Boeing has begun converting 737-800 passenger aircraft into freighters at London Gatwick Airport with lessor Icelease and ASL Aviation Holdings among the first customers.
The first aircraft inducted into the Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) line at Boeing’s new Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) London Gatwick facility will be delivered to Icelease, a Reykjavik-based leasing company.
Dublin-headquartered ASL Aviation Holdings will also be a customer. In March, the company announced an order for up to 20 additional 737-800 BCFs.
The 737-800 BCF has more than 200 orders and commitments from more than 20 customers.
Boeing forecasts 1,720 freighter conversions will be needed over the next 20 years to meet demand. Of those, 1,200 will be standard body conversions, with nearly 20% of that demand coming from European carriers.
“As Boeing’s footprint in the Crawley area and around the country continues to grow, the launch of this exciting new line of work at our Gatwick facility demonstrates the key role the UK has to play in aviation and our ability to adapt to changing demands in the industry,” said Sir Martin Donnelly, president of Boeing Europe and managing director of Boeing in the UK and Ireland. “This is another step in Boeing’s expansion across the UK, with more than 2,600 employees and £2 billion spent every year in the country’s supply chain.”
“We are delighted to see Boeing beginning this exciting line of work at Gatwick that will see passenger aircraft converted into freighters,” said Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport’s chief executive officer. “While this won’t see an increase in the volume of cargo we handle at Gatwick, it’s fantastic news for the local job market and local economy that Boeing is choosing Gatwick as the base for this project.
Bahrain-based cargo airline Texel Air recently ordered two more 737-800 BCF conversions.