Kalitta Air to become first operator of converted B777 freighter

By Damian Brett

Kalitta Air will become the first airline to operate Boeing 777-300ERSF converted freighters after signing an agreement with lessor GECAS Cargo.

The US cargo airline has signed a deal for three of the B777s, which will be the world’s largest twin-engine freighter, with the aircraft due to be delivered in 2023.

The conversion programme is jointly funded by GECAS and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), with GECAS delivering the prototype aircraft to undergo conversion in June of this year.

Kalitta Air currently operates a fleet of more than three dozen cargo planes, including B747-400F, B767-300SF and B777F.

“Providing air express delivery all around the world for virtually any type of freight, the addition of these three 777-300ERSF freighters will help us meet the needs of our customers,” said Conrad Kalitta, owner of Kalitta Air.

“We are delighted to continue our 15-year relationship with Kalitta Air and [we are] proud they’ve become the launch customer with the 777-300ERSF freighter for its future air cargo operations,” said Rich Greener, senior vice president and manager cargo of GECAS, adding: “The 777-300ERSF shares extensive commonality with the production 777-200LRF. That’s a benefit to any operator looking to bring a new type into their fleet.”

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

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 last year, 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.

At the time of the programme launch, Greener said the -300ERSF’s maximum structural payload of 101.6 tonnes 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.

Kalitta Air began service in November 2000 with three B747 aircraft and the fleet has grown to a present total of four 777F, 24 B747-400F and nine B767-300BDSF.

The company provides scheduled or on-demand charter service for customers in the US and around the world.

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector. After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015. Contact me on [email protected]