China Approves 737-800SF Conversion

In recent months several Chinese airlines and partnerships have launched or bolstered their cargo operations, while this week the Chinese government has put another option on the table for their lift requirements.

Specifically, its CAAC aviation authority has validated Florida-based Aeronautical Engineers’ (AEI’s) supplemental type certificate for its Boeing 737-800 freighter conversion, which AEI designates the 737-800SF.

Still one of the most popular passenger aircraft in the world, the 737-800 line is only in the early stages of its conversion history, with roughly 20 in service.

However, AEI forecasts demand for roughly 750 737-800 freighter conversions over the next 40 years or so, and has gathered 111 orders and commitments thus far as it competes against the Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) program for the same aircraft.

Its 737-800SF freighter offers a main deck payload of up to 52,700 lb. (23,904 kg) and incorporates 11 full-height 88-in.-by-125-in. container positions, plus an additional position for an AEP/AEH. The conversion also incorporates new floor beams aft of the wing box, an 86-in.-by-137-in. main cargo door with a single vent door system, and a flexible Ancra cargo loading system.

Most of the -800 freighters in service are owned by lessor GECAS, while Chinee operators thus far including Tianjin Cargo Airlines and China Postal Airlines.

Further demand might come from Zhongzhou Cargo, which received its air operator’s certificate in December or from Shuanglong Airlines, which was launched as a partnership with Chengdu authorities by Loong Air this month.

All three of China’s major airlines, meanwhile, have now spun off their cargo businesses from their passenger operations.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.