MRO Memo: Future PTF Demand Insights

Boeing is undertaking its first PTF conversion at Gatwick this summer.
Credit: Boeing

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a more unpredictable commercial aftermarket, several previously unforeseen trends developed.

One of these was a surge in cargo demand—a market that was gradually picking up pre-crisis owing to rising international trade, industrial production recovery and e-commerce growth. 

As a result, demand for passenger to freighter (PTF) services duly increased and MROs looking for much needed revenue boosts developed capability in the segment.

Now that passenger numbers are gradually lifting, and with the industry hoping for some normal semblance of a summer, a new question is: For how long can the PTF spike last?

Boeing foresees steady future demand over the next two decades. It forecasts 1,720 freighter conversions will be needed over the next 20 years to meet demand. 

Late last year, the airframe manufacturer added a new line for Boeing 737-800 PTF conversion work at its MRO hangar at Gatwick Airport. It started its first conversion project in May. 

Speaking to Aviation Week a couple of weeks ago during a tour of the facility, Kate Schaefer, vice president of commercial modifications, engineering and specialty products, cited the 737-800 and the 767 BCF as big focuses for Boeing, which is looking to expand its footprint in PTF conversion lines. 

"There is a real focus on capacity—there is big demand for capacity at the moment so we're running lines all over the world," she says. 

There is similar enthusiasm for the Airbus A321 PTF aircraft, with some lessors and MROs seeing an uptick in market demand so far this year for the narrowbody aircraft.

One of these is Vallair, which targets bringing 10 A321 PTFs to the market in 2023. I shall be ending this week with a trip to France to visit Vallair's Chateauroux operation, where I hope to gain greater insight into the future potential of the A321.

Stay tuned for upcoming news and analysis from the visit to Vallair.

James Pozzi

As Aviation Week's MRO Editor EMEA, James Pozzi covers the latest industry news from the European region and beyond. He also writes in-depth features on the commercial aftermarket for Inside MRO.