled professional internationally, Devender has a deep understanding of the Air Cargo, Cargo Business, Cargo Airports, Freighters and Cargo Industry at large.