GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) have joined forces to launch a freighter conversion program for the Boeing 777-300ER.
The pair said in a statement on Wednesday (US time) it expected to secure regulator approval from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) for the 777-300ERSF (Special Freighter) supplemental type certificate (STC) within three years.
GECAS has committed 15 firm orders for the aircraft along with options for 15 more. The aviation finance and leasing arm of GE would also supply the prototype aircraft from its owned portfolio.
Each conversion would take between four and five months to complete. The first 777-300ERSF, which will be powered by the same GE90 engines that were on the current passenger 777-300ER, was expected to enter service in 2022.
GECAS senior vice president and manager of cargo Richard Greener the company was excited to join with IAI on the program.
“Their proven experience, knowledge, and unique engineering skill and resources in passenger to freighter conversions — combined with our working relationship with IAI stretching back into the 1990’s — gives us the confidence to co-fund the STC Development and commit to the program as the Launch Customer of the B777-300ERSF,” Greener said in the joint-statement.
IAI executive vice president and aviation group general manager Yosef Melamed said:“IAI commends GECAS’ ability to see around corners and work with the IAI Group to build a great aircraft that the market requires. We are delighted GECAS has put such trust in IAI’s abilities and are proud to continue our long-term relationship.”
Figures from the 777-300ERSF website showed the aircraft, which has been dubbed “The Big Twin” would have 25 per cent more volume than the 777-200LRF – which is built by Boeing – and 15 per cent more volume than the 747-400BCF.
The two companies said IAT’s Tel Aviv facility would perform the initial conversions. However, they said “further conversion lines contemplated in other locations outside of Israel from 2023”.
“The Program will also see IAI enter into conversion agreements for the 777-300ERSF directly with airlines as well as other lessors around the world,” the companies said.