NIAR Werx Grows PTF Certification, Workforce


The passenger-to-freighter (PTF) conversion program underway at Wichita State University is making progress toward maturity.

The university’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) WERX program and its partner Kansas Modification Center have submitted to the FAA a certification plan for the supplemental type certificate (STC) of its Boeing 777-300ER PTF conversion.

The partners say preliminary design on the conversion, which was first announced in Sept. 2020, is 60% complete. They expect STC issuance and redelivery of the first 777-300ERCF converted freighter in 2024.

NIAR WERX anticipates that the program will expand following FAA certification due to strong customer interest. The organization told Aviation Week in Sept. 2021 that it expects to be completing up to 20 conversions a year by 2025 or 2026.

In addition to the 777-300ER PTF conversions, NIAR WERX is performing special mission modifications on Boeing 737-500s and MD-87s from its facilities near McConnell Air Force Base at the former Boeing Air Force One modification site.

To support its PTF growth, NIAR WERX is launching a workforce recruitment program called Get to WERX. The three-year “earn and learn” program offers full-time, paid employment within NIAR WERX’s MRO division for students as they progress through WSU Tech’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program. Participants will also simultaneously earn credits toward a Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree in organizational leadership and learning.

One benefit of the program compared to other similar workforce pipeline initiatives is the ability for students tp gain experience on real aircraft modification programs. “This is an extraordinary chance for individuals to enter the aviation workforce and gain practical, real-world experience while earning their degree and certifications,” says Sheree Utash, president of WSU Tech. “This collaborative program sets the foundation for a scalable pipeline that will attract individuals from across the region to come to work and live in Wichita.”

The Get to WERX program opened spots for 25-30 individuals this month. It has already started plans to offer a second round of the program in the fall.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.