First B777 makes its way to IAI for freighter conversion

By Damian Brett

First B777 ready for conversion

GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) has delivered the first Boeing 777-300ER to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the prototype passenger-to-freighter conversion.

The aircraft (MSN 32789) will become the first ever B777 converted into a freighter configuration and marks the launch of the “Big Twin” programme announced last October.

The B777 was transported from Dubai and arrived in Tel Aviv today, where IAI will add a main deck cargo door, freighter lining, window plugs, a modified crew compartment, a reinforced fuselage and a 9G rigid cargo barrier, amongst other changes.

As launch customer and co-founder of the programme, GECAS has committed fifteen firm orders and has fifteen additional options for the type.

“The arrival of the prototype aircraft in Tel Aviv is an exciting milestone for the Big Twin freighter programme,” said Richard Greener, senior vice president and and manager of GECAS Cargo. “This aircraft sets out to meet requirements of the air cargo industry for the next 20 years.”

The Big Twin will be powered by GE90 engines — the world’s most powerful in-service engine — giving the 777-300ERSF 21% lower fuel burn per tonne than the 747-400F.

In October, GECAS said the -300ERSF has 47 standard 96 x 125in [2.4 x 3.2m] pallet positions in total. So, overall it has 10 more positions that a 777-200LRF factory freighter or 5,800cb ft [164cb m] more volume. It also has eight more positions than a factory 747-400F.

The converted aircraft shares the 777F’s door aperture – 3.72 x 3.05m (146.5 x 120in), which is similarly installed aft of the wing. GECAS and IAI have not yet disclosed the list price, but it is understood to be in the region of $35m per aircraft.

At the time of the programme launch, Greener said the -300ERSF’s maximum structural payload of 101.6t and greater volume than the 777F mean it is optimised for the lower cargo densities of the e-commerce and express operators rather than the traditional general freight operators like Cargolux and Nippon Cargo, which operate with densities of around 9-10lb/cb ft (0.11-0.13kg/cb m).

“But at the cargo density sweet spot of around 7.5-8lb/cu ft, the -300ERSF can carry 20t more than a 777F, at 50% of the cost,” he added.

Greener said that the -300ERSF’s payload range characteristics mean it can serve 95% of routes currently flown by the 747-400F.

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