IAI expands B777 freighter conversion programme with Etihad partnership

By Damian Brett

IAI is continuing to expand its B777 conversion programme through a strategic partnership with Etihad Engineering.

The tie up will see the Middle East-based MRO firm provide Passenger to Freighter (P2F) conversions on IAI’s Boeing 777-300ER programme. In the initial stage of the partnership, Etihad Engineering will facilitate two conversion lines accommodating multiple aircraft conversions per year.  

The move comes as IAI expects demand for freighter aircraft to grow in light of the Covid pandemic.

“While the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the aviation sector, cargo operations are offsetting operators’ losses, as it continues to play a critical role in facilitating international trade,” IAI said. “As a result, industry forecasts show an increase in demand for widebody freighter aircraft with long-haul capacity.”

Earlier this month, IAI said that structural work had started on the first B777 conversion.

In May it also announced plans for a conversion line in South Korea in partnership with Incheon International Airport and MRO firm Sharp Technics.

The partnership comes as Israel and the UAE signed agreements — known as the Abraham Accords — to normalise relations between the states in August last year.

Tony Douglas, group chief executive, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “The Boeing 777-300ERSF is not only extremely attractive to customers but a technological breakthrough, given that it’s the first in its size category to offer extensive cargo solutions.

“Not only do we see the demand, but we view it as a greener, more profitable, highly innovative solution for our airline customers, and an excellent way to drive value for our business.”

Boaz Levy, president and chief executive, IAI, said: “The Abraham Accords have given IAI the opportunity to expand its global activity to the Gulf region.

“IAI is active in over 100 countries across the world. Establishing the conversion site in partnership with Etihad Engineering is a testament to IAI’s strong ties with the UAE and strengthens its foothold in the region.

“I am confident that this agreement will lead to many more partnerships with local companies in the Gulf States, which will grow our business in the region.”

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