You only live twice

Rather than splashing out on new-builds, an increasing number of airlines are giving retired aircraft a second life as freighters. Nigel Pittaway hears from manufacturers and third-party providers about some of the options available for passenger-to-freight conversions

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Coventry-based West Atlantic UK took the first Boeing 737-800BCF, G-NPTA (c/n 32740), in April 2018. On lease from GECAS, it formerly served with Travel Service, Sunwing Airlines and SpiceJet in passenger configuration 

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of dedicated freighter aircraft fleets. According to Boeing’s 2021 commercial market outlook (CMO), freight operators are running at capacity to fill the gap left by the loss of belly cargo normally carried on scheduled passenger rotations.

However, the conversion of passenger airliners to dedicated freighters is not a new phenomenon and was a growing market long before the arrival of COVID-19. With a plethora of airframes being phased out by airlines due to the virus, it is predicted that the viable feedstock available will significantly increase. In its 2021 CMO, Boeing forecasts a demand for 1,500 converted freighters over the next 20 years.

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