Abu Dhabi facility to convert passenger planes into cargo aircraft
Israel Aerospace and Etihad Engineering sign deal to convert Boeing 777-300ER passenger planes into cargo aircraft
Etihad Engineering and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on Wednesday signed an agreement to establish a facility in Abu Dhabi that will convert Boeing 777-300ER passenger planes into cargo aircraft.
Etihad Engineering will capitalise on their expertise and extensive capabilities for the specialised Boeing 777-300ERSF conversion to cater to the growing demand for large cargo jets.
In the initial stage of the partnership, Etihad Engineering will facilitate two conversion lines accommodating multiple aircraft conversions per year. The facility will be certified by the UAE Civil Aviation Authority, the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Tony Douglas, group chief executive officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said the Boeing 777-300ERSF is not only extremely attractive to customers but a technological breakthrough, given that it’s the first in its size category to offer extensive cargo solutions.
“Not only do we see the demand, but we view it as a greener, more profitable, highly innovative solution for our airline customers, and an excellent way to drive value for our business,” Douglas said in a statement to Khaleej Times.
Demand for cargo planes
Demand for cargo plane conversions has been on the rise with the increase in e-commerce and the decline in value of used planes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Cargo operations are offsetting airlines’ losses, as it continues to play a critical role in facilitating international trade. Industry forecasts show an increase in demand for wide-body freighter aircraft with long-haul capacity.
Boaz Levy, president and CEO, Israel Aerospace Industries, said the Abraham Accords have given IAI the opportunity to expand its global activity to the Gulf region.
“IAI is active in over 100 countries across the world. Establishing the conversion site in partnership with Etihad Engineering is a testament to IAI’s strong ties with the UAE and strengthens its foothold in the region. I am confident that this agreement will lead to many more partnerships with local companies in the Gulf States, which will grow our business in the region,” Levy said.
IAI operates cargo conversion sites
State-owned IAI currently converts Boeing 737, 747 and 767 passenger aircraft for cargo use. It has said it is currently developing a conversion method for the Boeing 777 and expects to finish the licencing process in 2023. It already operates cargo conversion sites including an existing line at its headquarters at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.
The deal comes a year after Israel and the UAE agreed to normalise relations under the US-sponsored Abraham Accords. Over the past year, Israeli firms have forged a number of deals in the UAE. In March, IAI said it would jointly develop an advanced drone defence system with the UAE’s state-owned weapons maker Edge.
Yossi Melamed, executive vice-president and general manager of IAI’s Aviation Group, said the Abraham Accords have given IAI the opportunity to expand its global activity to the Gulf region.
“IAI is active in over 100 countries across the world. Establishing the conversion site in partnership with Etihad Engineering is a testament to IAI’s strong ties with the UAE and strengthens its foothold in the region,” he said.
“I am confident that this agreement will lead to many more partnerships with local companies in the Gulf States, which will grow our business in the region,” he added.
Etihad Engineering MRO services
Etihad Engineering is one of the largest commercial aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services providers in the Middle East, and the centre in Abu Dhabi will be the largest and most advanced in the Middle East, IAI said.
Abdul Khaliq Saeed, chief executive officer, Etihad Engineering, said the partnership with IAI maximises the potential of “our highly skilled workforce” and reinforces Etihad Engineering’s position as a centre of excellence in Abu Dhabi in line with Abu Dhabi’s economic vision 2030.
Our commitment to the P2F programme demonstrates our confidence in the ability of IAI to deliver long-term value enhancement of the B777-300ER’s in the global fleet,” he said.
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