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HAL facility to convert Boeings into freighter

By P R Sanjai in Mumbai
December 24, 2006 19:24 IST
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India will soon have a dedicated global facility to convert passenger airplanes to cargo planes, with state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited planning a full fledged conversion centre for Boeing aircraft. This proposed facility will cater to the requirements of the international market as well as domestic demands.

HAL managing director A K Saxena said: "We are planning to set up this conversion facility as a part of our proposed maintenance, repair and overhaul project. HAL will be aiming at converting Boeing passenger airplanes such as B737 and B747 for international market."

Industry analysts pointed out this aircraft conversion project is labour intensive and HAL can gain on low cost labour advantage in the country.

HAL, which is currently manufacturing doors for cargo planes, is currently scouting for an international partner for a possible technological tie up. Singapore Technologies, Israel Aircraft Industries and other subsidiaries of Airbus and Boeing are leading conversion majors in the world.

However, Saxena declined to divulge details on partnership or investment for the project. For instance, Boeing is investing $100 million in its MRO in Nagpur.

"Typically, the estimated cost to convert a Boeing 757 airplane to freighter is $10 million. The cost of conversion of Boeing family aircraft will be somewhere between $8 million and $12 million," industry source said.

According to US-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing Company, the global freighter fleet will nearly double to 3,563 aircraft by 2025, led primarily by widebodies, against 1,789 in 2005.

Industry sources said the world is opting to convert its old passenger airplanes rather than acquiring brand new cargo airplanes."

At present, older version airplanes, mainly Boeing 737 and 747, are being converted into freighters. Across the world, there is a sizeable fleet of these Boeing family aircrafts that need to be converted into freighters," Saxena said.

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industrie said India alone will require 165 freighters by 2025. Boeing has also forecasted strong domestic cargo domestic cargo traffic for India at 9.1 per cent per annum.

Air-India has already initiated a process to convert two Airbus A310 aircraft into freighter while Indian Airlines proposes to convert five Boeing B737 aircraft operated by Alliance Air into cargo planes.

According to Express Industry Council of India chairman R K Saboo, over 1.25 billion shipments were handled in 2005 and the growth rate for express air cargo shipments alone is between 20 to 25 per cent per annum.
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P R Sanjai in Mumbai
Source: source

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