Plan will give 737s a cargo makeover

  • BRYAN CORLISS / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, October 4, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

By BRYAN CORLISS

Herald Writer

EVERETT — BFGoodrich Aerospace in Everett will team up with Boeing and a Taiwanese corporate alliance on a new program to convert older 737s to cargo planes.

The announcement came Wednesday, the same day Boeing announced it is on track to meet its goal of delivering 490 airliners this year.

The Everett-based 737 program is expected to convert at least 250 planes, here and in Taiwan, over the next 20 years, company spokeswomen said. The first conversion will be done in Everett and could be ready for delivery as early as mid-2002.

"It’s definitely a major effort within our passenger-freighter conversion business," said Anne DeAngelis, a spokeswoman for Boeing Airplane Services.

Some 18 engineers from Boeing, Goodrich and InterContinental Aircraft Services already are doing preliminary work on the project, Goodrich spokeswoman Sherry Cole Bergstrom said.

Her company, which will handle most of the actual hands-on work in the United States, does not anticipate hiring extra workers to handle the load, she said.

InterContinental Aircraft Services is an alliance that includes Air Asia, China Airlines, Evergreen Aviation Technologies and Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.

Boeing hasn’t lined up a customer for that first converted plane, but is talking with several potential buyers, DeAngelis said.

Boeing projects the world’s air cargo fleet will double in size over the next 20 years, with about 70 percent of the new cargo planes being converted passenger jets — most of them originally built by Boeing or Boeing-owned McDonnell-Douglas.

To capture that market, estimated at some $15 billion, Boeing has set up this program, which follows a similar 757 conversion program established in Wichita, Kan., earlier this year.

The planes will be older "classic" 737-300s and 737-400s, which had replaced original models by the early ’90s. Many of these planes are nearing the end of their standard lifespan as passenger planes and will start becoming available for cargo use, DeAngelis said.

For about $3 million per plane, workers at BFGoodrich and Taiwanese partner InterContinental Aircraft Services will remove the passenger seating, install new cargo doors and handling equipment, and beef up the deck and other structures so that planes can handle the demands of cargo flying. Boeing will provide the proprietary and technical information needed to do the modifications.

The Boeing partnership will have competition in the 737 market. Pemco, which partnered with Boeing on an earlier, limited 737 conversion project, has launched its own remodeling program in Alabama.

But Boeing has an advantage working on its own aircraft, DeAngelis asserted. "Boeing knows that plane."

Also Wednesday, Boeing announced delivering 117 commercial jet transports during the third quarter of this year. The total of 359 deliveries for the first nine months of the year is consistent with the year-end goal of 490 delivered planes, the company said.

So far this year, Boeing has delivered 19 747s, 30 767s and 38 777s — all built in Everett.

corliss@heraldnet.com.

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